Link building is one of the most challenging aspects of successful SEO, especially if you want to do it in a white-hat, sustainable fashion. Because it is so challenging, many opt for the easy option of buying links on poor quality sites because it is quick, easy and has previously supported rankings in many verticals (even if those rankings were short term).
BUT WHAT IF IT’S TOO LATE AND YOU’VE ALREADY LOST YOUR RANKINGS DUE TO HISTORICAL MALPRACTICE? IS THERE A WAY BACK INTO GOOGLE’S GOOD BOOKS?
There are certainly different levels of penalties that Google apply, and the severity of that penalty dictates the best approach forward in each individual case. If your site has been de-indexed it’s bad news, and more often than not you’re probably better starting back at square one than trying to embark on recovery.
However, if you’ve seen rankings fall a few pages then there is certainly plenty you can do to try and get back to those dizzy heights. Below are the stages you, or your SEO agency
, should go through to establish the issues with your site and how you can recover:
The most important thing to do first is establish why you may have been penalised. Before assuming it is a link based penalty, check the potential issues below:
- Bad canonicals or redirects
- Hacked or hit with malware
- Site speed issues
- Robots.txt blocking
- Duplicate content
If you can confidently rule those issues out, move onto analysing the following link issues:
Anchor text is one of the key link building tools
, but if you have been over indulgent in your use of ‘exact match’ anchor text in your link building then this could serve as an indicator to Google that you aren’t playing by the rules.
- Do you have lots of optimised anchor text in your link profile?
- Is your link profile short of branded links?
- Do you have a large amount of links using 1 specific anchor text?
If your answer to any of the questions above is yes, you need to start balancing out your anchor text profile so it looks more natural.
- More branded links
- Links which mix target phrases with the brand
- More variation in anchor text links
- A reduction in large amounts of links which use the same anchor text
Position of Links
Next, look at the break down of where your links appear on a page. Links can appear in a variety of places; sidebars, in content, footer, link lists, comments etc. Look at your competitors who are ranking well and see what balance they have between the various positions of links. If you’ve been a bit naughty in the past, you’ve probably got a few too many links in comments or link lists and not enough editorial, in-content links. Consider the points below:
- Are the majority of your links from comments?
- Do you have a large amount of links in lists amongst other links?
- Do you only have a limited number of editorially endorsed links in copy?
- Do you have a lot of ‘sitewide’ links?
Again, if you’ve answered yes to any of the above, then you should be considering:
- Getting more links within copy
- Chasing down and removing unnatural sitewide links
- Attempting to remove any spammy commenting or link exchanges that have been done
In a natural link profile, you would expect to find links from a diverse array of sources, including blogs, niche directories, social profiles, article directories, forums and more. If your link profile relies too heavily on one or two of these types of link then you could be susceptible to penalisation.
- Is your profile overly heavy with generic directory links?
- Are you short of links from relevant blogs in your niche?
- Is there a lack of any footprint on social sites?
- Is there a high proportion of spammy, forum links?
If you’re saying yes to the points above then you need to start diversifying your link sources and focusing on the following points:
- Gain more editorial links on blogs and online magazines in your niche
- Increase your social presence – participate on Facebook, Twitter and create profiles on other social platforms
- Participate naturally in relevant forums, but don’t spam them with over optimised links
- Stop submitting to generic directories and find relevant, niche directories
Once you’ve analysed the points above you will be much more informed and better able to take the necessary action to recover from any previous misgivings. If particular areas highlighted above stand out in your situation, then they should be the focus of your recovery and most likely to deliver a successful outcome.
You should also focus on some of the key points below alongside those mentioned above:
- Remove banned/deindexed links
- Remove unnatural sitewide links
- Diversify the type of links you have beyond just directories/comments
- Remove groups of links on the same IP address or obvious networks
Having identified the most likely causes of your issues, you can now start to put things right. This is by no means an easy process, but it is a necessary job and in the long run will give you the best possible chance of jumping back on top in the search results.
Go through all the links you’ve identified as causing problems and get them removed/adapted/updated, whatever the cost. Where you can’t contact the relevant person or don’t receive a response, mark down the contact details and efforts you’ve made as this will support your Reinclusion Request.
Once all the malicious links have been removed, if you don’t automatically jump back into the search results then submit a full and frank Resubmission Request
to Google detailing what has been done in the past and what you’ve done to try and resolve it. Attach the list of sites you’ve contacted, as this will add further evidence that you’re trying to move away from the dark side.
With any penalty, there is no guarantee that you will be able to recover or how long a recovery might take, but if you follow the steps above then you will give yourself the maximum possibility of turning things around, making friends with Google again and regaining rankings.
If you'd like WMG to help out in your recovery process, whatever stage you're at, get in touch
and we'll do our best to advise on the best approach