What is link cleanup?
Search engines use links to crawl through websites. Putting relevant links onto your site (either from your own site, or external websites) helps search engines find your website. The more quality links you have, the higher your chances are of appearing on searches.
Google favours websites with a clean link profile, those with links to and from reputable or authoritative sources. In the early years of the internet, SEO specialists used link building to gather “votes” and rank high on search results.
However, not all links are good links. In the same way links can boost ranking, they can also do the opposite.
If you stuff low-quality and irrelevant links onto your site, search engines may find your website spammy. If you receive a warning message from Google with a header or subject that reads “Unnatural Inbound Links”, you have a problem.
What are the benefits of link cleanup?
It pays to have a clean link profile. Removing and disavowing bad links allow you to:
Recover from a Penalty – A Google penalty can greatly affect your rankings and your reputation. Link removal or cleanup helps you recover from a penalty and gain a fresh start for your SEO or online marketing initiative. It may take time, but patience will lead you to your goals.
Protect Your Site Against a Penalty – Regular link audit and cleanup should be part of your reputation management program or plan. These allow you to maintain a clean backlink profile and avoid a Google penalty. Your dedicated SEO company can help you do this.
Prepare Your Site for the Next Update – Whilst Google provides clues regarding the next algorithm update, you can never tell when it will hit your website. Having a spotless link profile is your safety net. It keeps your website ready for upcoming Penguin updates, which are likely to continue targeting unnatural links or poor linking structures.
Earn Back Your Rankings – Decreased or lost rankings are among the most serious effects of a Google penalty. You may eventually earn back your rankings after disavowing or removing bad links from your site.
What is the process for link cleanup?
To find out what these bad links are, you have to conduct a link cleanup. Here is a list of things to do:
Collect Your Backlink Data – Export all your website’s backlinks using Google Search Console or Open Site Explorer from Moz. It is important to monitor links and make sure you are not missing any of them. Once you have the data, you still need to gather SEO metrics and other information to identify the bad links and the good ones.
Conduct a Link Audit – If your website has few backlinks, manual auditing would be a breeze. If you are dealing with a huge number of links, you may use any of the audit tools available today. Your SEO service provider may also do the job for you. This will help you prepare for the cleanup process. Read more about SEO Auditing.
Remove Bad Links – Once you identify the bad links, you can start the cleanup process. Send an email to the owner or webmaster of the site (source of bad links) and ask for removal of the link. Be polite and make the email as professional as possible. Provide clear instructions and details of the backlinks you need removed.
You may also add nofollows to or stop paying for paid links, and remove directory submissions. Never pay for link removal. Some webmasters may ask you to pay before they completely remove those bad links. You still have an option: disavow.
Disavow – You may disavow links you could not remove. Add those links to your site’s “disavow list” and send the report to Google. By doing so, you are informing the search giant that the links are not part of your SEO initiatives and are beyond your control. Google will then ignore all links from the domain/s you specified in your disavow report. It may take a few weeks to see the result.