This Spring Cleaning, Don’t Forget Your Bad Backlinks

Spring is a time of rebirth, and fresh starts. On that note, in the spirit of fresh starts and spring-cleaning, I wanted to write about something that may be holding your site back in rankings, and stifling your ability to grow traffic. What could be doing this to your site, you ask? Bad backlinks. Bad backlinks to your site might be hindering its ability to grow, and that’s why I want to help you do a little spring cleaning and see if they might be a problem for you.

I thought all backlinks were good?

Nope. Maybe at one point, but this is not the case any longer. A link from a ‘bad site’ has had the ability to negatively impact your ability to rank well on Google for years now, but the extent to which this was done by Google – and the harshness of the penalty – has been getting ratcheted up by each and every Penguin & Panda update that rolls out. It has gotten to the point where there is now a formal process defined by Google for ‘disavowing’ yourself from a bad site which you don’t wish to accept a backlink from.

Why do Bad Backlinks need Spring Cleaning?

Bad backlinks are like a bad foundation for your structure. Those kinds of issues need to be discovered and fixed before progress can be made forward, otherwise it’s just going to be an even bigger problem down the line. I think the annual ‘Spring Cleaning’ tradition/mindset is a terrific opportunity to take a good look at our backlink profile and see if there could be some tidying up that needs to done in order to make sure the new year is as prosperous as it can be.

So here’s the plan. I will walk you through how to check your own site’s backlink profile, and how to quickly gauge whether or not bad backlinks are something you might have a problem with. Then I will explain what you need to do if you do find bad backlinks.

How to gather a Backlink Profile for your site

  • Method 1: Login, or signup, for OpenSiteExplorer.com and input your website into the big form field and click the ‘search’ button. To cut right to the important stuff, I recommend you select these options=> “show ‘only follow’ links from ‘only external’ pages to ‘pages on this root domain’.” You will want to export this list out as a CSV so you can work with it in a spreadsheet.
  • Method 2: Login, or sign up, for Google.com/Webmaster/tools/ – if you are only just signing up, then be aware it takes some time to initially load a site in – but assuming you do have it loaded in and have access – you open your site profile, click on ‘Search Traffic’, and then click on ‘Links to Your Site’. It will be a large list, which I recommend you export out as a CSV so you can work with it in a spreadsheet.

How do we determine if a link is a Bad Backlink?

Technically, a bad backlink would be any link that was created ‘unnaturally’ – meaning with intent to increase the pagerank of another site. This means that really what we are looking for are ‘fake links’. In practice, this means we’re talking about many of the most common ‘old school’ SEO tricks from years ago – things like directory submissions, blog comments, and all those kinds of ‘post the link around the web’ type of “link building” campaigns. All that stuff is now penalized by Google. If you have used an SEO consultant, or SEO agency, in the past who has done “linkbuilding” for you, then there is a very real possibility that you have bad backlinks and that they are likely hurting your sites’ performance.

Bad backlinks are:

  • ‘Unnatural links’, spammed links (Links from any non-relevant, unrelated site to yours)
  • Directory sites
  • Blog Networks, Article Submission Sites, Guest Posting Networks
  • Blog Comment Spam, Forum Signature Spam
  • International Links (that are irrelevant, and out-of-place)

If you have Bad Backlinks you need to act.

They will not just go away, they will continue to negatively impact your site’s performance, and stunt the growth of your ongoing marketing efforts.  Basically, what needs to take place to “fix the foundation” of a site with bad backlinks is the following, you need to:

  1. Pull up your backlink data from Moz and/or Google Webmaster tools
  2. Go through the list, and pick out the bad backlinks at the domain name level (this list could be 100’s, 1000’s or more)
  3. Try to get the bad backlinks taken off the web, mainly by attempting to contact each webmaster if necessary
  4. Lastly, create a specially formatted disavow text file listing out the bad backlinks and then submit it to Google

The team at Philly Marketing Labs has dealt with this before. If you would like to discuss your bad backlinks, or to perform a backlink analysis to see if futher action is nescessary – please contact us and we’d be happy to discuss how we can help.

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