Before reading this article, it is important to understand the role that backlinks play. This article may help…

The definitions of good links and bad links have changed over time. Back in the day, any link was considered a good link. That’s because Google valued the quantity of links over the quality of links. But as business owners and SEOs discovered this, a link building enterprise that Google likely never imagined was built from the ground up.

It started out innocently enough with a little, “I’ll give you a link if you’ll give me a link.” Classic networking, right? But people abused it and reciprocal links were eventually discounted. In other words, Google no longer considered a traded link an indicator of one’s authority and so they changed their algorithm to reflect that.

Of course, when a commodity is created (in this case, links), there will always be those who want to create more of that commodity. Thus are born the link farms – sights built for the sole purpose of providing links (usually for a fee). Thus are born the link brokers – pairing up those that want to monetize their sites and those who want to buy links. Thus are born directories and link wheels and blog comment spam and forum spam links. Basically manipulative or paid links all in the name of making a website appear to be more authoritative.

And they worked! Having all these links truly did help sites rank higher on Google. And it wasn’t illegal or unethical. It was just a strategy that was used to help a site rank higher.

That is, until Google’s algorithms got smarter and smarter. [READ Link Building Shortcuts Don’t Work Like They Used To] Today, Google can pretty much tell if a link is there just to manipulate search results – not that it’s even that difficult some times. This morning, I found a link to an air conditioning contractor on a site about diarrhea. No, I am not making that up, I swear.

So if you’re reading this, I’m guessing maybe you have some of those old links and you’re wondering what to do about it. Well, you can use Google’s Disavow Tool, which is supposed to be your way of saying to Google, “Please ignore these links.” If you use this tool and it works, let me know. I haven’t met a single client who says that it works, although there are some success stories floating around the web.

What you really need to do is get rid of those links. How about that? Google creates another industry – the toxic link cleanup industry. This is when you hire an SEO to analyze your backlink profile, identify links that look suspicious or toxic, and then take the time to contact the publishers and remove the links in question. And guess what – it can actually cost more than link BUILDING! No one wants to go to every single one of the hundreds of sites where you have links, find the publisher contact info (if it even exists) and persuade the publishers to remove the links. Some publishers even request payment for link removal, after being paid to place the link in the first place!

It’s an incredibly time consuming and painful process, but let’s face it. If you’ve used questionable link building strategies in the past (or hired someone who did), then a toxic link cleanup may be the only way you’re ever going to get your website to rank. Want to learn more? Contact me directly. My guys at MediaWhiz offer this service and they’re great at it. Full disclosure, I work directly with MediaWhiz. 🙂

Thanks for reading

David McBee


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