How to Identify Unnatural Links and Remove Them

June 28, 2013

Webmasters around the world are still busy trying to clean up their websites after the Google Penguin launch of 2012, and they are even more baffled following the release of Penguin 2.0 in May of 2013. If this sounds familiar you’ve come to the right place. We’ve compiled a brief overview of why unnatural links are bad for your site and provided some tools you can use to identify and remove those links.

Unethical. Before Google upgraded their quality guidelines and started enforcing them in, some might say, a “brutal” manner, anything worked and most of the websites with a history of SEO have purchased or attained links, and these are today considered “unnatural” (the only legitimate “natural” link is a link that another admin chose to place on his site voluntarily because of the added value of your link). SEO professionals and many webmasters didn’t even realize they had those links pointing to their site until they got a warning message about them from Google. Now they are left with trying to figure out which of their links need to be removed and how should they go about doing it.

What Are Unnatural Links From Google’s Point of View?

In a nutshell, unnatural links are artificial links that are intended solely to manipulate page rank and rank higher on the search results. As previously mentioned, these links were often purchased back when any link was considered a good link and it boosted your search results, no matter if it was relevant, surrounded by content or on a low quality site. They may also have been specifically created and linked to your site by spammers.

Why You Don’t Want Unnatural Links Pointing To Your Site

any and all links boosted your search engine results, but that time isis the days when “all links were created equal” are long gone. These days, Google is encouraging webmasters to earn links by creating high-quality content. This type of content encourages users to naturally share it or link to it and gain links naturally and, as a result this will increase the site’s rankings on the search engine result pages (SERPs). If Google identifies a site as having too many unnatural links, the site’s rankings on the SERPs can fall dramatically.

Unfortunately, it’s not enough just to improve the content. You also need to get rid of the unnatural links that are pointing to your site.

The Message

Many webmasters first learn of their unnatural links when they receive this message from Google:

“We’ve detected that some of your site’s pages may be using techniques that are outside Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

Specifically, look for possibly artificial or unnatural links pointing to your site that could be intended to manipulate PageRank. Examples of unnatural linking could include buying links to pass PageRank or participating in link schemes….”

While it is helpful to know you have bad links, the message doesn’t tell you how to identify them or remove them.

Google Tools You Could Use To Locate Unnatural Links

Recently, Matt Cutts, Head of Search Spam at Google, posted a video that explains how to find unnatural links. In the video he explains that in the near future Google will be adding examples of the bad links as a part of their unnatural link warning messagesin the future. .This is meant to help webmasters identify which links Google considers harmful within the site’s incoming links profile.

Website managers can also use their existing Webmaster Tools account to help identify bad links. Specifically, Cutts recommends sorting the links by date and using this information to get an idea of which links are the problematic ones.

Getting Rid Removing Of Unnatural Links

Once you’ve located the links, the focus now shifts to getting rid of them. To remove unnatural links you need to contact the website’s administrator and ask that the link be removed. Surprisingly, some administrators are willing to do this for you, that is if you legitimate contact information to send the request to.manage to get in touch with them through their site, which is not always the case.

Unsurprisingly, a whole new industry has sprung up aimed at helping webmasters get rid of their unnatural links. Sometimes for free, sometimes for a small fee, sometimes for a large fee, these services can help you identify the unnatural links, find contact information for the website, generate and send email requests asking that the link be removed and even track your progress for you. A more negative type of “fee”, in regards to link removal is the one that many of the more “cunning” webmasters demand, which is payment per link removal (another way for low quality site admins to make a living after Penguin and Panda wiped the possibility of them selling another link) .

Unnatural Link Removal Tools

So if you don’t manage to clean your link profile on your own, there are a few tools that could help you with that. Cyrus Shepard at Above The Fold has complied a great list of four tools for link cleanup. Another good tool is the one by SEOGadget. This free service makes it easy to collect the data on all of your inbound links and identify the links that need to be removed.

…And if all else fails: Google’s Disavow Tool

Following countless complaints by admins frustrated by the various algorithmic changes that turned things for the worst for them, and the various difficulties they encountered upon link removals, Google finally announced the launch of their Disavow Tool. This tool is meant for webmasters who have already pointed out the bad links coming in to their site and were not able to remove them any other way, despite previous attempts. Via this tool, available directly from their Google Webmaster Tools account, admins can send Google a detail report of which links they would like Google to “ignore” (low quality/unnatural links). However, they clarify that Google has no obligation to act upon the admins request, and this tool serves merely as a recommendation for Google, perhaps another way for them to learn about low quality links and even (as the more “paranoid” SEO professionals think) be used as a tool for Google to identify sites that violate their quality guidelines systematically and punish them as a result.

In conclusion, although it can be frustrating and time-consuming, SEO continues to be a very profitable and traffic generating channel, and in order to safeguard your online business, you need to continue being on the lookout for new updates and constantly study your impact on the site. And f you want to play by Google’s rules you need to get rid of those artificial links, and the previously mentioned tools can be just what you need to get started.


The author's views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of Revolution Flyers, Inc.

This entry was posted on Friday, June 28th, 2013 at 5:41 am and is filed under SEO/Web Development . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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