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Ewan Watt

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The Truth about Links & Link Penalties

Many unsuspecting Australian business owners have been off guard as their website rankings and traffic has plummeted off the back of a ‘link related’ penalty. These dreaded penalties can have a significant impact on your bottom line, one of the main objectives of this article is to help you, the business owner, mitigate the risks involved in a link penalty.

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What are Links?

Inbound links are when other websites link to you, outbound links are when you link to other websites. For the past 15 years Google has considered inbound links a very important ranking factor as this is one way for Google to determine the popularity, authority and relevance of your website. As links are a significant driver of search engine rankings, Google – over the past 18 months – have taken action on websites which in the past have tried to manipulate rankings with “risky” links. So without further ado follow these steps to prevent your website from receiving an unwanted link penalty.

1. How Do You Know if Your Website Has a Link Penalty?

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If your phone has suddenly stopped ringing and your website is no longer on Google’s first five pages then you may currently be in the midst of a link penalty. By asking yourself the following three questions you should begin to understand whether it is in fact a link penalty.

  • Have you received a message from Google through Google Webmaster Tools alerting you to ‘unnatural inbound links’?
  • Have rankings slipped from the first page to the fifth for your primary keyword?
  • Has traffic to your website fallen considerably in just one-week despite limited website changes?

If you’ve answered ‘yes’ to any of the above 3 questions, don’t panic, it may just be time to analyse your current link profile.

2. Identifying risk in your Link Profile

Each link penalty is different so there is no one golden rule, but if you follow these steps you should be on the road to recovery. Obviously, the first place to start when analysing your link profile is to gather all the information at your disposal. Through the ‘Links to your site’ feature within Google Webmaster Tools account you can begin to draw a picture of what sites are linking to you. However to put the entire puzzle together you will also need to pool together third party resources such as Open Site Explorer – we use a mixture of 7 third-party tools and our own proprietary database. OSE2 After putting together a list of sites linking to you it’s important to be stringent in determining whether or not a link is in fact good. We work off the following ethos:

  • Trust: Do you trust where the link is coming from? Is their website engaging and content helpful?
  • Popular: Will this link drive traffic to your website? Keeping this in mind will ensure that Google is not at the fore-front of your link building plans.
  • Relevant & Association: Ultimately, are you happy that your business is associated with this website?

3. Taking Action

Google issues manual link penalties on a daily basis, so prevention is always better than a cure. After the “bad” links are identified links the following process needs to be completed.

  1. Disavow: This is a file which is submitted to Google to let the search engine know not to count these links.
  2. Removal: This involves contacted webmasters to remove links which have been identified as bad.
  3. Reconsideration: This step is only for those hit by a manual penalty and requires the business to plead their case to Google to remove the penalty.

These steps are quite time consuming and require a large deal of effort and expertise of the person responsible. Our learning’s from dealing with countless link penalties means we currently possess a 100% success rate in resolving these penalties.