Black Hat SEO may still have its diehard fans, but one of their favorite SEO tactics – link farming – was severely frowned on by Google’s “Penguin” update. Since that update, your website can be flagged for “unnatural link building tactics” that amount to spamming Google. Not a good thing.
So what can you do to make sure your backlinks aren’t endangering your search engine rankings? It’s not quick or easy, but you can perform a backlink audit (or have your professional SEO consultant perform it for you).
Performing a Backlinks Audit
To do such an audit yourself, you can use free tools or software, such as the free version of SEOMoz Open Site Explorer, Google’s own Webmaster Tools (select “Download Latest Links” under “Links to Your Site” on the Dashboard), or other tools that perform backlink audits for SEO purposes. Or you can use a paid tool such as “ahrefs,” which (among other things) can even help you identify the country of origin of various backlinks.
Whichever way you decide to do your backlinks audit, the links you should watch out for include:
- Links from unrelated blogs, blog networks or blog comments
- Links from shady or spammy websites
- Links from outdated or dead directories
Put it this way: If you’d be embarrassed to link to a website from your site, then a backlink from that site is probably the kind you should avoid, because it’s probably just the kind of backlink that can get your site flagged or penalized.
Using Google’s Disavow Links Tool
Google cautions website owners that they should first try to get the bad links removed by working with the owners of the sites they originate from. But if that’s not possible – if there are too many spammy links, for example, or if they come from a dead directory – then you can access the Google Disavow Tool under Webmaster Tools, create a file containing the bad links, and upload it to Google. Of course, nothing happens especially quickly when you make a request of Google, and this new tool is no exception. It will probably take several weeks to have the bad backlinks removed.
Backlinks are good and can be an important part of your website’s SEO, but only if they’re the right kind of links from the right kind of websites. If you’re a website owner with a large number of poor quality backlinks, you might want to consult a reputable SEO company as to whether the Google Disavow tool is right for your particular website and situation.