In this post, we're going to cover seven steps to clean up your backlinks profile. Let's dive right in!
Many moons ago, building backlinks for your blog was pretty easy. All you had to do was a bit of article submission, directory submission, guest blogging with optimized anchor text links, blog commenting, and voila!
You could do this for a few months and get the rankings you needed quickly. I'm talking about several years ago here. Now, if you tried to do those things, it wouldn't be as effective, or worst, it could get you slapped by Google.
Guest blogging perhaps is still one of the most legitimate ways to build backlinks, but I even have my doubts about it.
Things are certainly a lot different now. The SEO landscape has transformed so much in just the last seven or eight years. These days it's all about building 'natural' backlinks.'
I won't dive into the complexities of building natural backlinks in this post because I already have a detailed article on this topic you can read here.
If you've recently discovered that your backlinks profile leaves little to be desired, perhaps you've been the victim of a negative SEO attack; this post will guide you through a series of steps you need to take to clean it up.
I don't often look at my backlinks profile. In fact, until about a few weeks ago, I had not looked at it for over five years. I discovered that I had accumulated an insane and unnatural amount of backlinks in the last six months.
Could I have been a victim of a recent negative SEO attack? Quite possibly. Look, if one of your competitors doesn't like what you're doing, they will almost do anything to remove you from the equation. Sadly, these kinds of folks have nothing better to do with their time.
But, you don't need to worry too much these days. While negative SEO attacks are still very much a real issue, Google is pretty smart at detecting these kinds of things. Even the most successful websites and blogs will have a certain degree of spammy backlinks pointing their way.
All that said, if you are still worried that the dodgy and shady backlinks, your blog has will somehow impact your rankings in the future. Or if you're concerned about receiving a penalty from Google, here what you can do -
OK, before you start to clean up your backlinks profile, you first need to figure out what to remove and what not to. Start by analyzing your links, and the best tools to do this is ether -
In this tutorial, I'll use MonitorBacklinks, but I'll also show you briefly how to use SEMrush to analyze backlinks.
Log into your SEMrush account or signup for a free trial here. You can use the free trial to go through your backlinks profile. In your SEMrush dashboard, from under SEO, go to Backlink Audit and run your domain through. Then go to the Audit tab to analyze your backlinks.
From the Audit tab, you can go through each of your links and, if you need to, add them to your disavow file.
Once you've added all the links you want to the disavow file, you can head over to the Disavow tab and carefully review each link. You can also import links you want to disavow to SEMrush. Perhaps you have a list taken from your Google Webmaster or other link management tool.
When you're ready to export, hit the Export to TXT button to create a file that you can upload to Google.
As I said, I won't go into great detail about using SEMrush for analyzing backlinks. I will have a more detailed tutorial using SEMrush's backlink tool soon.
Let's now do the same, in more depth, using MonitorBacklinks.
If you don't have a MonitorBacklinks account, you can create one here and use the free 14-day trial period to monitor your backlinks. You may need to sign up for a premium account to access all of the key features. Prices start from around $20.
OK, so from your dashboard, navigate to domains and add your domain name.
You can connect your website manually or via Google Analytics. I recommend connecting via GA to access additional insights and data.
Once you have made the connection, add a few optional keywords you would like to track. Hit finish and the application will begin gathering backlinks and rankings data. The process takes a little bit of time, so be patient and sit tight.
Once the website crawl has completed, you should be able to start analyzing your backlinks. In the sidebar menu, navigate and click on 'your links.'
Here you will be able to view and analyze every backlink you have to your website or blog. If you are new to MonitorBacklinks, take some time to find where all the features are and what they're used for.
You can view -
You don't need to spend too much time looking at the links Google ignores, but you want to pay attention to links that Google considers and links with warnings.
Right then, now you have your work cut out. Begin going through each of the links in your backlink profile and decide which should stay and go.
The great thing about using MonitorBacklinks is the ability to mark links as Good, Bad, or Pending if you're unsure. Perhaps it's a link to a new site or blog that's yet to gain traction. These can be marked as pending for now.
Before you mark any links good or bad, look at the profile information provided for each link. Here are some things you can assess in Monitor Backlinks -
Usually, if you pay a visit to the link, you will determine there and then whether it's a useful link or link to a low-quality page or domain.
Sometimes you'll get links that redirect to link farms, pornography sites, gambling sites, and other irrelevant sites. You don't need to assess the profile of these links to determine whether it's spammy or not, it's spammy, and that's all that can be said, so these can be added to your list of disavowing links. See the image below.
How long does it take to analyze your links profile?
Well, that depends on how many links you have. I went through 3,500 links in just under a week. But I'm blogging full-time anyway. Of course, if you have more than this, you'll be in for the long haul.
Yes, it is one of the most tedious things you will ever do for your website, but it will be worth it.
For any links you've added to your bad list, you should make every attempt to contact the website owner and ask for the link to be removed.
How effective is this?
Well, from my experience, not very. The problem is that you'll come across many spam sites that have no contact details. Or, you may be able to contact a website owner and get zero response.
Sometimes, the most authoritative sites I have backlinks from have been flagged with 'low-quality signals detected.' Confusing or what, right?
All I can say is that you use your common sense and if you believe a website is high-quality and the website owner has good intentions, leave the link as it is and mark it as Good. If a website looks shady, add it to your disavow list.
The next part is the easy part. Once you have all your links added to your disavow list in MonitorBacklinks, or SEMrush, you can export the entire CSV formatted list.
I should mention that you can submit your disavow links list directly via your MonitorBacklinks dashboard. Still, I highly recommend exporting and saving a copy on your local computer.
You can then go through it one final time before submitting it. This is an important step. You shouldn't just disavow links without investigating each one thoroughly.
I like to use an app called Atom to go through my disavowed links manually. You can use any text editor you want, of course. I use Atom because I like the find and replace built-in features.
You can add a little note at the top of the list about the links you are disavowing. Use the hashtag symbol before adding your notes. Make sure the prefix domain: is added before any URL you want to reject. If you're disavowing only a URL, then start with https://... Here is an example -
# This is my list of disavowed links domain:link1 domain:link2 # Disavowed URL https://...url1.../page1/ https://...url2.../page2/
Warning: The disavow tool is an advanced feature and should be used with absolute caution. Google stresses that if misused, your website’s performance in Google’s search results can be impacted.
Before you submit your file, be sure that you have saved it as a .txt file. If your file doesn't end with this extension, rename the file and place .txt at the end.
To submit your disavow file to Google, make sure you've logged into your Google Webmaster account. Then go to the link located below -
Select the website you want to disavow from the drop-down menu. On the next page, read the advanced feature message and click on Disavow Links.
Choose the file you want to submit. Again, make sure it's the file ending with .txt, then click on Submit. Confirm, and then you're done!
OK, you're done telling Google to ignore all of those spammy and shady-looking links when crawling and ranking your site and pages in the search engines. You should still save a copy of the disavow file on your local computer for the future. I'll explain why next.
Cleaning up your backlinks profile takes more than just disavowing some links. To maintain a healthy backlink profile, you have to continue monitoring it regularly.
Don't forget, you also need to keep an eye on your rankings and traffic. It will take some time before you can see the results. Some website owners report they've seen results within a few days, while others a few weeks or more. Have patience.
Going back to the results, your traffic and rankings may improve, or they may drop! Don't panic if they drop. In the past, I've noticed a decrease in traffic and degrading in rankings after disavowing spammy links.
Yes, some spammy links may well carry good link juice; it's just the way it is. And disavowing them may hurt your rankings. But, remember that they are spammy links, after all. You'd be better off leaving them disavowed and continuing to create great content that attracts natural backlinks.
Check out the following article on this topic!
So, getting back to this post - Add auditing your backlinks to your weekly schedule. One of the features in MonitorBacklinks is 'Link Changes.' You can view all the latest links recently found pointing to your blog or website. You can then decide whether any new spammy links should be added to the disavow file you saved on your local computer.
When I need to add new links to my disavow file, I add a little note at the bottom with the month or date. Here's an example -
# November Links domain:link1 domain:link2 # October Links domain:link1 domain:link2
This way, I can keep the disavow file I submit to Google up to date every quarterly. You may find submitting a disavow file every three months too much, so make it six-monthly if you need to.
As well as monitoring your backlinks and rankings regularly, it would help if you made every effort to continue building natural backlinks.
Now, building natural backlinks doesn't have to involve physically going after them. Simply creating the best content possible can get you backlinks naturally, as I mentioned.
While I was going through my own backlink profile, I found a boatload of reputable websites that have referred to one of my articles with a nice backlink. This is great, and that's what you want for your website or blog too. Create content that demands to be linked to.
Don't forget to check out my post on building natural backlinks for more details.
Right then, we've come to the end of this post. Here's to hoping that you found it super useful, resourceful, and valuable. I hope you find success in cleaning up your backlink profile, and if you've been a victim of negative SEO and lost rankings and organic traffic, I hope you regain some of that back soon.
MonitorBacklinks and SEMrush are just a few of the many tools you can use to analyze your backlinks. If you prefer to use another backlink tool, check out this post with the top backlink tools recommended for bloggers.
All the best!