When the long-awaited Disavow Tool from Google was announced finally at the PubCon Las Vegas, search professionals around the globe breathed a sigh of relief. There is a way now with which they can deal with the penalties laid on them by the Penguin Update due to ‘un-natural links’. They can now ‘disavow’ these links and get their site back in Google’s good books.
If you want to use this tool, you will have to identify your bad links first and then work on pruning them. Once you submit the list of links you have to disavow, you will be given a choice of comments or links or domains to block. Of these options you must choose accordingly. But remember that you must use the tool only on the links which you haven’t been able to remove manually.
Google itself has stressed that the tool is a last resort after you have exhausted all manual efforts to get bad links removed. Because once Google disavows them, you may even lose the good links and eventually your ranking may fall even further. What are these bad links and why Google penalizes you for them are discussed in the next section.
The Update That Changed It All: Penguin
It would be safe to say that Google’s Penguin Update has shaken the very basis of SEO practices: link building. Until recently, sites linking to your site were not much of a problem. But now, if you have ‘unnatural links’ (as Google calls them) linking to your site, it can hurt your ranking severely.
The update has come down heavy for businesses selling links, as well as sites which have built a spammy link profile by using exact match anchor text extensively. This activity is flagged off by Google as ‘unnatural link building tactics’ and falls under heavy spamming.
Many sites which have not been intentionally buying links have also been hit by the update, simply because they have links from ‘untrusted sites’. Webmasters are struggling to find a way to fix these link issues and get their site back up. The urgency to do the same is intensified because the Penguin can strike again anytime.
It’s Not Over Yet
At the recently concluded SES San Francisco, Google’s webspam team head, Matt Cutts, gave a clear warning against the Penguin. He said that the algorithm was in its experimental stages. Google was fine-tuning it and ’till they get it right—the Penguin roll outs will give ‘huge jolts’.
The Panda Update is smoother and subtler now (after more than a year of the first roll out), but the Penguin can smack hard. This announcement by Matt sent nearly the entire SEO fraternity scurrying to find: “penguin proofing techniques.”
The panic attack has not been helped by the link warnings being sent via Google Webmaster Tools. Google has been sending ‘unnatural link’ warnings to webmasters since February 2012. Now and after the Penguin smack, people finally understood that their entire effort of building links over the years could be the reason for their site falling in SERPs.
The message from Google is loud and clear: There is more to come. And the ball is in your court now, as to how you will identify and deal with those ‘unnatural’ or bad links.
The Best Way Forward: Backlinks Check
You have to take up the mammoth task of a backlink audit to see where are the toxic links coming in from and how you can get rid of them. Analyzing your link profile can be a time taking and tedious task, but you will have to do it—the sooner the better. Bad links may include:
- Links coming in from poor quality/spammy sites
- Disproportionate anchor text links
- Links from blog networks
- Links from paid posts
- Links from dead & rotting directories
- Links from irrelevant & ‘untrustworthy’ sites
A great way to spot an unnatural link profile is to compare your site with your competitors. A thorough comparison will let you know of the major differences between their link profile and yours. To identify the ‘unnaturalness’ of your back links profile you will have to see:
- Site-wide links
- Anchor Text Distribution
- Link Networks
- Blog Links
- Blog Comments/Forum Links
- Article Directories links
- Web Directories links
- Footer Links
Whether you have been hit by the Penguin or have been warned by Google for having unnatural links, you will have to analyze the backlinks mentioned above and make comparative analysis with your top five competitors (at least).
Top Backlinks Evaluation Tools
There are a number of SEO tools out there you can use for deep evaluations for backlinks. Some of these are free, while some will require subscription. Let us see, what each tool can deliver:
This tool allows you to research your backlinks profile quickly and simply. It is a paid tool and offer Backlinks Reports; inBound Link Analysis; Link management and daily rank tracking.
The inBound Link Analysis module allows you to analyze all incoming links using the filters like:
- Link Position
- Link Context
- Majestic AC Rank
- inBound Links
The results will show the poorest quality pages first. Reviewing is a breeze with the link preview feature, and you will have a data of the most toxic links coming back to your site. The tool advises you to manually review the links and then add comments in to the links and then importing the data into the Google Disavow tool, and disavow the negative links.
It is a paid tool with a number of functionalities, but their Backlink Profiler is perhaps the best way to source and identify backlinks from various domains and get every detail about them. The list you will get will already be pruned to remove dead links. You will get to know the nature of the link, follow or no follow etc. as well. The tool will also tell you the domains giving you quality link juice.