Links were the weapons of any SEO till a few years back. Alas! Gone are those days. The situation has turned so much that people are actually removing links hurriedly to save their poor self from the wrath of the internet god, Google.
Google had a total of 50 or so updates last year, including Panda, Penguin, EMD and others. There was even a rumour of unverified Zebra update. While some attacked the sites with poor, copied, flimsy or useless content, Penguin is the update which hit the linkbuilding tactics badly. SEO industry even launched a new phrase called “Link Earning” under this new situation.
Under the old practices, links, from whatever source and whatever degree of relevance, were welcome. I myself have seen, SEO company listing itself under house loan just to get a link from “unknown to God” directories. Do that now and angry internet god will unleash his vicious Penguin on you.
What is happening now?
Google crawlers are now clever enough. When they crawl a different site than yours, which is not of good quality (again they judge quality from on-page and off-page factors) they count the outgoing links on the site as low quality as well. If you are listed on that site, you are sure to get a bad reputation from Google. Bad company brings bad reputation, as simple as that is Google’s logic.
Second case is, unnatural link. By definition, unnatural links are those links where the originating page and the target page are having no common attribute or feature. Like in the example above, if any SEO company is getting a backlink from a house loan agency site, this is considered as unnatural link by Google.
Your competitors, who can do nothing to beat you, can take misadvantage of this effort from Google to fight out spammy sites. Its rather easy as well. All they need is to take your link and post it in a completely irrelevant site, possibly with unmatching anchor texts and then wait patiently for Google to notice that and penalise you. (Dont freak out yet, our doctors will soon be explaining the remedy.)
When Google sees any unnatural or bad link to your site anywhere in the net, it penalises you. Sites I know personally (which I can’t reveal due to my professional commitments) nosedived from no.2 rank to oblivion. There is no official announcement from Google about the degree of this punishement, like how many ranks you are going to lose. Anyway, any rank after 500 can be called non-existent in my opinion.
How to recognise the bad guys
Stop hanging with bad guys. Who are bad guys? They are those sites which are having any or all of the following aspects
1. Having no content.
2. Basically a link farm, like a directory.
3. Sites which redirect to bad sites.
4. sites which are no way connected to your site. (here, the site may not be bad absolutely, but with respect to your site it is considered bad or unnatural by Google)
5. linking your homepage, on your homepage, using anchor text. This special case has been reported by Bary Schwartz here.
Please keep calm. There are lots of options to deal this. It may take some time but still it woths the effort.
- Run a thorough check using Raven Tools or SpyGlass or any other software you trust to find out where from these links are coming. I personally faced an Excel sheet of 32,000 links staring at me when I started to work on this.
- Sort the list for links coming from the same source. If 10 links are coming from each website, the list is already down to one/tenth. In my case, it came down to 3200, which is still a good number.
- Get some of your good SEO guys to check these lists manually, by visiting each site. This is the tiresome process I know. But you can probably strike down a certain percentage of the sites just by looking at them. For example, any link coming from www.yahoo.com is great. Again, if you are a SEO company and links are coming from mygreatsportscar.com then probably you can call it a bad/unnatural link without verifying it. This process still may take a few days. In any case hwoever, note down the webmaster’s email id in the excel sheet.
- Now when you armed with a list of the sites from which you want no connection, write a polite enough email to the webmasters to remove your links from those pages. Give yourself 1 week to relax, you have worked hard for a week, isnt it?
- You can check the sites after one week to check if they have removed it or not. If not, despair not as all is not over yet.
- If there is no reply from them within 1 week you can always use the last resort. Paste all the websites with which you want no connection with on a notepad (.txt) file. The format is
- Add one site in each line and log in to your webmaster id and upload it in the Google Disavow. Google will not count these sites anymore while judging the rank of your site nor it will penalise you for unnatural link building if your site is listed on those sites. Voila!
Friednly Tip: If you believe me, you can safely list all the directories, good bad and ugly, in this disavow list.
Well, that was easy, wasnt it? Let me know what you think of my article.