With the threat of impending doom from Penguin updates, it’s important that you pay attention to your backlink profile. There are any number of reasons you may have detrimental links in your profile. For instance, have you ever:
• Purchased links from a seller, reputable or not?
• Sent out a guest post or press release that was published by multiple sites?
• Submitted your link through numerous blog comments with little variation?
• Been the target of a negative SEO attack?
Any of these can cause unnatural, artificial links that don’t benefit you. When Penguin refreshes, those links can become actively harmful. Once that happens, you will need to suffer the consequences until Penguin refreshes again, seeing that you removed those links. Given that the time between refreshes can be as long as a year or more, you don’t have the time to waste.
The basic process for removing bad links is simple. First, you need to pull your link profile in some way. Numerous tools can help you with this. Second, you need to scan through those links and identify any that are coming from bad domains. Third, you need to send out messages asking the owners of those domains to remove those links. Fourth, you need to submit your list of links to Google’s Disavow Links tool. Only once all of this is done can you claim to have a clean link profile, and the whole process takes time.
In order to streamline the process, you can use some of these tools. They aren’t perfect, but they’ll get you in a better position.
First on the list is the expensive solution. Remove’em has a large database of sites to scan for your incoming links, including data from some other tools mentioned in entry #5. The site offers a subscription or a one-time fee, depending on your situation. At $250 per domain, it’s not cheap, and the subscription starts at $100 per month. However, this cost allows you to access over 8.5 million entries for webmaster contact info, and the tool helps streamline the entire process.
What does Remove’em do, exactly? You plug in a domain and the tool will scan your backlink profile using several tools and indexes. The tool then presents you with a list of links and domains you will need to contact, along with a form letter and contact information for the owners of those domains. You can review the links it flags, pick out which ones you want to send, and send removal letters. You can also export the list and use it with Google’s tool to disavow them.
Remove’em also has a managed option for full service, if you don’t know how to identify a good link from a bad link, or if you simply don’t have the time to do it all yourself. This can cost quite a bit more, particularly for large sites, but the cost varies.
This service works best for small sites or sites with only a relatively small handful of links to remove. If you have one domain with under 400 backlinks, you can use their $97 service. More domains or more backlinks get more expensive from there.
The one unfortunate drawback of LinkDelete is the lack of a generated disavow file. You will have to pull your own backlink profile and create a disavow file yourself, or work painstakingly through the reports generated by this service.
LinkDelete is fairly effective at contacting webmasters to have links removed, but it’s still a small-scale operation. If you have an older site with thousands of backlinks to scan, this service simply won’t work.
Rmoov has a number of options, like LinkDelete, limiting the number of domains, links and features you can access. Unlike LinkDelete, they have a free version that is very effective for small sites with under 250 links to scan. The site also provides varying degrees of support through their knowledgebase and phone support.
One side benefit of Rmoov is their new service to help with reconsideration requests. If your site has been struck by a link penalty, you can work with Rmoov to push a reconsideration request through Google’s system. While Rmoov can’t guarantee success, their experience allows them to make sure everything is filled out with the maximum chance at success available.
Another expensive option, Linkquidator offers a free one-week trial with a mere $40 monthly afterwards, for the trial version. This starter plan covers one domain and up to 1,000 backlinks. Unlike some other tools, Linkquidator expands into extremely high-end plans, capable of working on sites as large as eBay or Expedia. This is, of course, correspondingly expensive.
5. Elbow Grease
The best option, unfortunately, is to put in the work yourself. The one thing these tools have in common is the automation behind them. When they scan your backlink profile and search for negative links, they aren’t perfect. They may very well flag valid, good links as spam. They may also miss dangerous negative links.
Another drawback for these tools is the fact that they can be very expensive, particularly when you’re trying to recover from a negative SEO attack. These services generally assume that if you have thousands of backlinks, you’re a large site with a large budget. If you’re a small site looking to recover from a negative SEO attack, you may be railroaded into paying for a larger plan just to cover the links you need covered.
Instead, perform the process manually. First, pull your link profile using Google’s Webmaster Tools, Moz’s Open Site Explorer and Majestic SEO, as well as AHrefs and any other tools if you want.
Second, filter your backlink files to filter precise domain information. If you have 30 links from the same domain, there’s no reason to keep them as 30 separate entries in the list, after all.
The next step is to check how many of those links are dead. You can prune dead links from your document and put them in a different document to disavow later if you need. Once you have a list of live links, you need to classify them. You can remove entries from known good domains; you don’t want to disavow them. You will need to manually scan many of these sites to look for signs of spam. Some will be obvious, while others will be harder to identify.
The next step is tedious; you need to search for WHOIS and domain registration information to find contact info for the owners of the sites you don’t like. You will need to send links to the pages that link to your site, asking the webmasters to remove those links. Some will, some won’t, others will try to ask for cash in return. It’s up to you how you handle each scenario.
Once you’ve completed these steps, you’ll be left with a list of links that still exist and are negatively affecting your site. This is the list you disavow. Yes, it’s a long, slow process. Yes, it’s tedious. Unfortunately, your judgment is going to be better than any automated tool.