Google’s recent algorithm updates – namely Panda and Penguin – have changed how today’s webmasters and SEO specialists approach online marketing. In the past, any link was a good link, but today Google is pushing for a more focused and relevant user experience. If your website has been penalized, you have options.
So you received your penalty. Don’t panic; take action. Start by consolidating a list of all of your inbound links. Go to Google Webmaster Tools, then click on Search Traffic, and then access your link profile by clicking Follow Links to Your Site. If you have a substantial number of incoming links, add them to an organized spreadsheet so you can keep track of your progress. With this information you should be able to start figuring out which links are keepers and which need to go.
While there are link classification tools available online that can grade the quality of your links for you, doing it manually is a safer option. Sort through your links and mark them as natural, unnatural, or suspicious. According to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, any link that is intended to increase search engine rankings can be considered a violation, so you really need to be discerning with this ranking process. If your link comes from link archive pages, footers, blog rolls, article farms, or spammy directories, this is potentially problematic. Even irrelevant links can be a red flag, so mark any links that don’t fit your niche as suspicious.
Now you need to contact the sources of all unnatural links and request that they are removed. According to the SEO specialists at Coalition Technologies, suspicious links should be tagged as “no follow,” and if you have any concern, you should request that they be removed as well. You may need to send several requests before you get a response, and some webmasters may never respond. Keep track of which links have been contacted, and make sure you follow up on any link removals or changes.
There is a strong chance that you will not hear back from some webmasters. If you have not heard anything back after a few contact attempts, you will need to use Google’s Disavow tool to notify Google of links that should be ignored when your website is analyzed. Make a document that includes all questionable links, and then upload it to your Webmaster Tools. If a website is exceptionally spammy, you may want to disavow the entire domain.
Now is your chance to prove to Google that you are not going to be a problematic user in the future. Go to your Webmaster Tools and send a message that clearly states what you have done to eliminate your association with webspam, and explain how you plan to build links naturally moving forward. You may need to send multiple reconsideration requests, but you should hear a response within a few weeks to a few months that accepts your request, denies it, or states that further action is required. Be persistent, vigilant, and organized, and when in doubt, hire a professional.
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