What to Do if You Have Bad Inbound Links

Written by Nick Stamoulis

Perhaps one of the most important ways that the search engines determine the authority of your website is by analyzing the inbound links that point to it, which is why white hat SEO link building is such an important part of an SEO strategy. While website owners are building inbound links it’s important that inbound links grow naturally as well. Unfortunately we have very little control over who links to our website or how they link to it and not all links are created equal. At one point, webmasters were mostly concerned with the quantity of links to their site, but now (especially after the Penguin algorithm update) the focus is on quality.

The search engines, Google in particular, take your link portfolio seriously when considering rank. Websites that have link portfolios that are considered to be “unnatural” will receive warnings and penalties. There are a variety of causes of bad inbound links. Maybe you are the victim of negative SEO and a competitor could be building them. Or maybe you have nobody to blame but yourself if you ignored white hat policies and were previously paying for links or participating in link exchanges or link networks. At this point, it really doesn’t matter. All that matters is what you do next. If you’ve recently conducted a link audit of your site and don’t like the links that you see, you can take the following steps:

1. Contact the Webmaster
If contact information is listed on the site, request that your link be removed. It’s important to keep track of this. Make a list that includes the link, the contact information, and the date of the request. Follow up if necessary.

2. Report the Links
Report the links to Google via Webmaster Tools. There is no guarantee that any action will be taken but it’s worth a shot.

3. Dilute the Bad Links
In some cases it is nearly impossible to get rid of the spammy inbound links, whether you created them or not. Your best bet at that point is to try and outweigh the bad with the good. Make an effort to build a solid portfolio of inbound links on an ongoing basis. The key is for links to grow naturally over time from a variety of sources.

When conducting a link audit, don’t freak out if you find a handful of bad inbound links. Pretty much every website has them to some extent. What you really want to look at is the ratio of good links vs. bad links and also consider the success of your website. If you operate a large website that has aged and if your brand is well known due to other marketing efforts, a few bad links here or there aren’t going to do any harm. On the other hand, if you operate a small website that has 100 inbound links, and a third of them are bad, it’s a more serious issue and it’s worth the time that needs to be spent on cleaning them up.

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