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Cleaning your backlinks - ideas and suggestions
tedster




msg:4450201
 3:37 am on May 7, 2012 (gmt 0)

With all the "over-SEO" and "webspam updates" recently - and especially with the flood ov WMT notifications about backlinks - a lot of webmasters have their attention on what they can do practically to make Google happier about their backlink profile.

The general SEO blogging community has recently begun pumping out ideas and articles. While we do not usually approve links to blog articles here (unless they are by a Google authority of some kind) I feel it's a good idea to start looking at some of the ideas being shared. So this thread is an exception to our normal rule. Let's use the general SEO community to help everyone out, here!

Some of these approaches look pretty darned good to me, and they mirror the kinds of steps I've worked out with several clients who had some real success.

[edited by: tedster at 3:53 am (utc) on May 7, 2012]

 

tedster




msg:4450207
 3:51 am on May 7, 2012 (gmt 0)

1. Eric Enge interviews Bruce Clay
  • Many times, getting a link removed from a webmaster can be as difficult, if not more difficult, then getting the link in the first place.
  • The key to this process is persistence and communication with Google.
  • Sometimes, the best you can do is send a list of the links you are trying to remove, and ask Google to discount them. Showing an effort to Google is always a good plan of action.
  • When removing links, don’t expect to return to your pre-penalty rankings. You must replace the spammy links that were detected with quality links, which can sometimes be a lengthy process.
  • Link pruning should be considered every month. Ask yourself: What is the bottom 5 percent of links that I have in terms of quality? How can I remove these and replace them with quality links?

    Link Pruning is the Key to Addressing Penguin [stonetemple.com]


  • 2. SEOMoz Daily SEO Blog
    It appears that in some cases Google has been overzealous, hitting (temporarily) even websites with rather natural link profiles. In other cases, Google admitted algorithmic classification mistakes, publishing apologetic messages like this one Matt Cutts posted on Google+.

    According to Patrick Altoft (branded3) the sites that have received unnatural links notifications fall under five main categories, and they are not just the ones participating in link exchanges or other types of link networks.

    How To Survive Google's Unnatural Links Warnings [seomoz.org]


    3. Rand Fishkin's White Board Friday
    Your titles need to be authentic. They need to sound real. They need to sound like a human being wrote them that was not intending necessarily simply to rank for phrase after phrase.

    Bad: It sounds like all you're trying to do is rank for keywords, especially if this is your home page or those kinds of things. Think about whether a normal human being would read that title and think, oh yeah, that sounds legitimate.

    6 Changes Every SEO Should Make BEFORE the Over-Optimization Penalty Hits [seomoz.org]


    4. Branded 3 Blog
    Step 1 – Collecting the data
    Step 2 – Filtering/Sorting
    Step 3 – Link Classification
    Step 4 – Link Removal Process

    Cleaning your links: A step-by-step guide [branded3.com]

    Planet13




    msg:4450263
     8:13 am on May 7, 2012 (gmt 0)

    I was just about to type a rant, but thought better of it, and did a Ctrl-A Backspace just before hitting the Submit button...

    I truly don't understand WHY google would be doing this.

    I thought that any of those links WOULD have been simply discounted, no?

    Reading between the lines, it seems to me that google has a bigger problem dealing with manipulative links than they admit, and thus are going on a highly publicized (for google, anyway, who are normally hush on anything related to their Algo) campaign to "beat the bushes" and frighten webmasters into cleaning up their own sites.

    Otherwise, if not that, aren't they simply just being punitive?

    My gut feeling is that google IS having a harder time than they would like to admit dealing with manipulative back links, and that their highly publicized (for google, anyway) backlink warnings are meant to help scare the masses watching into compliance.

    I wouldn't be surprised if some of the influential SEO bloggers are being "manipulated" by google into helping to publicize this issue in order to help google curtail link spam. I think maybe some of those bloggers are victims of some well choreographed social engineering by their contacts at google.

    Marketing Guy




    msg:4450267
     8:36 am on May 7, 2012 (gmt 0)

    +1 Planet13.

    The problem is if they do beat the bushes enough and scare people into giving their data, then they could have enough to footprint a lot of link building activities which could impact the rest of the industry in the future.

    The whole situation reeks of a parent telling their child they "know" they've done something wrong and keeping quiet until the child panics and admits it.

    That said, I reckon most of the buzz and blog posts on the subject recently are less about people being manipulated by Google behind the scenes and more about people jumping on the bandwagon for a popular topic.

    I've got sites which received natural site wide links years ago - can't wait till Google decides those are evil...

    mirrornl




    msg:4450304
     12:02 pm on May 7, 2012 (gmt 0)

    5.Penguin Analysis: SEO Isn’t Dead, But You Need to Act Smarter (And 5 Easy Ways to Do So!)
    every single site we looked at which got negatively hit by the Penguin Update had a “money keyword” as its anchor text for over 60% of its incoming links.
    [micrositemasters.com ]


    6.SeoMoz -Penguins, Pandas, and Panic at the Zoo

    What we know:
    * Aggressive exact-match anchor text
    * Overuse of exact-match domains
    * Low-quality article marketing & blog spam
    * Keyword stuffing in internal/outbound links
    [seomoz.org...]


    7. Majestic -Unnatural Links Investigations

    * Investigation 1: Finding those Site Wide Links.
    * Investigation 2: Seek out over-hyped anchor text
    * Investigation 3: Finding the ONE BAD 301
    * Investigation 4: Finding Link Networks that leave no on-page footprint
    * Investigation 5: finding your poorest back-links
    [blog.majesticseo.com...]

    smithaa02




    msg:4450327
     1:31 pm on May 7, 2012 (gmt 0)

    I think these are great ideas...but do we have Matt Cutts stating on record that pruning your backlink profiles can help you recover? For all we know this is a permanent mark on your record/domain...maybe even a lifetime penalty. Would love to hear from ANY webmaster that pruned their links and got a boost in rankings.

    Remember the above-fold content issues? A lot of people appeared to be penalized...they changed their above-fold content...and viola...nothing happened. I'm just worried that link pruning could be a costly and time-consuming goose chase...and just hope we can get some inside quotes or evidence that this is the right thing to do and it will work.

    aristotle




    msg:4450338
     2:02 pm on May 7, 2012 (gmt 0)

    It's hard for me to think of a more tedious, time-consuming, and likely unproductive task. Certainly not something I'm ever going to do.

    netmeg




    msg:4450344
     2:19 pm on May 7, 2012 (gmt 0)

    Google could easily just devalue all the links and be done with it, but that's not what they're going for - they're trying to discourage the behavior.

    like that ever works

    maddawg




    msg:4450355
     2:54 pm on May 7, 2012 (gmt 0)

    I can't afford to burn through capital supporting staff while I hope to get links removed and then hope Google accepts my apology and then hope my traffic returns so I can get new clients.

    I laid off about 20 employees since this update started in Feb (not exaggerating).


    canuckseo




    msg:4450358
     3:15 pm on May 7, 2012 (gmt 0)

    I agree with a few people here that spending time trying to get rid of those links is a waste of time to me. I would think building up enough "good" links to outweigh the bad should work as well. Just do don't it quickly or you'd risk getting flagged with un-natural link building again.

    scooterdude




    msg:4450412
     4:38 pm on May 7, 2012 (gmt 0)

    Guys

    If you can just replace 'bad' links with 'good' links,

    How natural are any of your links ?

    A while ago a big company was doing something to tempt students or some other group like that to link to them, when they got dinged by the G

    2/3s of all the posters here thought they were 'cheating'
    1/3 pointed out that that technique used to be acceptable link bait


    So how long before your white hat link building is beyond the pale?

    And if an when that happens, do you also look forward to a nice G ding ?

    Sadly, I know from experience with my new sites that zero links mean zero SE traffic, so links are still vital, how to attract them, ahhh
    So, I know nothing and i'll just fade into silence for now,,,,

    Planet13




    msg:4450414
     4:42 pm on May 7, 2012 (gmt 0)

    @ Marketing Guy

    The problem is if they do beat the bushes enough and scare people into giving their data, then they could have enough to footprint a lot of link building activities which could impact the rest of the industry in the future.


    I think you nailed it on the head.

    @ aristotle

    It's hard for me to think of a more tedious, time-consuming, and likely unproductive task.


    Exactly!

    @ netmeg

    ...but that's not what they're going for - they're trying to discourage the behavior.


    Precisely!

    like that ever works


    Even more precisely (preciser?)

    Planet13




    msg:4450417
     4:47 pm on May 7, 2012 (gmt 0)

    @ scooterdude

    If you can just replace 'bad' links with 'good' links...


    Thanks for bringing this up.

    If a link can be "replaced" then it is, I thought, NOT a good link.

    Aren't good links supposed to be ones that you have no control over?

    Personally, I am looking FORWARD to the day that google is actually able to devalue all manipulated links.

    gouri




    msg:4450638
     3:53 am on May 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

    I originally posted this in the Spam Update thread, but I think that maybe I should have posted it here.

    I would appreciate your opinions.

    For a site that I am working on, I have backlinks from forum signatures (forums related to niche of site). My posts, I would say, are informative but these backlinks are a good number of my overall backlinks.

    The backlink is anchor text. For example, build metal widgets (build metal widgets is a phrase that I would like to rank for).

    Could this be considered over optimization by Google Penguin?

    tedster




    msg:4450644
     4:23 am on May 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

    In a word, yes - it "could". Have you received a WMT warning about tjpe backlinks?

    CainIV




    msg:4450654
     4:37 am on May 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

    Hi Tedster, nice post topic.

    I've seen some sites get the notorious unnatural link email, and do just fine. When I audited their backlinks, turns out a few were questionable. The rest were fine and they had brand factors involved.

    I think one thing that is not often discussed is what level of overhaul to go to when given the notice.

    If you have not lost positioning, it is best to further brand yourself and send signals that you are a real company, while removing poor links.

    If you lost positions, recoup by building some strong inbound links + sending signs of brand.

    Some haven't changed anything at all, and have seen 0 difference in links, which tells me that Google is VERY early in understanding how to evaluate poor quality links in an otherwise decent profile.

    I believe history, brand and stickiness / social really turn the tide in a positive direction - even with websites that have a lot of dis-favorable links.

    gouri




    msg:4450863
     3:11 pm on May 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

    In a word, yes - it "could". Have you received a WMT warning about tjpe backlinks?


    I haven't received a message in WMT. Could I still be over optimizing?

    Could changing the anchor text from a phrase to the url be an option or maybe not having a link in the forum signature?

    Could either of these reduce the possible over optimization?

    [edited by: gouri at 3:19 pm (utc) on May 8, 2012]

    netmeg




    msg:4450867
     3:16 pm on May 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

    Yes.

    Think *natural* links. The word natural appears to be pretty important here.

    jinxed




    msg:4450887
     3:51 pm on May 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

    I think its pretty clear that there is only one reason for having forum signature links, surely?

    I'd remove them...

    indyank




    msg:4450913
     4:41 pm on May 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

    I think its pretty clear that there is only one reason for having forum signature links, surely?


    So true. All forum signature links that are keyword oriented should be penalized. This is on the same lines as theme or plugin links that have keywords as anchor text. The only reason why a linkback with site name is not being penalized is because it is something that is allowed by the forum admin or the theme or plugin user to credit the author's contribution.This is a more genuine credit given by the user than a keyword based anchor text which is done to manipulate and rank on search engines for that keyword.

    [edited by: indyank at 4:55 pm (utc) on May 8, 2012]

    Shaddows




    msg:4450918
     4:46 pm on May 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

    Re: Forum signitures.

    When I was a spotty faced teenager, I was involved with running a message board. I was pretty pleased with the board, and had a sig link pointing to it anywhere I could put one. Emails, online profiles, the works.

    It was before Google, and had nothing to do with gaming search engines.

    Forum links predates the PR algo by years. Of course it is misused. Of course they should be discounted. But the only reason? Surely not.

    indyank




    msg:4450919
     4:49 pm on May 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

    When I was a spotty faced teenager, I was involved with running a message board. I was pretty pleased with the board, and had a sig link pointing to it anywhere I could put one. Emails, online profiles, the works.

    It was before Google, and had nothing to do with gaming search engines.


    As long as you don't use a keyword as anchor text and was using the site name, it should be clear that it is not for SEO. It is more an exercise done to promote your site or brand and should be fine. The same benefit might not be given if you have a keyword based domain name. Penguin does seem to differentiate this.

    gouri




    msg:4450968
     5:55 pm on May 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

    These posts have been very helpful. Thanks.

    At the moment, I can't really add backlinks to increase my backlink diversity, so it is a matter of working on the ones that I have.

    I think that we have established that using a keyword phrase (e.g. build metal widgets) that the site is trying to rank for as anchor text may not be a very good idea. The options then are not to have a link in the forum signature, use the site name as the anchor text or to use the domain name (e.g. http://www.buildmetalwidgets.tld). For a site I am working on, build metal widgets and metal widgets are phrases that the site would try to rank for, so I am not sure if having the domain name (e.g. http://www.buildmetalwidgets.tld) in my signature would be over optimization?

    As long as you don't use a keyword as anchor text and was using the site name, it should be clear that it is not for SEO. It is more an exercise done to promote your site or brand and should be fine. The same benefit might not be given if you have a keyword based domain name. Penguin does seem to differentiate this.


    I am not sure if you are saying that with Penguin, if you have keywords in your domain name, would it be okay to have the domain name (e.g. http://www.buildmetalwidgets.tld) or site name included in your signature or not?
    .

    [edited by: Robert_Charlton at 5:42 am (utc) on May 9, 2012]
    [edit reason] disabled forum auto-link to delink example domains [/edit]

    Planet13




    msg:4451006
     7:07 pm on May 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

    I think netmeg's comment bears repeating:

    Think *natural* links. The word natural appears to be pretty important here.


    If I understand correctly, a *natural* link CANNOT be built. If it is a built link, then isn't it ipso facto an unnatural link (or inorganic, as google calls them)?

    so I don't quite understand the suggestions from SOME people (not netmeg who posted this originally) about building natural links (aside from improving content, bettering usability, and various forms of advertising / other site promotion).

    Then again, there is a LOT that I don't understand...

    crobb305




    msg:4451043
     8:56 pm on May 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

    Would blocking a referrer with 403 work to discount the link?

    Whitey




    msg:4451088
     11:48 pm on May 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

    If you have not lost positioning, it is best to further brand yourself and send signals that you are a real company, while removing poor links.

    @Cain - you've been pro-active in sharing this for a while, with a few others on these threads. What are some of the top things that you could see webmasters doing to demonstrate being a real company / brand. I mean strong things.

    Not everyone wants to put their company phone number and registration details up online, but maybe they have to. What else should folks be looking at as "must have's" ?

    Regular_Joe




    msg:4451097
     1:36 am on May 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

    If Google really wanted to know which links were bad, or that you don't want, or that you think have been pointed at you to game your position as compared to your competitors, they'd just include a "Disregard Backlink" button next to the links showing in WMT's. If they added this next to the "Domains linking in" list, and also the "individual url backlinks" list, it would mean you could instantly delete the value of incoming links that you didn't want.

    I already see webmasters doing "Negative SEO Campaigns" against their competitors. and "I've Heard" that it works quit well........

    So, all Google has to do is to give us the "BUTTON", and we'd be able to fix the mess ourselves, and nip "Negative SEO Campaigns" in the bud.

    Whitey




    msg:4451116
     2:28 am on May 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

    @Regular_Joe - good point. I wonder if there's the will and/or the resources to do this in the near term at Google, given their roll out of priorities.

    indyank




    msg:4451120
     2:34 am on May 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

    I am not sure if you are saying that with Penguin, if you have keywords in your domain name, would it be okay to have the domain name (e.g. [buildmetalwidgets.tld)...] or site name included in your signature or not?


    IMO it wouldn't be OK unless you have have a number of other "natural" links with "natural" anchor texts.

    indyank




    msg:4451124
     2:39 am on May 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

    If Google really wanted to know which links were bad, or that you don't want, or that you think have been pointed at you to game your position as compared to your competitors, they'd just include a "Disregard Backlink" button next to the links showing in WMT's.


    IMO that will never happen as the links shown in WMT are not all that you have. Google would never want to share a report that says "these are the complete set of links that we recognize for you site".

    This 171 message thread spans 6 pages: 171 ( [1] 2 3 4 5 6 > >
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