A website owner responded to our advert in panic leaving several phone messages and email contact requests. He woke to receive the dreaded email from Google informing him his site has been penalised due to unnatural linking behaviour If you have been doing some aggressive link building in the past then you may get a similar email telling you your site has been de-listed for suspicious behaviour. The question is what are the steps one should take to get out of the Google jail.
Below is the steps I took to go from the warning letter to a reconsideration request.
Find out what links could be causing the problem. Now, the problem here is that Google has been notoriously secretive at telling us what links it counts for our site. A Google search for site:yourwebsite.com shows very few links so we have to rely on other sources like Open Site Explorer and MajesticSEO to find our backlinks. Matt Cutts in his disavow tool launch video suggests that the warning letter comes with sample links found to be unnatural but there was no such hint in our clients email. You do get more backlinks information from webmaster tools though you have to dig a little. You have to jump over to your webmaster tools traffic tab then click on more tab under the “who links the most”. This will give you a list of all sites linking to you but you want the actual links. To do this you need to click the “download more sample links” tab which gives you a CSV list of actual URLs where you have backlinks.
Do a Backlinks Audit
The difficult part in sorting out the backlinks list is deciding which links are harming your site. There many places on the internet detailing what are considered poor links including
- Bad neighbourhoods: links from gambling and porn/adult theme sites
- Anchor text diversity: following from Penguin update anchor text proportion is on every SEO’s mind. MajesticSEO has updated their tools to show a nice pie chart of anchor text which you can use to ensure there is not too much focus on a one or two money terms instead of a brand term. Common thinking today is that your brand or website url should comprise 75-80% of anchor text with the rest being used sparingly among money terms.
- An increase in links from one particular site: Again MajesticSEO is your friend in looking at backlink diversity. Webmaster tools can also be useful as it shows the total number of links from each site so you might want to start there. Unnatural high number of backlinks from one site can occur due to placing your site on the sidebar or footer which red flags Google to a paid link.
Link removal steps
Once you have got the clean list it is time to take steps to remove or discount them. Start by writing to the webmaster or site owner with a friendly email asking them to remove your link from their website. Most website owners should not have an issue with removing the links – especially if it means they will reduce number of links on page and get to keep the content of an article.
There are some webmasters who will not respond or try to hold you to ransom by asking for payment to remove a link. In this case Google has given us the new disavow tool to let them know you do not want to be associated with these links. To use the disavow tool you simply save the bad links list as a CSV and head over to the disavow tool and upload the list and hit submit.
Filing Reconsideration Request
Once you have taken steps to get bad backlinks removed or disallowed you can send a reconsideration request. You need to fill in the reconsideration form and submit to the Google webspam team and put as much detail as you can. The form is a mixture of a confession box and bad SEO’s reporting. It asks you to name any SEO who may have created these bad links for you. I guest this is one way for the webspam team to collate information and act where a one individual or company is constantly reported. You also need to provide details of all efforts you have made to get the bad links taken down and if you have asked Google to be dissociated with the links via the disavow tool.
After you fill in the request form you will get a message confirming you are being reconsidered for re-indexing. They do say it can take several weeks depending on amount of reconsiderations they are working on so don’t hold your breath!