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February 23, 2015

Find and Clean Your Bad Backlinks: Here’s How

Photo Credit: Baitong333 via

2015 is well underway. You’ve probably gone back on a few resolutions, and made some permanent, but that’s old news. Now is the time to focus on steps to move forward.

This is especially true as it relates to your online brand – your website. You understand the importance of updating your site on a regular basis. You probably work on creating and sharing content on a schedule and look for new ways to drive traffic and to increase conversions. Perhaps you’ve already made a few changes to the design or layout since this year began.

What about your links? Backlinks continue to be an important component of increasing search rankings and will be into the future according to search engine giant Google, however, quality matters now more than ever. New and constantly updated search algorithms have started to evaluate the quality of links leading back to a site. If too many sites that are considered low-quality link to your site, or, if there are too many other “bad” links, you could suffer negative effects that include lower search rankings.

Ready to clean your backlinks? Follow the steps below to get started.

What Makes a Backlink Bad in the First Place?

In case you’re unsure, there are a variety of things that could cause a backlink to be considered “bad” or detrimental to your SEO efforts. These include:

  • Link networks. Not so long ago, it was easy to pay for links, or to join networks that were set up just to share links. These are now considered bad business. Any links on these networks could do more harm than good.
  • Comment spam. Links in the comments of your posts and your link in the comments of other posts are considered negative. They’re a not-so-covert method of spreading links that are generally handled by computer bots. This makes them bad.
  • Overly optimized links. Having a keyword strategy is a good thing; it’s probably how you started ranking in the first place. However, when your link is anchored from the same keyword, thousands of times, all over the Internet, search engine crawlers will probably suspect something is out of place. Varying your keyword strategy is critical.
  • Links that just don’t make sense. If you have links living on sites that don’t relate at all to your industry, or are across the world from your target audience, the search engine crawlers will notice. Links should be on relevant sites for best results.
  • Spammy directory links. If the directory exists for the sole purpose of building links, or it is completely unrelated to your business or niche, you should probably get out of there.
  • Duplicate content with links. Guest posting can be a great way to increase your brand’s exposure and to spread a link or two around the Internet. Sending the same content to multiple sites takes away from the practice. Instead of crafting one article and hoping multiple sites pick up on it (press releases, anyone?), pitch individual stories and posts to different sites. Use your links, but vary your content.

Check Out Your Backlink Profile

You might have a strong idea of where your backlinks are located and how many you have out there. Chances are higher, especially if you’ve been building links for awhile now, that you’re not sure where all of your backlinks are, let alone whether they’re good or bad.

Don’t worry, there are tools to assist in the process. One of the most popular options is Majestic’s link profile tool. This – and other tools like it – help identify where your backlinks are and whether or not they are beneficial or harmful to your website. Knowing where your backlinks are and understanding the strength of your network is the first step to cleaning out the bad links.

Removing the Bad Links

Removing bad links isn’t always as straightforward as understanding what makes a link bad and where your site stands. Options include:

  • It’s easier than ever before to connect with others thanks to published contact information and social media. Look for the contact details of the individual running the site in question and ask if he or she will remove your link. Be polite. Note: this won’t always work. When a webmaster asks for payment for the removal, it’s time to try something else.
  • Modify your pages. If your bad links are linked to certain, more dated pages on your website, remove the pages. It might sound drastic, but, if low ranking links are linking to certain pages, they could be dragging your entire site down. It’s best to remove them and move forward.
  • Disavow bad links. Sometimes, regardless of your efforts, it might seem impossible to get rid of certain links. Don’t despair, Google understands; using their webmaster tools, you can ask the search engine not to consider certain links in your site’s profile.
  • Start over. Now, this is a drastic option. However, when there are too many bad links connected to your site, or you’ve been penalized for your backlinks, it might be your best option. It may come down to starting over with a new domain or never being displayed in search results. At this point, it’s time to weigh your options for moving forward.

Don’t be surprised if, by removing backlinks, your site suffers a decrease in visitors for some time. While this period of time is undefined, it makes sense. When there are fewer links out there linking back to your site, you might be harder to find; traffic might fall. But, to build a stronger site for the future and to avoid penalties, it’s well worth your while.

Regardless of the route you choose, eliminating bad backlinks is critical for building a reputable website that continually receives high search rankings. Learn more about the process and take action today for best results.


Adrienne Erin writes weekly for SiteProNews about online marketing strategies that help businesses succeed. Follow @adrienneerin on Twitter to get in touch, or visit Design Roast to see more of her work.