Link Cleanup Tips

Luke Chapman started an interesting thread on the SEO Hangout Panel today asking community members for link cleanup tips.

SEO Hangout Panel - link cleanup tips

In short, his manual removal attempts were futile, I guess we can all relate to that. He then turned to the disavow tool, but obviously didn’t go deep enough. Read the thread, there are some great advice there if you are dealing with similar issues. For those that just want the gist of things here are some tips gathered from this thread:

  1. Identify shady links trough GWT, look for usual suspects (directory, article, comments, forums), ignore nofollow links,
  2. Go deeper, if GWT is too broad or doesn’t provide everything use other tools, Majestic, SEOmoz, Ahrefs to look for anchor text over optimisation and other data
  3. When the obvious has been removed look for gray areas, remove anything suspicious, if you are not sure note them in a special file, if your reconsideration request was declined remove them as well
  4. If that doesn’t help, consider flagging low level links, PR0-2 especially with commercialized key-phrases, if possible, try to change the anchors to branded terms
  5. Note: any link that you couldn’t remove manually but know to be bad or suspect, you should place in the disavow tool and submit with the reconsideration request

John Mueller added in the end a great advice for everyone having issues with removing links and dealing with a penalty:

“Sometimes it helps to upload the disavow & discovered links files to something like Google Docs, so that others can take a look and give more specific feedback. One thing I noticed is that you have a number of individual URLs submitted from domains sometimes, so I’d try to reduce those down to clear domain:-submissions instead, just to keep things simpler & make sure you’re not missing other URLs from that domain.

With this site, one thing to keep in mind with algorithmic action is that it can take quite a bit of time to be worked out, even when you submit a comprehensive disavow file (or better – work to have those links removed). We have to recrawl & reprocess those URLs individually, which, depending on the URLs involved, can take days to weeks to months.”

Getting your website resubmitted  and back on track can be a long process. Some webmasters made it trough in their first try, other didn’t have luck after 3 or 4 attempts, but then nailed it. My advice is to go deep into backlink research and play it safe, remove the obvious manually if possible, what you can’t add to disavow tool. If at first you don’t succeed, use the backup file you created of all the suspicious links and throw them in as well. If that doesn’t work ask for advice, threads like this one can help you find a solution, there might be something you are missing that a few fresh set of eyes can see.

If you have a similar question feel free to join Dejan SEO on Google+ and ask.


Zac is a link building specialist and a seasoned SEO professional. He manages a team of link builders and actively promotes some of Australia's biggest brands. Zac is an active blogger and also maintains Dejan SEO's news and updates section.

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