Conduct a Link Audit
Over the last few weeks we have been stressing the importance of garnering natural links and following Google's linking guidelines as you work on improving your link profile. Google's punishments for unnatural links can be quite harsh so it is important that you keep track of the links that are pointing to your website and the quality of those links. There are many sites out there that can help with this process, but an excellent, free place to start is Google's Webmaster tools.
The first step is to make sure Google hasn't already identified any unnatural links coming to your site.
- Log in to Webmaster Tools
- Click on Search Traffic > Manual Actions
Here is where Google will let you know if they have found any webspam issues on your site, including unnatural links.
It is a good idea to check in on your links periodically, even if Google has not identified any harmful links, just to make sure you know where your links are coming from and to nip in the bud any questionable links that could hurt you in the future.
- Log in to Webmaster Tools
- Click on Search Traffic > Links to Your Site
- Download "who links the most" and "how your data is linked" reports
If there are links pointing to your website that you don't recognize, or if there is spammy sounding anchor text (such as "cheap pharmaceuticals" or "pay day loans"), it's time to investigate further.
Signs of trouble include
- Links that appear on a domain that isn't indexed in Google (you can research domains by typing "site:www.sitename.com" on Google Search.)
- Links from pages that have a malware or virus warning when you attempt to visit them
- Links that appear on the same page as other spammy links
- Paid links you may have forgot about
If you find any of these issues, you should attempt to contact the site owners and request the links be removed. If this fails or is impossible, you can use Google's disavow links tool to ask Google not to count the link against you. Finally, if Google has already found you have unnatural links pointing to your site, you should request a review from the Manual Actions page for Google to reconsider after you've cleaned up the links.
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