Countless small businesses have been penalized for unnatural link building since the release of Google’s Penguin Update. Granted, many of the businesses would have shopped for the cheaper SEO services on offer, simply because they didn’t have the budget to go to a full digital agency. Sure, some of them probably were aware of what they were doing wrong too. Ultimately though, these companies are either experiencing a decrease in their traffic or/and have received a manual penalty.
Links are an important part of any optimization strategy. Fluxe Digital Marketing illustrates how links can add to your SEO efforts:
If quality websites are referencing your website in a positive way. Each website linking to a page on your site is a vote for your website to increase your search rankings. The more site referencing yours, the better ranked your site will be.
The quality of the links makes the difference though, and if you have been linking using poor quality links, you’re likely to be penalized. Reconsideration is one option, but, writing for Search Engine Watch, Chuck Price reminds us:
Google initiates more than 400,000 manual actions every month, according to Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s webspam team. Concurrently, Google processes 20,000 reconsideration requests in that same time period. Since a percentage of these reconsideration requests aren’t first timers, less than one reconsideration request is processed for every 20 penalties.
Whether or not you were aware that what you were doing was wrong is another matter. The hard work lies ahead to rectify the problem. What is link scheming and how is it defined? There are a number of different practices that can get you penalized and you will need to define what you did wrong when you send your reconsideration request at the end of the project.
Taking on automatic services just to develop back links is likely to get your site penalized, as is linking just for the purpose of creating a backlink. Creating link networks and article marketing conducted on an extensive scale will also probably result in penalties. If you write and distribute press releases with optimized anchor text, you will probably also receive a penalty.
So how do you manage this and get your online marketing back on track? Let’s have a look at some techniques that are either free or cost-effective.
Identify The Type Of Penalty
Before you can start any kind of recovery process you have to establish what kind of penalty you have been handed. If you have Google Webmaster Tools you’re in luck because you will be notified directly about a manual penalty. Your other option is to use free penalty finders like ahrefs, Panguin and Website Penalty Indicator.
Remember that patience really will get you far in this regard. Any reconsideration you send through too quickly after receiving notice of your penalty is unlikely to be successful. To be reconsidered you need to demonstrate you have made a considerable effort to address the problem
Figure Out What And Where The Offending Links Are
Finding the offending links is probably the most time-consuming part of the activity. And while there are very good tools available that will accelerate the process, they are a bit costly and we are looking at budget friendly options.
You can use Bing or Webmaster Tools to help you collect links. Technically speaking Bing actually offers a better data service but we know the lion’s share of your traffic is likely to be coming through Google, so they both have value.
Classifying The Links
It is possible and quite likely that at least a few of your links won’t even be live anymore. Make the exercise shorter for yourself by checking which links are live first.
Start With The Link Removal Process
Some SEO experts do not believe it is necessary to remove backlinks but if you want to move onward and upward with your online marketing you can’t do it working with a broken foundation.
Collect contact details for the offending domains and ask the site owner to remove them. This process might need a few follow-ups and there are chances you could be ignored. Try and explain yourself clearly and remember to be polite. Send a personalized email to the webmaster and use his or her name.
Disavow Links Pointing To Your Site
Webmaster Tools gives you the option of disavowing any unnatural links pointing to your domain. This is reserved for webmasters who feel their sites have been penalized for factors beyond their control. The disavow function allows you to upload a file containing the domains or URLs of the links you want to disavow. Once you have completed this, you can move on to submitting your reconsideration request.
Sending Reconsideration Requests
Once you have been able to remove a number of unnatural links successful you may send your reconsideration request through. It isn’t worth doing this before you have made a meaningful difference. Read Google’s Webmaster Tools to ensure you are compliant with the rules and guidelines and to ensure you haven’t missed anything.
Remembering your manners is a very good idea; you are on the back foot after all, and you are asking them to do you a favor by reconsidering your website. Search Engine Journal puts it this way:
Your email is being read by a human. They don’t care about your history, or your story, or your ‘future plans’. They care about the fact that you have been manipulating Google’s algorithm, and want to see plenty of evidence that you’ve repented and tried to right those wrongs.
What you should mention about your future plans, however, is that you do not have any intention of transgressing the rules again, whether it was your fault directly or because of mismanagement by an SEO firm.
It should go without saying, but we’ll say it just to be clear: make sure you disclose everything and do not lie. Big brother really is watching when you bend the rules and your only real chance of getting off the hook is if you are a first-time offender and you can prove with conviction that you have resolved the problems and have no intention of transgressing the rules again.
It’s unlikely that you will want to do something unethical again but if you do, remember the effort and expense you had to endure, to rectify it.