One thing I am dealing with this week is a huge link farm and spammy link neighborhood for a newer SEO client. Their old company, which is a top recommended firm, not only associated them with everything from adult parties and drugs to a ton of other undesirable sites, topics and neighborhoods. With a few Google searched and reverse lookups, I was able to uncover and map out the farms (it was a lot of manual work but worth it) and track it back to a few sources. It reminds me why you should never for any reason ever outsource SEO to India, the Philippines or other countries…especially 3rd world. You should also ensure that your outsources SEO firm doesn’t outsource either which is what I am assuming this company did.
It’s bad enough with the “Gurus” in the USA and top SEO firms which really don’t do much as far as quality link building and actual work, but when you tie in third rate link building from third world countries you will screw yourself, unless you are a huge brand. Anyways, after finding and mapping out the link farms so I know who to approach and request to take down the links from their spam farms, here are 5 of the best ways to get someone to take a backlink down.
1. Email or contact them.
The most obvious and sometimes most forgotten way to get a link taken down is to ask nicely. Don’t insult the company or site, don’t say it is low quality and don’t be rude. Just simply ask if they can please remove the links. Include the pages with the links to make it easier for them. The easier you make it for them, the better chance that they can remove all of them or at least have less work to do. If they want to know the reason why you want them to take the links down, be friendly and make sure to not say anything that could offend them. Remember, some site owners don’t realize that their sites cause damage and are very bad for SEO. When you ask them to pull down links they could get very offended and end up leaving them instead. This happens a lot with Mommy Bloggers and Review sites that your PR firm hurts you by working with. If the goal is to get them down and they are pissed, they may leave them up out of spite or make them even more spammy.
2. Write to the hosting company.
One thing that has worked very well for me before is to write to the hosting company or if it’s subdomains, write to the main company who owns the site. Give them a technologically sound reason, let them know you are potentially taking legal action against the company building these links and show the negative impact on how the links have affected your company. Many times the hosting companies can contact the site owners and sometimes they’ll go in and pull the pages or remove the links. One other thing you can do is find things that could be illegal or against the hosting company’s terms and conditions and share them with the hosting company. This can create a positive and happy email between the two of you since you are helping them and they may agree to pull the site as well. (I am not going to share what I find and send in, that is up to your SEO to know how to do).
3. Ask them to change the links out for non backlink Affiliate links.
This can work very well for companies that have really bad backlinking structures. The company that built the bad backlinks will have a chance to make money (even though they will probably never send a single sale), they’ll possibly try to change all of the links for you including ones you may not have found, and it can be a good middle ground solution. The chance to make money for work already done, without having to do a ton of extra work, is almost always a great option. You do have to be cautious though because some Affiliate links are backlinks, datafeeds can be backlinks and they could do a combination of backlinks and Affiliate links. You’ll still need to go through and check everything. On a good note you’ll see referring urls so you can find other pages you may not have known you were on, on a bad note you have to do a lot more scanning and always check that they didn’t make something a backlink again.
4. Depending on how bad the link is, offer money.
If the links and link farms are horrible, you may want to offer money. One thing that I find kind of ironic is when everyone wanted to be listed in directories years ago, the directories started charging money for the listings and backlinks. Some requested free products if they had a product section, shopping section or blog (the same as mommy bloggers and review sites….I’ve already written enough warnings about that though). Now some of these same directories found a new business model, asking people to pay to remove links. If they charge to remove links, I don’t spend the money. They could easily automate adding in a ton of sites or competitors could submit you into them. Other directories will add you from directory/search engine submission services (again a scam in my opinion) and then charge to remove you. Then they could easily add you again. It’s kind of like a scam. To be honest, I could easily see lawsuits forming from this. If the sites linking to you are causing financial damage and are charging you to have them stop causing the damage, it sounds like an easy win. The trick is proving it, but that shouldn’t be too hard with the Google blogs, etc…
This is your last ditch effort. If you absolutely have to have a link down, use the Disavow tool. I will warn you that using this tool can easily put you on Google’s radar. Make sure your onsite work is clean, your backlink profile after disavowing links is amazing and that you are ready to take a hit if you do something wrong. Disavow should be a very last resort and something you try as hard as possible to avoid. If you do have to use it, make sure you have people who really know what they are doing review what you are submitting first.
Getting people to take down backlinks can be a pain in the butt. You can do things to speed it up like find the farms that are owned by a single company or two, draft generic emails with some custom content to similar standard sites like directories and also just send custom written emails. The important thing is to know what links are good, which links are causing damage and which are probably harmless. By taking to many down at once you can hurt yourself. Not having them come down in a proper time frame or order can also cause damage. Make sure your SEO firm is a good one, most of the ones I have met aren’t, and that they have all of this mapped out for you. If they cannot or will not share the links they’ve built (not all of them but at least a few good ones each week) and ones they have had taken down, you should probably move on. You should also be monitoring the sites linking in to you and figuring out which ones are your SEO firm and which ones are natural or from competitors doing negative SEO. By knowing what links they are building, which ones they are working at taking down and by them sharing a plan with the best ways to remove backlinks from other sites, you should be able to feel confident that they will help you avoid getting hit by Penguin updates for low quality backlinks and a non natural backlink profile.