How to remove unwanted links to your website

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The question of the quality of links which are received by websites is one which is exhaustively debated among specialists involved in trying to get the best possible rankings for either their own or other people’s websites.

When they set out to judge the level of authority which a website has, Google – and every other search engine – uses the volume and type of inbound links to it as a kind of barometer of its influence and popularity, and so to decide whether it deserves to rank more highly than other websites on a similar subject when people are searching, using particular words of terms associated with it.

However, in the early, formative days of search engine optimisation, companies and individuals tried a number of unnatural and sometimes even underhand tactics, in an effort to secure one of those all-important number one rankings in the Google listings.

The very fact that being top of the rankings came to be seen as an ultimate aim naturally gave birth to these methods. But as Google itself gained an ever-larger share of the internet search market – and consolidation took place among other companies below it – it was naturally anxious to be seen as an upholder of the highest standards, and an arbiter of standards of content on the web. Indeed, the company’s own motto is ‘don’t be evil’, which suggests that it exists – at least partly – to ensure that the best and most useful information available on the web is easy to find, by being placed at the top of its search results.

But for some time, Google’s own procedures meant that getting low-quality links to a website removed was a long process, during which a company or individual’s website could find itself heavily penalized, by either being relegated down the rankings, or removed altogether, before it could take the action needed to regain the trust of the human and automated processes which judge sites and determine the rankings.

Ways to remove unwanted links

Now, though Google has created what it called a ‘link disavowal tool’, by which website owners can be proactive in reporting the existence of low-quality links, and ask the search engine company to have them removed.

A recent article on respected website Searchenginewatch.com suggested a tactic for being proactive in removing unwanted links, which involved creating a standard email letter which could be sent to website owners requesting the removal of those undesirable links. It involves the details of the exact URL which hosts the link, along with the original URL of the content on the website of the person making the complaint, and the anchor text which features the link, being sent in an email to the creator of the link, and requesting that the link be removed.

This will have the effect of firmly identifying the person who posted the link as being responsible for it, and puts them on notice that the owner of the site being linked to wishes it to be removed.

The ‘disavow links tool‘ also contains a form for submitting a request to Google for a penalty placed on a website to be reconsidered. The Searchenginewatch.com article suggests ‘coming clean’ is the best tactic, by admitting all methods for obtaining links which were used and which fall outside Google’s official guidelines, and then outlining how you’ve changed your link building procedures to ensure that there will be no recurrence of the methods.

Every website owner has one chance to clean up their act after being issued with a notice of a ranking penalty. If they then own up promptly, provide Google with all the information it needs, and then ensure they stick by the rules in future, there should be no long-term effects on the visibility of their site.

The world of search is a game in which Google is so powerful that it can make the rules. It can also break the people who ignore or try to manipulate them. As much as this may go against your nature, it’s better for the sake of your website to follow the right procedure, disavow those spammy links, and then let Google see that you have been proactive in rectifying the situation.

This is a guest article by Lesley Sampson, a freelance blogger who often covers SEO and PPC services topics.

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