Link Detox is an interesting service. See, with Google’s ongoing campaign against web spam and black hat link building, they have turned billions of web links from valuable to valueless, and turned many valueless links into downright detrimental links. When blog networks are removed or penalized, or when spam sites are flagged, their links can become harmful to a site. Link Detox is designed to help you analyze your links and manage your link risk.
The lowest tier plan for Link Detox is a three month plan built for one website, and it costs $290 for that quarter. It covers one domain, up to 1,000 incoming links from 24 sources. It includes 600 links from their Boost system, which helps guarantee faster reindexation to recover from a link penalty sooner. It gives you two link alerts, 20 credits for their link opportunities review, access to Link Detox Genesis, email support, and Screener. On top of that, it has an automated disavow maintenance, the ability to detect link networks, and integration with Webmaster Tools.
What if you have more links you want audited? The next step up is $600 per month – not per quarter – and while it gives you up to 20 domains and up to 300,000 links per domain, it’s still a massive step up in price. Sure, you get more features – you can see them here – it’s a ton of cash.
The primary purpose of Link Detox is to audit your existing links and disavow those that are deemed harmful or worthless to your blog. These links are probably holding you back, bringing on a link penalty, and removing them will help you rise in the search rankings. The additional features are all icing on the cake to justify the huge price of the product.
The Uniqueness of Link Detox
Link Detox is a great application with a lot of power behind it, but that power makes it a bit of a double-edged sword. It’s easy to accidentally remove a lot of links that aren’t actually detrimental to you, and may in fact be somewhat helpful, if you use the tool wrong.
It also has a bunch of additional features. The recovery boost option is interesting, though potentially gray hat, and the competitive intelligence is nice to keep around. It’s all in one singular, expensive package.
Make no mistake about it; Link Detox is hatless tool. It’s used equally by white hat and black hat marketers, so long as they have the budget for it. You can use it properly as a white hat marketer, but at some point you have to look at all the more amoral features you’re not using and wonder if the money you’re spending is worth it. Generally, it probably isn’t.
No singular tool you find is going to be as potent in as many areas as what Link Detox happens to be. You’re going to be stuck doing some work manually, waiting longer for effects, and generally being less efficient. However, you’ll be spending a lot less money, so the tradeoff is up to you.
Pulling a Robust Backlink Profile
In order to emulate the effects of Link Detox, you’re going to have to substitute time for money. The first thing you need to do is pull a link profile.
Now, Link Detox claims to pull links from over 24 different link sources. I’ve found that this is overkill. It’s not really necessary to get your link profile from so many sources, since a lot of sources draw data from one or another, so you get a lot of redundancy. Here are the four sources I consider to be worthwhile. These are, of course, in addition to Google’s webmaster tools backlink report. There’s no reason not to use the Google data provided for you, particularly since Google is the one levying penalties.
- Money Robot’s Backlink Monitor. This web crawler allows you to plug in a URL and will crawl around for links. It will find URLs, anchor text, and the URL from your site found on the linking site. This is all, of course, easily exportable. This is listed at the top of the list because it’s 100% free to use.
- Majestic SEO’s Bulk Link Checker. This is powered by Majestic SEO, who happen to have one of the largest non-Google search indexes in the world. This checker also gives you a bunch of metrics, including the citation and trust flow metrics Majestic created. The only downside is that you have to be at minimum a Silver subscriber to Majestic, which is $79 per month.
- Ahrefs.com. This site is designed specifically for tracking your backlinks and gives you a huge pile of analytics information about them. If you’re doing a one-time audit of your link profile, you can start up a free trial and pull your data. If you’re looking for ongoing auditing, you’ll need to subscribe for more data on an ongoing basis.
- Moz’s Open Site Explorer. Moz has another huge index and gives you a heaping helping of data as well. Just because it’s fourth on the list doesn’t mean it’s bad in any way. It’s actually one of the best sources of external analytics data you’ll find.
You can also use other sources of data, as you prefer. Raven Tools, another paid analytics suite, can give you some more, as can the $100 one-time payment for SEO Spyglass. You can read about all of these and how they compare here.
My opinion is that for a robust link audit, you need to pull your data from a bunch of high quality sources. You don’t need two dozen sources, but you should do at least four or five. You will be pulling your link profile and removing duplicates from a full list, so you don’t have to worry about duplication, just missing links.
Managing the Data
How you manipulate your data will depend on what data you got into your CSV, what additional filtering you want to do, and how much you want to keep around post-filtering. I recommend sorting and extracting the domain name – this guide gives you an idea of how – so you’re left with individual domains with minimal duplication.
You will also want to import data about the links as much as possible, so you have metrics by which you can judge the domains linking to you. You can add in metrics like TrustFlow, CitationFlow, and MozRank to filter out the data. Remove any sites from the list that have high enough metrics to be consider a decent site. Heck, even sites that are mediocre can still be valuable to you as part of a rounded link profile.
The Remove’em self-service version is a cool app that can take a list of links and score them. They have additional features to help you contact webmasters to get those links removed, as well, as a nice segue into the next section.
In the end, you should be left with a list of links that have red flags associated with them. Links with low metrics indicating spam sites, links that look like they come from unrelated and spammy blogs, links from stolen content, and the like should all be listed in your document.
Removing the Links
Now you have to decide how you’re going to get rid of the spammy links. You have a handful of options, so I’ll discuss each of them in turn.
The first option is the totally manual option. It’s the most time consuming, but it’s free and can allow you to adjust and be flexible with your process. Essentially, for each link, you will visit the site and look up how to contact the site owner. This can be pretty difficult, given that many spam site owners will hide their association with it and the contact information you can find might not be valid. You will need to reach out to the site owner and get them to remove the link. Don’t fall victim to scams, however. If they claim they will remove the link for a fee, just ignore it and leave. You can disavow the link later and get rid of its negative impact on your site for free.
I don’t recommend this option simply because it’s so time consuming and isn’t likely to get you the results you want. That’s why the second option is to hand over responsibility for that communications process to a tool.
The tool-assisted outreach method involves using a tool like Rmoov. Rmoov is a tool that essentially outsources outreach in order to get site owners to remove links. They can do it in a variety of ways, but they have limitations. Primarily, the free version only allows up to 250 links to be removed in any give campaign, and you can only run one campaign at a time. If you want highter limits, link checking, and other advanced features, you’ll have to pay. Additionally, the mail they send out is routed through your own mail server, so if you don’t have one or if you’re doing this in bulk, you may end up with issues. In particular, this can get your domain flagged as spam if you’re not careful. So, uh, be careful.
The third option is the managed service, which is where a company does the outreach and removal for you. Remove’em, as mentioned above, has such an option. Their service begins with a phone call to discuss your website and the campaign, plus a questionnaire you fill out to give them more details. They do the profile pulls and link analysis for you, so you can skip the previous steps, though I recommend doing it anyway just to see how things look. Then they reach out to get the links removed for you. Another company providing similar services is TestingCity.
Obviously, if you’re paying a company to do this for you, they’re going to be charging an amount of money equivalent to what the service is worth. Something like Remove’em can be as comparable as Link Detox, but I would say they have one benefit. Link Detox relies on automated updating of the Disavow list, but it doesn’t actually get the links removed. The links still exist, they just don’t affect your Google ranking. Other link profiles and analytics can still see and calculate those links, and if the disavow list changes, those links can be restored.
A managed service that removes the links, even if it’s comparable in cost, will be more beneficial in the long run because the links are well and truly gone. They can’t hurt you after a change later because they don’t exist.
The final option is essentially to do what Link Detox does, but manually. You will have to plug in a list of all the domains you don’t want linking to you into a text document, and you will have to upload this list to Google’s Disavow Links tool. This tool is potent, since it nukes links from counting against you, but it can also nuke good links. It doesn’t discriminate.
And yet, at the same time, Google says that they have the prerogative of ignoring your disavow file if it’d unnatural, and they say the disavowal can expire. There are, all in all, a lot of reasons why sticking to nothing but the disavow tool can be a bad idea.
In general, I actually prefer the managed options. I’m generally all about doing these things myself, but as it turns out, this is so time consuming for the benefits that I’d rather pay someone to do it for me. Which service you want to use is up to you, I’m sure there are others beyond those I listed.
Keep in mind that a link audit is not necessarily a one-time affair. Doing it once can clean up mistakes, but you should ideally monitor your new links and make sure they’re generally beneficial to you. Bad links can strike at any time, and it’s better to be proactive about removing them than it is to go through this whole audit once every six months.