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6 steps to remove backlinks and set your website on the road to recovery

Written by Digital Impact Solutions on August 7, 2015
You may have spent a massive amount of time, effort, and money on building backlinks to your website. You may have seen some fantastic results and high search engine rankings as a result. But with the most recent Penguin update to Google’s algorithm, it could be that those links are now doing you more harm than good.
If you have seen a dramatic decline in visitor activity on your website, or your domain plummeted down through Google’s search results pages, this guide will help you understand how to remove unwanted backlinks and set your website on a road to recovery.

Step 1: Identify the problem

This first step could save you a lot of time and effort. Spending some time learning why you have been given a manual or automatic penalty could change how you go about planning your recovery.
Take a look at recent analytical data about the performance of your website. If there was a decline in the performance of your site around the time Google updated its Penguin algorithm, it’s likely that backlinks are the reason for the recent poor performance.
If not, it could be something else such as poor user experience, high quality competition, and high bounce rates. In which case, it might be time to address your content marketing masterplan, website design or your SEO strategy.
To assess whether you have been manually penalised by Google (i.e Google has sent you a warning about unnatural linking) you will need to have Google Webmaster Tools (now called search console) installed. To find out how to do this see here a guide by Google. You may also want to check this guide for checking manual penalties

Step 2: Find the active backlinks

There may be many links pointing towards your site, but you need to optimise your time here and only go for the ones that are active.
There are many tools that you can use to help you find these links, including:  
Create a list of all your active backlinks. This list is where you will start to look to find those links that are hurting your website.

Step 3: Do a backlink audit

The best way to do this is manually. Unfortunately that means trawling through each link back to its source domain and taking a look for yourself. The domain name itself might give you a clue as to the quality of your backlink. Spammybacklinks.com would never bode well.
You want to know whether the domain has good authority good value. A simple way of deciding this is using good old common sense. Ask yourself the following questions:
  • Would I be happy to tell someone this site has linked to mine?
  • Does it look well designed?
  • Does it offer a good user experience?
  • Does it look like an honest and reputable domain?
Your answers to these questions should help you decide whether it’s a backlink that harms or helps your website.

Step 4: Contact websites

Using tools such as Rmoov  will help you find the best way of contacting those domains that are having a negative impact on your website.
By emailing the webmasters responsible for those domains you can begin to work with those website owners to remove the links you want to avoid.
This might seem like a timing consuming process because it is, but it can be an effective way of removing unwanted backlinks.

Step 5: Disavow

Google recommends that if you have tried to contact websites to get your links removed and it hasn’t been as successful as you would like, you could use their disavow tool.
Disavow is a last resort, and Google does like to give you warning in advance that you could be doing more harm than good. But there is some evidence that seems to suggest that Google only activates this `disavow` tool when it updates the Penguin algorithm, as suggested by Cyrus Shepard’s blog article.

Step 6: ManualbReconsideration Request

If you have received a manual notice from Google in your search console, this is a vital step, if you have an automatic penalty i.e your rankings plummeted with the arrival of a new update you will have to wait till the next update to see if you have done enough. If you have manual penalty, once you have carefully and painstakingly gone through each of the steps to remove the offending backlinks, it’s time to contact Google for a reconsideration request.
As part of this request, it’s important to submit a short document explaining the following:
  • How and why you believe you got the backlinks;
  • How you removed them;
  • Assurances (grovelling) that you will follow Google’s guidelines for best practice in future
If you have done it right, and you have given Google the right assurances, within a month you could find that your manual penalty has been revoked.

Settle in for the long haul

There’s no easy way to say this: removing damaging backlinks and recovering from a penalty takes time. Not only to physically resolve the problem but to rebuild your reputation with Google, too.
The only thing you can do to waste even more time is to do it quickly and only do half of a job. If you try to take shortcuts or make some `overnight` changes it’s likely that you will miss things out, and that will potentially make you no better off once you have finished.
Do it right. Do it once.


One of the best ways you can recover is to start showing Google that you haven’t just given your site a good clean, but in fact you are creating good quality content that adds value. So think about developing a content marketing masterplan
Design websites for users first, Google second.
If you can’t remove the backlinks yourself and you need specialist help, please call us on 0114 360 0340.
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