Proactively Managing Your Link Profile
It seems like every other week I come across a case study about how another company was blacklisted by Google because of bad links and how they fixed it (like this one recently posted on the KISSMetrics blog). I always end up thinking the same thing, "While it's great to know how to get your site out of organic search exile, wouldn't it be better to never find yourself in that position in the first place?" So with that in mind, I pulled together what I think are some of the best tips for proactively managing your link profile.
Why do sites get banned?
Websites that violate the Google's guidelines, may receive notice that they've been banned from Google's search rankings. There are many different reasons that this could happen, but more often than not, it has to do with the quality of links pointing to your site.
According to Google, the following link scenarios can negatively impact a site's ranking:
- Buying or selling links that pass PageRank
- Excessive link exchanges ("You link me, I link you") or partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking
- Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links
- Using automated programs or services to create links to your site
It should also be noted that it is possible to find yourself in negative standing with Google through no direct fault of your own. In some case studies, a sleazy competitor has been determined to be the culprit - placing links on low-quality or nefarious sites. The possibility of his type of behavior makes it that much more important to be aware of who and what is linking to your site.
How to find links to your site
First and foremost, you'll want to check the Manual Actions page for any notifications. Review any manual actions that may be listed, and take appropriate action to correct the links (as discussed below). Once you've addressed these problems, and are sure that your site follows the Webmaster Guidelines, you may request a review to ask Google to reconsider your site.
To view the Manual Action page:
- On the Webmaster Tools Dashboard, click Search Traffic.
- Click Manual Actions.
- Review any manual actions that are listed.
- Once you've addressed these problems, and are sure that your site follows the Webmaster Guidelines, click Request a review to ask Google to reconsider your site.
If there are no notifications on the Manual Actions page, you can check your backlink profile by going to Google Webmaster Tools > Search Traffic > Links to Your Site. The first table on the page shows the number of backlinks. From here you can download a sample of your links into an Excel file or to your Google Drive for individual review.
Depending on your site, there could be hundreds or thousands of links that need to align with Google Guidelines. The ones that don't must be removed.
Options for Removing Bad Links
- Remove them yourself. Old links from ads, forum signatures, article directories, and other such links that made sense a few years ago, but now violate Google's guidelines, all need to go. Log into whatever accounts you can and delete them.
- Ask website owners to delete them. Using whois.net, you can get contact information for just about every site on the web. Politely email owners and ask for any links to your site to be removed. If this doesn't work, you can always choose to disavow the links (see below).
- Use a NoFollow tag. If the link isn't from a nefarious site, adding a rel="nofollow" attribute to the <a> tag in your site's code communicates to Google that this link should not influence a target links ranking. To do this you need access to your websites code and some experience with HTML.
- Disavow the links. If you've done as much work as you can to remove spammy or low-quality links from the web, and are unable to make further progress on getting the links taken down, you can disavow the remaining links. Be certain about the links you choose to disavow, as it can directly affect your optimization efforts both positively and negatively.
With all that said, I am not suggesting that anyone go on a link-removing rampage (which would likely do irreparable damage to your SEO). My hope is that you will take a greater interest in the links that are pointing to your site and remove the truly bad ones before they have a chance to damage your search engine rankings. If at any time you feel that you may be in over your head, it is best to consult with a search optimization professional before taking any action that may not be undone.