As a result of this, Google tightened its guidelines on backlinks and introduced penalties for Webmasters who were doing the wrong thing – leaving many websites with a large amount of link auditing and removal to undertake (unlucky for them).
Here, I’m going to talk about link audits, the removal process and how it is done.
Although there are over 400 individual ranking factors, backlinks are perceived to be important in Google’s search algorithm as association with high quality websites or “links” indicates that your website is of high value and can add authority to your campaign.
In return, it’s believed that this can help your website perform better within the search results when compared to other websites of a lower “authority”.
And Algorithmic Penalties are?
An algorithmic penalty is where your site has not fit a safeguard or filter built into Google’s algorithm and so is automatically determined by Google’s picky ways.
On 24th April 2012, Google introduced the Penguin algorithm, which devalued websites that had unnatural backlinks such as dodgy directories and spam websites. This meant that some website’s positions in search engines dropped and others were even removed from appearing altogether. This is classed as getting a penalty from Google, called an ‘algorithmic penalty’.
Purchasing links in order to influence SEO results is also against Google’s guidelines and can result in your website being penalised, so this is by all means not recommended.
What about Manual Penalties?
A manual penalty is where someone from Google has personally reviewed your site and determined that it has gone against one or more of their guidelines.
Actions that may cause you to get a manual penalty include unnatural links to or from your site, user-generated spam, keyword stuffing, thin content with little value (pages should contain at least between 250-300 words of text and be relevant to your website’s purpose) or if pages on your site are hacked. Google’s webmaster guidelines set out acceptable SEO and general website actions so website owners should stick to these to avoid penalties.
Manual penalties are more difficult and pesky to solve as instead of relying on an automated algorithm to recover your site, you must make changes to satisfy the penalty and a person at Google must go through your site link profile and approve the changes to remove the penalty.
This means it’s time for a Link Audit
To find out if your website has unnatural backlinks you can conduct a link audit.
This is often done through Google Webmaster Tools but it’s also recommended that you use other various tools such as Majestic SEO and ahHrefs to ensure that you are able to compile a full list of links pointing towards the website. This will show all of the backlinks leading to your website and you can then identify if any of them are unnatural, which you can then remove by the link removal process.
The best way to conduct the audit is to sort the links by Trust Ascending, however many of the low trust websites are often not harmful or low quality links, (this just makes it easier to identify the ones that are actually unnatural) and as a result it’s crucial that a manual approach to link auditing is carried out.
There are a number of ways that you can determine if the website has unnatural links but some examples include if the website has a low domain authority, appear on a penalised domain or a domain that isn’t indexed to Google, appear on a website with a virus warning, has unrelated or spammy titles or is a purchased link.
This leads to a Link Removal
Removing backlinks involves contacting the owner of each website that your website links back to and asking for the links to be deleted.
If the website does not display any contact details, or if the owner of the site has ignored you after a reasonable number of times of contacting, put these into a list, separate from those who have complied with your request for removal. You can then submit this list with your disavow request to Google, showing you have attempted to get them removed.
It can take a number of link disavow consideration requests before Google are happy with your efforts to get your link removed. If you do not make every effort to try to remove them yourself first, or do not show any evidence that you have tried to do so to Google, you may receive a manual penalty by disavowing only. Include as many details as possible or screenshots of conversations with the website owners with your disavow request to show you have tried to remove them yourself.
Finally, build new high quality links
When links are removed it can impact the overall authority of your website. As a result you will need to build new high quality links to maintain or even boost your ranking. Make sure that the new links you achieve have a high domain authority, avoid dodgy directories and websites that look spammy or low quality and do not purchase links.