As Google continues to improve its algorithm, marketers sometimes run afoul of new rules. Old tactics for search engine optimization stop working. Sometimes, Google even penalizes a site.
Google sometimes adjusts the formula to stop people from taking advantage of “loopholes.” This is the case with keyword stuffing. It used to be possible to get to the top of the ranks by repeating a keyword over and over.
Another controversial subject is linking. Google deems some backlinks “bad,” which can hurt your site. Luckily, you can remove links from Google.
If you’re concerned about the quality of your backlinks and what you can do, this guide is for you. In it, you’ll learn how to identify bad links. Then you’ll discover what you can do to deal with them.
Why Linking Matters
Google monitors which pages are linking back to your website as one of its many ranking factors. Backlinks are part of what’s known as “social proof.”
What does that mean? In essence, it means Google uses backlinks to help it judge how trustworthy and authoritative your page is.
If the New York Times and the Washington Post are linking your site, you must know what you’re talking about. When Google sees links from highly authoritative pages, it assumes your site is credible. Your site is likely a good place to send Google users for information.
The Rise of Backlinking Strategies
Google is monitoring backlinks, so website owners need to pay attention to who is linking to them.
The most common discussion is about backlinking strategy. Since Google uses backlinks to help determine a site’s rank, people who want to boost their rank will seek out backlinks.
You might get a guest-blogging gig and link back to your own site, or you may do an interview with a journalist. You might ask an influencer to review your product. You may even contact a well-known site and offer to replace decayed links.
Of course, there are also some backlinking strategies that Google doesn’t approve of. This includes things like buying links or even trading them through private networks. These are what’s called “black hat SEO techniques,” and they can hurt your website’s ranking.
Google wants to be sure the websites it sends its users to are credible and trustworthy. If you’re buying links, the sites linking back to you are lending you authority you haven’t earned. As a result, Google could end up sending their users to unhelpful or even harmful websites.
The Links That Hurt You
As a result of people using black hat SEO techniques for linking, Google tends to punish websites with links it finds “fishy.”
Several situations could cause Google to penalize your site for bad backlinks. If you suddenly have many backlinks crop up, Google may demote your site or even de-index you. That’s because it takes this as a sign you’ve been buying or trading links.
In some cases, the reputation of the domain linking to you hurts as well. If the site linking to you is a harmful website, then Google may penalize your website.
Of course, there’s an issue with Google punishing websites that have backlinks from harmful sites or spam sites. You can’t control what other people do.
A spam site may suddenly start linking to your website. Overnight, hundreds of suspicious links may crop up. As a result, your rank on Google suffers.
Google has recognized that you can’t control other webmasters. If a spam site is linking to your site, there may not be much you can do to get rid of bad links. It’s not exactly fair for Google to lower your ranking for someone else’s behavior.
That’s why there is something you can do to get rid of bad links from Google.
How to Remove Links From Google
If you’re concerned that the quality of your backlinks is hurting your website, there are some steps you can take. The first is to try contacting the owner of the domain linking to you.
In some cases, this is enough to get the site to stop linking to your domain. You can politely ask them to remove any and all links, and not to link to you in the future.
As you might have guessed, this tactic doesn’t always work. If hackers or spammers run the site, they’re not likely going to respond to your request. You may try contacting them a few times, only to have your emails go unanswered and ignored.
Don’t worry. You’re not out of options for removing bad links just yet.
Disavow Links via Google
If you’ve tried talking to the owner of the website linking to you without much success, there’s another step you can take.
Google offers a tool to help you disavow “bad” backlinks coming in to your domain. The search engine giant does recommend trying to get links removed by talking to the other website owner first. They also recognize that isn’t always successful.
That’s why they allow you to disavow links. If you’ve tried talking it out, you can head over to Google’s tool and begin the process of disavowing the links.
The Link Disavowing Process
To start, you’ll need to run a links report through Google. This will identify all the backlinks pointing to your site that Google has identified.
Comb through this report and identify any suspicious or harmful links. Links that seem unnatural or lead to low-quality sites should probably be disavowed.
Once you’ve identified all the links you want to disavow, you’ll upload the text document to Google using the disavow links tool page. Make sure you remove any links you don’t want to disavow from the link report document before you upload it.
Now Google has a list of links you want to disavow. What this means is that you’re telling Google you don’t approve these links and you don’t want to associate with them. Google will then tell its robots to ignore those links as it recrawls those pages.
Once you’ve disavowed low-quality or spammy backlinks, your ranking should improve again. Google does advise that this process can take weeks, so be patient.
Keep in mind that Google will still include these links in its link report. Unless you can get the web owner to remove the link, the best you can do is tell Google to ignore the link.
Identifying Bad Backlinks
Removing links from Google is important for SEO, but the search engine also advises doing this with caution.
You should be careful with disavowing links. Some links may actually be helping your ranking. Disavowing them could hurt your site.
So, how can you spot a bad backlink?
It’s easy to identify most bad backlinks. They come from a few places:
- Comments sections of other sites
- Websites that exist solely for SEO
- Links with over-optimized anchors
- Links in duplicate texts
- Links outside your local area
An example would be a site in Romania linking to a small digital agency in Destin, Florida. It’s unlikely this agency hasclients in Romania. Google would probably flag this link as suspicious, on the grounds you may have purchased it.
Links in duplicated text is another easy-to-spot problem. Google penalizes duplicate text. If these sorts of sites are linking back to you, it could mean your domain is involved in something shady.
Comments spam is something most people have encountered. A bot or fake account posts unrelated comments with links. These links usually send users to harmful websites.
If the comments include links to your site, Google may assume your site is also harmful.
Comments may also seem like they’re part of a link buying or trading scheme. That may also be the case with websites set up for SEO. If the anchor text of a link seems overly optimized, that can also signal a linking scheme.
In some cases, these links are part of a coordinated attack on your website. You may not have traded or bought them, but someone else has targeted your site.
Other Types of Suspicious Links
Blogrolls were once incredibly common, but people misused these lists of links. Google analyzes them carefully now. If your site is on a blogroll, you may want to disavow that link.
Site-wide links are another common type of link to disavow. These links have been around since the start of the Internet. Today, though, it’s more important to get root domains linking to your site.
Look for Unnatural Links
The best way to spot bad backlinks is to look for links that seem unnatural. A link to your photography services in a blog about cooking doesn’t seem natural or normal to most people. Google doesn’t think so either.
Links that come from comment sections, websites with duplicate content, and others also seem “unnatural.” That’s why Google flags them as suspicious or even penalizes you for them.
What if You Put the Links There?
Many people engage in linking schemes for any number of reasons. Someone else may have sold a link-buying or trading network to you as a good idea. You may just not have known any better.
In rare cases, an SEO provider or digital agency may solicit these links. Some providers do use black hat techniques, because they get results in the short term. Most often, these people aren’t interested in helping you in the long term.
You must review anyone offering digital marketing services before you sign up. Doing a thorough review and asking the right questions can help you find someone who will use the right techniques and help you succeed over time.
What if you already worked with a black hat SEO provider and your site has a bunch of bad backlinks pointing at it now? First, you should ask the SEO provider to remove the links. Then part ways with them.
If the provider can’t or won’t remove the links, you can disavow them through Google’s tool. Keep in mind that they may not disappear right away. It takes time for Google to incorporate your list as its robots crawl the web.
Build a Better Backlink Strategy
You may not be able to truly get rid of bad backlinks once they’ve cropped up. You certainly can’t stop other people from linking to your site. In these cases, disavowing links through Google may be your best bet.
Another key to this process is to build backlinks the right way. A good backlinking strategy focuses on getting natural links from high-quality sites.
How can you do that? The first step is to provide quality content that people actually want to read and share. Show your expertise on a subject, and you may just find a well-known blogger in your niche linking to you.
Interviews, guest blogging, and more are also great techniques to incorporate in your strategy.
Finally, you can work with a digital agency or SEO expert who uses white hat techniques. These experts can help you build backlinks the right way and avoid being penalized by Google’s algorithm. In turn, you should see your site rise through the rankings.
The Right Foundation for Digital Marketing
Knowing how to remove links from Google is key to ensuring your site’s rank doesn’t suffer. A good backlinking strategy is another important piece of the SEO puzzle. In turn, great SEO is only one part of your digital marketing strategy.
Are you looking for help with your digital marketing or building an online business? You’re in the right place. Get started with a great guide and build your business the right way.