Links and Copied Content: The Removal Process

Oops Blog Networks DeindexedOk penguin…thanks a bunch. SERPs are seemingly favouring sites that have stolen our content, engaged in link farms and/or had some automated link building done when we’ve been squeaky clean with ours…well, almost squeaky clean.

The bottom line is that link profiles have been hit once more by the recent Penguin update and there is a growing favour of onsite optimisation in response to this. For this reason websites everywhere are looking into the removal of questionable links and the taking down of any stolen content with renewed vigor. Today we’ll discuss the process and what to do if things get ugly.

1. Audit
First thing’s first, step one is to log on to Webmaster Tools and take a look to see if Google has flagged the site in question for any manipulative link building tactics, if this gets the all clear then a quick check of the Google update tool from Sistrix is recommended. This tool is a great free resource that matches a websites visibility with the known times and dates of previous Google updates. You can then assess if the site has lost any visibility in direct proportion to an update and if so, which one – if its penguin you’ll want to go on to stage two…

2. Identification
There are paid tools such as Link Detox and Link Risk that identify the bad links for you – although be careful using either of these as a recent blog post showed a degree of inaccuracy and some big discrepancies’ between the two tools and their judgment of what are toxic links.

If you’re looking for a free link tool Open Site Explorer by Moz gives you a good idea of what links are pointing to your site (this is limited to 3 searches per day for non Moz Pro members), another great resource is Majestic SEO for which searches on sites you own are free – Majestic SEO tends to be more comprehensive than OSE from personal experience.

Whichever tool you decide to use, nothing assesses a link analysis report quite like the human mind. You know when you look at a link – however its been identified – whether it could be causing some harm, if it could then its time to remove it.

NB: A lot of links may have simply stopped passing PageRank and therefore link equity to the site in question, a questionable looking link is not immediately indicative of a penalty.

3. Manual Removal
It’s long and its tedious, but you need to visit the website that the link is from, get the contact information and contact the site owner asking for the link to your site to be removed. Many of the lower quality sites however do not have contact information visible in the form of an email address or even a contact form so you may need to use a service such as to locate the host of the website and get more information to allow you to track the site owner down.

4. Disavow
As a last resort only (I think Google may have mentioned that just once or twice…) you can disavow the link, telling Google that you do not take responsibility for it. By taking this step you are implying that you have already taken the usual manual steps to remove it but have not been successful and as a last resort, are telling Google that you do not want these links to count towards your site. The process to Disavow is simple enough, log on to Webmaster Tools and follow the instructions to submit a notepad .txt file noting down the links, you want discrediting from your site, you are also able to Disavow entire domains in addition to single links and add notes explaining the steps you have taken manually to remove the link/s prior.

This process concerns content, as mentioned in the introduction this can and does get stolen and used to credit other sites that achieve good rankings despite the site owners having not put in the work. As far as I can see algorithms seem to penalize for copied content as a whole, an algorithm that looks at the date that content was originally added to ascertain on what site it first appeared might be a good idea for the future – lets hope.

DMCA facilitate takedowns of stolen content boasting fast acting results of as fast as a just few hours to get the content removed. DMCA also facilitate the future protection of your site from copyright with website badges that act as a deterrent, a rather less long-winded process than link removal!