How To Remove Your Unnatural Inbound Links

Recently, Google went a little crazy — it’s cool; they came back — which subsequently caused anyone who owns a website to go a little nuts, too.

unnatural inbound links

Google has sent out oodles of the above messages over the past couple of months, and it has caused a lot of people to question if and how they should remove links in the first place.

I’m a strong believer in focusing on building good links rather than dwelling on the past, but sometimes, the past is so egregious that trying to remove your bad links is the only course of action. Here’s how to do it.

Start By Getting Your Data

First, pull an inventory of all of your backlinks. Use Open Site Explorer or Majestic SEO to pull this data to Excel. These are my columns:

  • Link Type
  • Website Name
  • Domain Name
  • Domain Authority
  • Anchor Text
  • Linked Page
  • Ease of Removal (1-5, 5 being very easy)
  • Harm (1-5, 5 being very harmful)
  • Priority (Ease X Harm)

That’s the easy part.

Analyze What You Have

Now, you have to manually vet out each of the sites to determine just how egregious the links are. Use to open a handful of them at once.

Sadly, there isn’t a science or formula to determine how terrible a link actually is, which makes this process a little harder and a lot more tedious. Still, here are my big red flags:

  • Unreadable content: Read 1-2 sentences and you can easily tell if the content was written by a bot.
  • Duplicate content: Copy and paste the first sentence into Google to see if it shows up across 100s of other sites.
  • No contact information.
  • Other links to random sites outside your industry, like oversees drugs, casinos, or adult sites.
  • Your link randomly inserted into the content with no context.
  • Your link is with others under a section called Friends, Partners, or Sponsors. That’s a clear sign to Google that it was paid.

Factoring in those, I’ll then put in my numbers for Ease of Removal and Harm, which will multiply it out to give me a priority of what I need to tackle first. Sort by high to low, and you’ve got your first targets.

Remove Only What You Need To

You may be tempted to do a mass exodus of every shady link. Don’t. Google is vague to tell you what specific links they noted as unnatural, so removing hundreds of links at once could end up causing you more harm than good.

Instead, start small. I’ll target the top 5-10 links (based off priority) each month to try to remove. Doing it in small chunks also allows you to not get consumed with the task because remove links can sometimes be even harder than getting one in the first place.

How To Remove The Links

How you go about removing them will largely depend on how you got a link placed in the first place. If you bought it from a link wheel or paid network, that’s easy: Just stop paying for it.

If you’re emailing webmaster directly, save yourself some time by creating a template email explaining who you are, the link you want removed, and where it lives on their site. Just link building, make it easy on the webmaster. If you don’t hear from them, follow up every 4 days or so. Boomerang makes this easy to keep track of.

Once you’ve had some success, communicate with Google. Keep detailed reports of your progress, and submit a reconsideration request. Then the only thing left to do is wait.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Link Building | Link Building: General | Link Week Column


About The Author: is an experienced digital strategist, content developer and search marketer. She's currently the SEO Manager for The Home Depot and has previously worked agency-side for mid-sized business and Fortune 500 companies. She speaks regularly on digital strategy, content development and inbound marketing at conferences nationwide. Follow her on Twitter @erinever.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn


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  • Muhammad Osama Hussain

    penguin update is algorithm change that’s not a manual action so I think reconsideration request is wasting of time ! just follow the guidelines, remove all the spammy tactics and they’d think about it.

  • Colby

    Sometimes the shady links come up as 403/Forbidden or the browser could not connect with the site (which is different from a 404/Page Not Found error). Using something like Lynx viewer allows you to see the domain and what is going on, which often reveals some kind of cloaking. Those are good ones to go after first.

  • SardoodledomSoap59
  • Adeel

    how to remove links on auto comments posting sites? its a impossible task of removing links.!! and its the real spamming as well.

  • Authority Buzz

    Is removing crappy links worth the effort? Wouldn’t time be better well spent focusing on building quality links?

  • Sydney Liang

    “If you bought it from a link wheel or paid network, that’s easy: Just stop paying for it.”
    >> Yes, But still the links would be there.

  • Peter Kern

    This is the worst idea to do, remove links. haha Don’t you see what G is trying to do? They want to destroy SEO. They want people think that link building do more harm than it helps. How can you remove thousands of spammy links? Would you spend days, months doing it? It would be the worst you can do. G has no idea how to rank websites anymore. They started this fight with SEO so people use only adwords.

  • Sanket Patel

    I think Google webmaster guidelines are more releible for removing unnatural links, we all know about it and after penguine panelties every one avoid unnatural techniques of SEO.

  • Peter Kern

    so what is your natural way of link building :) because link building is mostly unnatural :)

  • Shailender Kumar

    Is there any free tool to check all spammy and quality inboud links on your website?

  • Rav Sandhu

    As usual, another fluff article by SEL. In other words, find the bad links and email the webmaster. In the real world, webmasters don’t reply and link wheels are never paid for monthly. Reality is, your’e screwed. In my experience, Google is looking for you to remove a min of 1000 links (varies on site size). My advice is, do a 301 or just buy a new domain! Other option is, identify all the links which are not linking to the root and kill them pages. Create a new page and let the old one 404.

  • Zach Kong

    Personally, I think it boils down to the ratio of unnatural links vs relevant links from high authority pages. Sometimes, removing those unnatural links can be as tedious, if not more tedious and time consuming than building links.

    Therefore, instead of investing the time and effort to track and find ways to remove the links, won’t it be better to redirect those effort into building other more relevant links?

  • victortuszing

    I agree and you have right about the wasted time if you try removing the links, especially in large amounts. Furthermore, there is NO GUARANTEE that Google will lift the sanction. Actually, I’m speaking from experience – I removed all links from blogs, syndicated articles and links exchanges, and nothing positive happened…And I made this for TENS of sites…So, Google will NOT FORGIVE you because it doesn’t have any interest in this direction – the purpose of this mascaraed masked in fight against spamming is to oblige millions of small businesses to buy advertising via Google AdWords!

  • victortuszing

    Again, you have right – read my reply above.

  • victortuszing

    Excellent response!

  • Prime Veraquine

    Buy a new domain? That is the worst idea, if you happen to own for example will you throw away that multi-million name? I don’t think so!

  • Share code web

    Good article. Thanks


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