For years, building inbound links was the best way to get search engines to pay attention to your website. However, many marketers took advantage of this system by using programs to auto-generate large numbers of low quality links from websites with a low level of relevancy to their own site. Once Google found out, it fought back with two algorithm updates. These updates make it so that for the first time, there is such a thing as a negative link. If low quality links have begun affecting your website's SERPs, you need help. This guide will help you understand what's going on and how to make it work better.
What is Low Quality Link Traffic?
Low quality links are links that aren't likely to give a consumer unique information or that are unlikely to be what someone searching for a particular topic was actually searching for. Building large amounts of low quality link traffic was a favored strategy of many marketers for years, and a number of attorneys had begun to use these techniques for search engine optimization.
You can usually identify low quality links because they will come from sources that don't really matter—often sources that will simply accept any content, even if it made little or no sense at all. These kinds of low reputation websites are not going to help you to get the kinds of quality link traffic you want. The same goes for blog comment spam. If a high number of your links come from comment spam, Google has probably already caught you—and the effects won't be pretty once they do.
What Are The Effects of Low Quality Backlinks?
If Google discovers that you have been using low quality link strategies to market your website, they are likely to decide that you are using unnatural linking. This is not in accordance with Google's webmaster terms, and they reserve the right to lower websites in search rankings—or even stop them from being listed altogether—if they are found to be part of a low quality links scheme.
It's very unlikely that your website will be de-listed unless you're actually running a fraudulent weblinking ring. However, if your links all come from sources that are simply not very high quality, you're going to notice a sudden and sharp drop in your SERPs. This means that the huge majority of people who use Google—the ones who only look through the first or maybe the second page of results—are never going to see your website content through organic search, no matter how good it is.
Help! Google Says I Have Spam Links!
Take a deep breath and don't panic. Even if Google has sent you an email saying that your website has been penalized for having links from spam websites, all is not lost. However, to make sure that your firm's marketing efforts aren't hurt for months, you're going to need some quick planning.
First of all, start by increasing your expenditures temporarily for pay per click advertising. No matter what else you do to increase your website's reputation again, you'll need to do this to make up for the penalties for low penalty links in the meantime.
Next, we'll look at the newest way to make sure that low quality link spam can't hurt your website's search engine rankings. This tool is called “disavow links.”
What Does “Disavow Links” Do?
As of November 2012, Google allows webmasters to disavow some of the backlinks that are coming through to their websites. Generally, you'd only want to do this if you were receiving low quality link traffic from spam websites. If this is the situation, “disavow links” will let you make those links go away more simply and easily than ever before.
Google still advises that even if you use the “disavow links” tool (which you can find in its Webmaster Tools section), you should be prepared to speak to the webmasters of the offending sites and attempt to have the links removed. This will prevent your reputation from being damaged further if people see where some of your links are coming from.
How Do I Find Where My Links Come From?
If you're not already using a backlink tracking tool, you should be. You can find many tools that will work just by doing a Google search for backlink tracker. If you notice a large number of low quality links—usually a low quality link will be irrelevant and from a website with a low PageRank value—you'll know that you are in jeopardy of being penalized or have been penalized already.
Backlink tracker tools can help you get the sources of your low quality links so that you can correspond with webmasters and have the offending links removed. If a webmaster refuses to delete your links, you can now at least disavow the link so that Google no longer believes that it was part of your deliberate marketing strategy.
If these links were part of your linking strategy at one time but no longer are, you'll want to make that known to the websites currently hosting your links. Often, these links can be taken down relatively quickly. Google understands that some good webmasters were caught up in bad low quality link schemes, and has no problem re-listing your website if it believes that you have actually changed your strategies.
Results of Using “Disavow Links”
When you disavow a link, you're not just getting rid of a penalty. You're also giving up any PageRank value that may have come from that link. Disavow links is something you should do only if the link truly is not of any value to anybody searching online.
You can generally expect your website to start rebounding in the SERPs as soon as one to two weeks after you disavow links. In the meantime, you'll want to focus on other marketing resources, including social media and pay per click advertising. These will keep your revenue streams high while you recover in organic searches.