I am aware of the fact that this has been widely discussed and hence, I write this blog in the light of my experience. I hope it gives you an idea about how certain unnatural backlinks can be addressed in detail. It’s the season of the Disavow!!! With the Penguin Update, a large number of websites have been affected with penalty and partial keyword match manual action from Google Webmaster Tools. Affected websites include any site that used manipulative link building techniques like submitting their domain to free or paid link building sites unaware of what type of links they were building. Some SEO companies also had adopted these methods as an easy way to build links. Some of them created multiple articles with multiple followed links and submitted them in multiple websites and much more. In many cases the initial rankings for these websites were astonishing as they ranked for most of their keywords.
It’s a nightmare for SEO!
When Google unleashed Penguin, most of these sites got penalized and were issued with partial match manual action in google webmaster tools. The site traffic goes down, conversion goes down and does not even rank for any of their keyword.
And for now, the web owners have the chance to clear their penalties by removing those links. Certainly for most of these domains, the contact details are rarely available and if contacted, they usually ignore removal requests, or worse demand money to take them down. Usually, the link removal requests can be successful up to a point. As for removing the rest, we need to depend on the Google Disavow tool. Disavow is an excellent tool that can be used to remove manipulative backlinks which cannot be removed by our own efforts.
Reconsideration Request Fails!
Many reconsideration requests fail because the Webmaster may not be satisfied with either our findings of manipulative backlinks or our attempts in removing them. Finding out manipulative backlinks to a website is a difficult task for a good old domain with huge number of backlinks. Usually manipulative links may have a pattern and in most cases it should be easier to find them.
Getting Prepared for Recovery – Let’s start classifying backlinks
In order to get backlink details there are several tools available online. Backlink data from Google Webmaster is highly recommended and should be used as the primary source. Apart from Google Webmaster, there are other tools like Ahrefs, Majestic SEO etc which could also be used to get backlink details for our domain.
Webmaster provides the data including the top referring domains and a list of URLs containing backlinks. But with just the domains and URLs in hand, without manually accessing all these, we will not able to distinguish the bad ones from the good. And it consumes a lot of time if there are a large number of domains and URLs. There are certain tools available in market, which claim that they will automatically find and sort bad domains and urls, but I don’t believe in those and I have no clue about the kind of algorithm that they use. So for a detailed and much easier study, ahrefs or Majestic SEO can be used. I have also used ahrefs data along with Webmaster data for sorting:
- Download latest link URLs from Google Webmaster and export the raw CSV file containing the whole backlink details from ahrefs.
- Compare the URLs from ahrefs with those downloaded from Webmaster so that you could get a better idea about both set of values.
- The backlink details may differ, so give more importance to Webmaster data rather than ahrefs data.
Analysing the URLs
Backlinks can be analysed both by checking the URLs and by checking the domains in which they exist. Let us now analyse the URLs in detail.
1. Follow Links (don’t disavow a no-follow link)
We know that only ‘Do-follow’ backlinks can affect a site’s rankings (of course no-follow does its own effects) but we need to upload only those Do-Follow links to Disavow tool. I assume that what Disavow tool does is virtually converting Do-Follow to No-Follow (may be). So first sort out the Do-Follow backlinks and remove the No-Follow backlinks. In ahrefs, it is given directly but for Webmaster data, we could use the tool from ScrapeBox, http://www.scrapebox.com/free-do-follow-test-tool, to sort out DoFollow links and it’s free.
2. HTTP/Status Code
The backlink data may not be an updated version and many of them may be already removed. In order to check if the backlink is still present and the domain is still live, we could use another tool from Scrapebox, http://www.scrapebox.com/free-link-checker with which we could check bulk URLs at a time. Its free and user-friendly.
3. Web Page Title
This is one significant factor which should be cared about the most. Following are the two types of anchor texts that should be removed:
- Exact match keywords that violate Google Quality Guidelines
- Irrelevant keywords that could be built as a result of Negative SEO
The ahrefs data shows the anchor texts for each URLs and so it is easy to identify, but for Webmaster, the anchor text details for URLs are not provided. I wish there exists such a tool which could be used to find anchor text for the given URLs.
4. Pre text and Post text
Ahrefs gives details about the text that lies just before and after the backlink. This is really helpful in finding duplicate content and language of that page.
Domain Level Analysis
Even after these sorting, there will be still a large number of URLs left. Lets now convert these URLs to domains with http://www.bulkseotools.co.uk/domain-name-filter-page/ (although the purpose of this tool is different). Now we have a set of unsorted domains and the duplicate ones could be removed with Microsoft Excel. And with the help of http://www.bulkseotools.co.uk/seo-combine-tools-package-one-page/, we could find PA, DA, Mozrank, PR, Alexa Rank, IP Addres of domains. The main reason I like this tool is that it does not have limitations and a huge number of domains can be added to it at once to find these values. Let us now check these.
1. IP Address
One of the technique that some SEO companies used to do was hosting several domains on cheap servers with the same IP Address just for the sake of increasing the number of referring domains. We could identify those domains from here.
2. Domain/Page Authority
We know that backlinks from domains with high DA have greater values and it need not be removed. There could be sub-domains from WordPress or Blogspot, which can removed by checking the Page Authority and Mozrank. Please keep in mind that DA is not accepted as a valid metric for deciding unnatural link.
There could still be many unsorted domains left which may require manual checking. Following the above steps may not help us to find all manipulative links but can help us to reduce the number of domains/Urls that need manual accessing. The situation varies according to the website and the link building techniques which were followed. Manual sorting must be done by following all Webmaster Guidelines.
It is better to include URLs if the domain seems to be good. Although data from Ahrefs is helpful in easier sorting, it is always better to depend on data from Webmaster Tools. While sorting, great care must be given to avoid including good domains among the bad ones. After uploading the disavow, draft your reconsideration request and do not hesitate to confess that those links were built by you. Also don’t forget to mention that you won’t be involving in any of these again.
SEO should be a long-term process and should be done with great content. If any SEO company promise that your site will rank in a few number of days, be aware that they are using techniques that violates all search engine guidelines and policies. It is always recommended to monitor what your SEO company is doing and keep a track of it.