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Unwanted backlinks... wish I could declare them as that

 4:51 am on May 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

I have some clown(s?) (less than 10 domains) linking to a few isolated pages of my site. Evidently it's a template thing and I'm a link in the footer.

Their pointing 10's of thousands of links at my pages.

I reported this to Google via WMT some months ago. They responded but really didn't say anything or address the issue.

It seems to me that WMT should offer some way where, in instances like this, you could declare these as unwanted links (kind of a no-follow in reverse). I can't imagine that this would be difficult for them to do.

Sure they claim these links can't hurt you, but that's putting a lot of trust in a company that's not always so forthright.

Another advantage of this idea would be, then it would be just fine to go out and buy footer links (for valid advertising purposes) without having to be concerned about how it was handled at the source end.

Just declare it at your end as paid or unwanted links (you declare the no-follow at your end).



 6:17 am on May 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

I had a fresh new site that was crushed like that, some person decided to put it in the footer of his real shady/spammy network of blogs for some reason (when I think of it, right after someone offered to buy the domain for a low price and I refused). A few weeks later, the site stopped getting any Google traffic and I let it die. It never recovered, the idea was rather weak anyway and I didn't work on building links and such, I had other projects. Still, I had my evidence that others *can* influence negatively your rankings, but it's never 100% certain.


 12:54 pm on May 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

A lot of people have put this idea on their wish list - Matt Cutts may have even done a video about it (my memory tells me so, but I can't locate it). As I remember, Google said they feel their algo does a good job of dealing with the situation and they didn't want to add an extra feature.

However, the idea comes up so frequently, that I wish they would do it no matter. Even just it's just a comfort thing, it would reassure a lot of webmasters. And I also have seen situations where it looks like garbage backlinks were doing some damage.

I know of small regional news sites that sell obvious advertising and are clearly not trying to be deceptive - but they won't put the nofollow in place or possibly don't even know about it.


 1:37 pm on May 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

Their pointing 10's of thousands of links at my pages.

Take the referrers and point them elsewhere.

RewriteCond %HTTP_REFERER .*example.*
RewriteRule (.*) /jack.asp [I,L]

ISAPI_Rewrite .ini example shown above.

You can do anything you like with that /jack.asp file. Issue a 403. Issue a 301. Let your mind run wild with it. ;)


 2:19 pm on May 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

I recognize your example as belonging in a .htaccess file but otherwise don't know what it does.

My concerns aren't with traffic or visitors from the linking sites (I really doubt that I get any traffic from them at all, but I haven't checked).

Would the code above do anything to make me look better in Google's eyes? Something that indicates I want to divorce my site from an association with the linker?


 2:29 pm on May 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

I too wish that webmastertools would allow this.


 2:38 pm on May 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

This website was Pandalized by 2.0 (or at least that's my current assumption until a large number of other websites escape Panda and I find I don't), so I guess it's not the links.

What's always bothered me is Panda is always stated as an April 11th event. This website had it's first bad traffic day (off just 15%) the day before, then on 4/11 it felt the full weight of traffic loss. So, in the back of my mind I've always thought the links might be my problem and possibly not Panda.

As a solution (somewhere down the line), would transferring the linked-to page content to a new URL and 404ing the old URL clean me up in google's eyes?

Sure, the offenders could fix their broken links but they're spammers, I could see how they probably don't even check for broken links on their pages.

It'd be a shame to loose 10 years of real back links, but if it's causing the site's other pages to loose rankings, maybe it's what has to be done.


 2:56 pm on May 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

Nobody knows for certain what has to be done. Reports of real recovery are extremely rare and the steps those webmasters give credit to are not consistent. Almost everything we read about "how to respond to Panda" is theory and experiment at present.

With one exception (make a healthy amount of content visible immediately when the page loads) I can sum up the rest of my advice in just one sentence: your content should not suck!

So I would not suggest throwing away anything of value, such as real backlinks to real content that visitors really like. Doing that seems suicidal to me. Improve the page if you want - better writing, better formatting, better visitor engagement and service in any way you can come up with.


 3:21 pm on May 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

I recognize your example as belonging in a .htaccess file but otherwise don't know what it does.

It takes the referrers from the referring domain and sends them to a destination of your choice. Depending on the HTTP Response you serve, determines the outcome.

I bring it up because I've used it in the past to get unwanted inbound links removed.

Would the code above do anything to make me look better in Google's eyes?

I'm not sure. When visitors on the other site click the link(s), they are served a 403 server header and a special message just for them. We've gone as far as customizing the message for the referrer. I'm sure Google gets wind of all that, just not sure how they handle it.

This is more of a brute force method of getting inbound links removed and not something that many are going to go out of their way to do. I do it because I can and it's fun to watch the folks on the other end remove their links. This works wonders in an ORM scenario. :)


 3:37 pm on May 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

Pageoneresults, I get your point. If the linking website discovers that I'm referring their visitors to a "creative" site (I'm thinking the "p" word) then possibly they will take the link off their site.

I think I'll do that. That's a great idea. I, too, can see how google would notice this redirect and understand my intentions.


 4:06 pm on May 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

(I'm thinking the "p" word) then possibly they will take the link off their site.

Careful! I'm not too certain you want to create that type of association. I think you'd be better off serving a custom page from your site.

I think I'll do that.

Careful! These may be considered extreme measures. I served the 403 with a custom page that let the visitor know they were Forbidden from visiting the link they followed.

If you want to be professional about it, you could 302 the referrer to a linking policy page. Not as brute force as the 403 and you get to keep the inbound link equity (if any) to the original document.


 4:18 pm on May 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

Matt Cutts gave some insights into this issue.


 4:21 pm on May 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

(I'm thinking the "p" word)

Don't forget you're still dealing with individuals here, all of whom you should not be pulling into this feud -- they might be kids, for all you know.


 4:40 pm on May 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

Ok, you're right the "p" thing is out.

in the code I see: "I,L"

I've googled, I can't find the definition of the "I" flag. What does it indicate?


 5:19 pm on May 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

In the code I see: "I,L"

I = Case Insensitive
L = Last Rule

Keep in mind, my example is from an ISAPI_Rewrite 2.0 configuration (.ini). I believe it may be a little different for .htaccess.


 6:37 pm on May 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

Thanks, so I'll use the [NC] flag.

I have similar code to this in my .htaccess file, so surely I can get it figured out.

I could use some input at this point. I did look at the thread linked to by Nagani.

My inbounds were never arranged for or sought. When I go to the offending websites there is no real contact info, and they hide their id behind those domain by proxy type things. So I just don't get the impression that I have any power (or will get any cooperation) in getting these links taken down.

My website is listed with some other prominent professional organizations in these footer links (probably when these templates were created we were all the first-page results for this keyword). I just assumed it was some type of scheme for them to gain some authority or credibility. Or, else it simply was someone spamming me to affect my rankings.

Anyway, as far as input from others go, what have you used in this type of situation? What is offensive or a detraction enough that it will encourage the spammer to remove the link.

Just putting up a "forbidden" graphic doesn't seem much of a deterrent for a link that's not probably clicked very often anyway, these links (and really the websites themselves) aren't created for "enhancing the user experience" (that's what appealed to me about the "p" thing, something offensive enough to get noticed, but no I won't do that).

Maybe best thing is just to return a 403, not so much as a way of getting the links removed (because I can't imagine that that would have an affect) but to serve as the signal to google that I want to separate myself from these sites.

However, if someone has some text that they have used in this situation that seemed to have an affect, I would like to learn about it.



 7:06 pm on May 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

So I'm thinking about this. Google doesn't even need to have a WMT feature that lets you declare a non-association with a website. The 403 offers the solution.

Google simply needs to officially state that if you push back a 403 on an incomming link, google accepts that action as a declaration that you want no affiliation with them. The link should count for nothing.

Sure, now that I understand more about 403's it seems likely this is how they interpret them. But if so, just stating it officially would put a lot of people's minds at ease.


 7:39 pm on May 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

to serve as the signal to google that I want to separate myself from these sites.

If serving a 403 depends on the referer (as in the .htaccess code above) then Google will never see it because googlebot does not send a referer string. In fact, googlebot does not actually click on links. Instead Google uses the bot to compile a list of discovered URLs, and then their complex crawling logic schedules crawl lists taken from those URLs.

Googlebot is not a browser. The htaccess code above will only affect requests made by a browser whose user clicked on a link.


 8:05 pm on May 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

Bummer. But thanks for the reply.

I've just done a fairly exhaustive evaluation of the sites doing the linking I find offensive.

About 30 sites linking to less than 10 of my URL's. A total of over 311,000 inbound links.

When looking at the offending sources, this must be a MFA scheme and I'm just trapped in the footer links.

Most of these sites have the exact same homepage. So (without slandering or whatever) I was thinking I could just develop a page that states "such and such is a scam."

Maybe just the potential that someone might click on one of their links and find a page that contains some critical text specifically directed at the referring source would be embarrassing enough for them to remove the links.


 8:16 pm on May 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

How about a convention where you could put a mention of links from non-trusted URL's in the robots.txt?

Does a bot look at this file before looking at a page it's indexing?

With this, google wouldn't have to keep track of anything, just access information provided by the webmaster.

I will say, maybe this whole topic isn't really an issue. Maybe other website's linking really can't hurt you. But as long as google operates like a "black box" on this issue, it makes for a lot of uncomfortable webmasters.


 10:52 pm on May 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

What happens if you redirect them to a nonexistent page in the originating domain? Any humans clicking on the link will come away thinking that the person who put up the link is an idiot. Which ::cough, cough:: appears to be really true. Will outside entities (such as g###) get mad?

Incidentally, you can be offensive without being, well, offensive. In the analogous case of a redirected hotlink, I've got a green-and-magenta image on a black background. Small filesize, big picture. The unwanted links never last long.


 10:59 pm on May 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

This thread assumes incoming links are still a ranking factor. If Google has taught us anything it's don't assume anything. I wouldn't worry about things you cannot control.


 11:13 pm on May 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

So (without slandering or whatever) I was thinking I could just develop a page that states "such and such is a scam."

It's OK to insert a small referer based welcome at the top of the page for visitors arriving from another site - so it's got to be OK to insert a short referer based warning, I'd think.

Have you checked your logs? I'll bet those links send very little actual traffic, if any at all.

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