If someone told me 6 years ago when I started out in SEO that by 2013 I’d be doing a project to remove all the directory links I was building at the time, I’d tell them to shove their career when the sun don’t shine! Anyway, here we are and the reality is I’ve had a few projects, inherited from agencies who shall remain nameless, where there’s been no getting away from the need to do a cleanup operation on their link profile.
Its a horrible job and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone but if you do find yourself doing one of these link removal projects here’s a quick tip I’ve picked up that I haven’t seen in every other long boring blog post on the link removal subject.The reality of trying to get links removed is that these tools to automate the finding of contact details for site owners and such-like don’t work. They’re fine for making you look clever in blog posts and presentations but when it comes to the crunch if you email 1000 spammy site owners to the address on their whois record you might get 500 bouncebacks, 497 no-replies and 3 links actually removed.
That’s because the worst links in your profile are going to be the ones with the site owners who are least motivated to help you. If your sites being damaged by a link from their site, you can be pretty sure they’ve given up on that site and have moved on to the next one long ago.
The good news is that in time these sites will all die off as domain reg and hosting contracts expire, taking your dodgy links offline with them. The bad news is that if you need the links down now you can’t rely on the webmasters to be forthcoming with their contact details.
One thing I’ve found with these link removals is that the worst links tend to be the blog network ones. The one’s that were really smashed by the Penguin updates. Anecdotal evidence would suggest to me that if you’re able to get rid of the worst of these blog network links then you’re much more likely to pass a reconsideration, even if stuff like forum profiles and dodgy directory links are still live.
Most of the time with these networks they’ll be private Whois and your client won’t have the details of who placed them (usually a fly by night off-shore link builder who the CEO hired 3 years ago in my experience!). But generally speaking when you find a blog network site like this one (which I shan’t be linking to) there’s going to be links going out to a bunch of different sites, not just your clients;
So what I do now is instead of trying to track down the site owner from details on the site (there never are any), I grab all the sites which are linked from that blog using screaming frog’s spider tool to grab all the external URL’s;
Then export those URL’s and run them through one of those contact finder tools like this nice free one from SEO Gadget. That will then give you a target list of a bunch of different companies who probably also brought links off the same guy.
They’ll probably be plenty of dud’s in that list like spam PPP sites or false positives like wordpress.org but there’s usually a good handful of proper companies, like your client who have more than likely fallen foul of the same penalties as you due to their link building misadventures.
So what I do with that list is for any site where I’ve found an email address I send them something like this;
This is probably a slightly strange question but I wondered if you or anyone at your company had the contact information of a website called [name of spam site]?
Basically I noticed this website links to your website [their website] – they also link to my site [my clients website] and I’m trying to track down the site owner.
I don’t know if you’re aware of the link you have on their website but if you’re anything like us you probably don’t want to be associated with this spam site. We also believe that link is damaging our rankings in Google, and yours.
Could you do me a favour and ask around your marketing team and see if anyone knows anything about this website and the site owner? If you’re able to find any details for them I’d be happy to ask them to remove your link from the site at the same time as mine.
Don’t expect a million responses but you’ll generally get a few grateful replies and in my experience a surprising number of leads when it comes to tracking down the blog owner.
That only gets you so far of course, you still need to convince the blog owner to remove the link. I don’t mess around with this, offer them cash right off the bat to remove the link and your response rate will increase 10 fold. As far as I’m aware Google doesn’t have a policy against paid un-linking (yet!)