You know having a lot of links back to your site is a good search engine optimization strategy. But if you’re accustomed to the new age of SEO, then you also know that it’s not just about how many links you have. It’s about the quality of those links. That said, links of poor quality could be holding your SEO efforts back. Read on to learn more about bad links, how to identify them, and how to remove them.

What Are Bad Links?

Bad links are those that come from low quality sites. Typically, this includes links that are earned in an unnatural way—such as by paying for them. Other times, it may not be your fault at all, such as if your domain is picked up by low-quality directories.

When search engines find these links, it can devalue your site in their eyes, pushing you farther down the rankings. Getting rid of these links can therefore put trust back into your site, both from search engines and users.

Removing these bad backlinks is a laborious process, and you may not be able to find and remove them all, but the effort you do put into link detox can be well worth it.

How Do You Identify Bad Links?

Doing a link audit starts with identifying where your bad links are coming from. It’s a good idea to check this out now before you end up with an SEO penalty. Moz.com outlines the process:

  1. Identify link root domains: Use tools like Google Webmaster Tools to identify who is linking back to your site. For even more accurate data, couple this with other tools like MajesticSEO.
  2. Check the ToolBar PageRank (TBPR) for linking domains: For pages still linking to your site, pay attention to the TBPR. Those with a low PageRank are a concern.
  3. Look at the percentage of linking root domains that have been deindexed: You may find root domains with a positive TBPR value, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t been deindexed by Google. Pay attention to this as these root domains are also a concern.
  4. Check social metrics (optional): To further categorize “bad” links, take a look at the domain’s social metrics. Low share counts can indicate low quality domains.
  5. Repeat steps 2, 3, and 4 periodically: Keep an eye out for low-end TBPR distribution, deindexed links, and unchanged social metric counts.

All of this should be outlined in a spreadsheet as it will help you stay organized as well as make the next step of the process easier. For a more in-depth look at this process, read about Richard Baxter’s case study at BuiltVisible.com.

How Do You Remove Them?

One way to remove bad backlinks is to start by contacting the owner of the root domain directly. Oftentimes if you ask politely, web owners will comply. However, sometimes they will ask you to pay to remove these links. Whether you do so or not is up to you.

If the web owner does not remove your links or you do not hear back, you can disavow links. Basically, this tells Google that you don’t want these links taken into account in your rankings. Luckily, they have a handy tool to make this easy. This is where your spreadsheet will come in handy since you’ll have to create a disavow file so Google knows which sites to stop following. Moz.com walks you through this process in their article, “Your Start-to-Finish Guide to Using Google’s Disavow Tool.”

Don’t forget that the quality of outbound links you include on your website is important as well. Your outbound links help tell search engines what your page is about, and including 2-4 links to quality sites is a good indicator that your content is of high quality. Start with the above tips for getting rid of bad backlinks, and then consider auditing your own site for broken or low-quality outbound links.

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