Link-popularityIf you’ve been in business more than a few months and have a website, you’ve more than likely gotten several calls or emails promising to get you #1 in Google.  And some of you may have even paid one of these “SEO geniuses” to do that for you.  If you did, you should read on.

For several years, the preferred tactic of SEO companies was to create an inbound linking strategy (inbound likes refers to links to your website from sites other than your own.)  Strategies varied from link exchanges with other sites to adding your site to every possible directory on the web all the way to commenting on blog articles.  This was a very effective strategy.  I have a client that paid a SEO guru megabucks to build a link campaign, plus build 30+ keyword-rich articles, that resulted in a top 3 listing on Google for a competitive national keyword.  My client was enjoying the success that brought — until the May release of Google’s Penguin and Panda updates.  Shortly thereafter, his site plummeted below 150 and in some cases 300.

As I began exploring the causes, Google Webmaster Tools began reporting Manual Actions, a section that showed when Google took adverse action against a site.  Exploring that showed that his site had be penalized for multiple reasons.  First was for having an excessive number of links on his site, all revolving around a couple of keyword phrases.  Google considered those as spam links whose only purpose was to artificially influence the search results.

After removing those, the next Manual Action report showed a large number of inbound links from what Google considered low quality sites.  Many of these sites are nothing more than glorified link farms, sites with little or no content, created for the purpose of displaying Google ads and generating revenue for the site owner.  The process of removing these links has proven to be an arduous task, investigating the links, finding a contact for the site, sending a link removal request and following up.  Google has initiated a Disavow process, which as a last resort, will help disassociate those spammy links from the website.  I say last resort because with Disavow, the link is still out there. Lets face it, we’ve probably all seen an instance when a software update caused something that was working to stop.

To check your site for low quality links, it’s as simple to check.  Do the following Google search – (using your website address).  The resulting search will show you how many links Google finds. Examine the list and look at each site that’s linked back to your site.  Some factors to look for:

  1. Does the site have any quality content?
  2. Is the site just a directory of web sites?
  3. Is the link just a listing to your website or is it a blog article someone has shared?
  4. Is the related to your industry (a complimentary, non-competitor business)?

Make a spreadsheet or list of the sites that have low content quality, low value directories or web site listings.  In that list, add the contact email for the site if you can find it.  Contact the site owner and ask them to remove your link.  Periodically, do the Google links search again to see which links have been removed.  Once you have exhausted the removal efforts, you may want to use the Google Disavow tool, a part of Google’s Webmaster Tools.  Or better yet, contact your webmaster to have them handle the process.

Be proactive.  Don’t wait until Google slaps your site to take action.  While you may never have a problem with links, it’s like buying insurance.  Better have it before something happens because after the fact, it’s too late.

Gary Wagnon is the chief Ninja Marketing Officer for 800biz Ninja Marketing Solutions and the creator of the Ninja Marketing Dojo.  The Dojo teaches business owners and marketers online strategies that increase traffic to their site, improve search engine rankings and converts browsers into buyers.

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