Building backlinks is one of the most important components of your SEO campaign. Search engines were literally built on a foundation of backlinks. Generally speaking, the more quality backlinks you get, the higher your site will rank. Although, algorithms have become quite sophisticated over the years and amassing a large quantity of random backlinks won’t help you rank.
Unfortunately, some backlink services ignore quality and source spammy backlinks for their clients. Webmasters are often penalized by Google for having bad backlinks that come from unnatural sources like private blog networks and link farms.
If you’ve fallen victim to a spammy backlink service, here’s how you can fix your bad links before they cause your website harm.
1. Get a backlink audit
The first thing you need to do is get a backlink audit from a professional link building agency with a strong reputation. Most backlink audits worth pursuing will be free. You need an audit from an agency with a strong reputation because only professionals will know what to look for when analyzing your backlink profile.
A backlink audit will search for all of your backlinks using special software and will analyze the quality of each link. Since the software will show the URLs of your backlinks, you’ll know what websites to contact to have unwanted links removed, which brings up the next point.
2. Request backlink removal
In a perfect world, you’d be able to get all spammy sites to remove your backlinks immediately without a problem. You might get that lucky with some sites, but prepare to meet some resistance and possibly silence.
Still, it’s worth the effort. Any bad links you can get removed will be helpful.
To make your requests, draft a general letter you can send to the owner of any website and simply request that your link be removed. Offer to provide proof of domain ownership if necessary. Request a response from the website owner and wait.
3. Report spammy sites to the search engines
If you request to have your link removed and the webmaster either won’t comply or won’t respond, report the spammy website to Google and let them take care of things. If the site is truly spam, it will be de-indexed and possibly blacklisted. If that happens, all of your links on that domain will be immediately wiped out.
Don’t forget to report the website to Yahoo and Bing to cover all of your bases.
4. Change your domain name
Changing your domain name is a last resort, but if you can’t get bad backlinks removed and there are too many of them to overcome, you may need to get a new domain.
Before you switch to a new domain, talk to an SEO professional to make sure you really need to make the switch. Your perception of an irreparable situation might be off and an SEO professional can give you a more accurate perspective.
If switching domain names is in your best interest, you’ll need to start over with your link building efforts and using redirects is probably not a good idea. However, you’ll never skip verifying the source and quality of your backlink services ever again.
5. Disavow your link with Google
You can request that Google ignore specific backlinks to your site. However, you only want to use this option if you are absolutely certain a backlink is causing you harm. You can have hundreds of low-quality backlinks that aren’t helping you, but if they’re not actively harming you then you don’t need to disavow those links.
The links you want to disavow are ones that are published on websites that are clearly spam, but also, sites you’ve verified are hurting your ranking.
Read this guide from SEM Rush to learn how to request Google to disavow your backlinks.
Be careful moving forward
Nobody wants to go through the tedium of removing bad links from their backlink profile. It’s an exhausting experience and it takes away time you could be spending working on building your business. However, if you have bad backlinks, you have no other choice.
Once you’re done getting bad backlinks removed, be careful moving forward. Don’t buy large quantities of backlinks from anyone. Any links sold in any quantity will be problematic. Google and other search engines want websites to have a natural backlink profile and that’s not possible when you buy your backlinks.
If you’ve always bought backlinks, switch to content marketing instead. Content marketing is a white hat SEO strategy that will get you high-quality backlinks that also provide value to website visitors and are less likely to be viewed as spam.