Today’s “Ask An SEO” question comes from Yvonne from Whitby, who asks:
“An old website of ours, now deleted, was hacked a while ago. Now, it’s sending thousands of spammy backlinks to our current website with a different but similar domain.
The hacked site no longer exists (the files were all deleted months ago), but we still see tens of thousands of these spammy backlinks to our current site.
I am not an SEO professional, but I have been tasked with managing the website at my company. I use Google Search Console, Ahrefs, and other tools that still show this deleted website’s backlinks.
Can I expect these backlinks to show in the reports? Would link disavows help? Should I be more concerned about spammy links?”
Great question, and the TL;DR, don’t worry about it or stress over them. It’s an easy fix.
- Disavow the URL.
- Ignore the tools.
- Focus on the things you can control.
If you think there is something more going on, here is where you can report malicious activity and bad practices to Google.
But I don’t think it applies to your situation. This is mainly for other people reading.
Let’s jump into each of the three steps.
First, you’ll want to disavow at the domain name level.
Because it is a site that is supposed to be removed, and you did delete, disavow it at the domain level.
This way, you don’t have to look and see if the hack has created more pages or worry there are more links.
The domain name level applies to all pages within the site.
Ignore The Tools
Second, don’t worry about what the tools say.
Tools have lots of fake metrics and are not always accurate.
They’re meant to help you identify some problems, but it stops there.
Each site should be viewed differently. Having thin content on some pages is okay for some sites.
Not all pages are meant to show up in search results.
The tools will flag these as problems and encourage you to build them out.
But that isn’t a good use of your time and can cause cannibalization or overoptimization.
The tools are also not Google, and Google Search Console may not even be accurate or relevant to part of the actual algorithm.
Google has also made massive improvements in recognizing and ignoring link spam from hacked sites.
They may never drop out of the tools or Google Search Console.
That is out of your control. If you disavowed, you’re good to go.
Focus On What You Can Control
Links are something out of your control unless you’re building them.
Instead, focus on actionable items that you can implement.
Are There Problems Your Customers Are Using Your Products Or Services To Solve?
If yes, turn them into blog posts or build product and service pages for them.
When Was The Last Time You Crawled Your Site For Internal Links?
Pages that are supposed to rank could be new, and old internal links can be updated.
New pages are created and can get some “juice” from older blog posts and PDPs (product detail pages).
There could be links off the same words to separate pages, which sends a conflicting signal to search engines. Change them.
Have You Updated Your Schema To Make Sure The Libraries Properly Reflect Your Business?
Maybe you’ve moved to new countries or regions. Check your area served schema for this.
Work On PR And Building Relationships With Journalists And Editors To Get Media Coverage For Your Company
A hacked site spamming links to you from the same domain is nothing to worry about.
If you are, use the disavow tool and try not to stress.
There are plenty of ways to improve any and every site.
Focus on what is in your control, not what is out of it.
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