When Link Rehabilitation Is A Viable Option

Link Rehab?  I have to admit I never would have envisioned back in the day that link rehabilitation would become a necessary link building strategy.  But here we are.  As a quick primer, link rehabilitation is the process of cleaning up, removing, and modifying paid and/or unearned links that point to your site that you purposely pursued only for search rank benefit and obtained regardless of your content’s merit.

No link rehabilitation project should begin without an honest evaluation as to the potential for success, and successful link rehabilitation will only be possible in very specific scenarios.

The reality is that some sites will be able to clean up the mess, mitigate the damage to their reputation, and re-establish rank.  I’ve seen it happen.  I’ve made it happen.  It isn’t easy.  Other sites will never, and I mean NEVER be able to make enough of a change to their inbound link profile to instill algorithmic confidence.  Those sites are on linking’s death row, with no chance of a call from the Governor or Google.  Death row sites are actually the easiest to identify via their inbound link signature. I can review a citation analysis of few hundred or a few thousand inbounds and see how bad the damage is, just by scanning URLs. Drop a list of URLs into a spreadsheet and play around with some macros and filters, and when a site’s inbounds are junk, you see it. A polluted river of URLs.

For site owners, the the single most challenging aspect to link rehabilitation is knowing where you stand.  Is your site one of the fortunate ones that can benefit from rehab?  After all, nobody wants to spend three months cleaning up a toxic link dump if it wont matter anyway.

Here’s how I evaluate a site to determine if it can be effectively rehabilitated

First, I ask questions about site history. How long has the site been around?  Did the site ever rank well? If so, when?  Did the site’s rank suddenly drop, or was it a slow steady decline?  If you’ve never done any active link building yet your site has ranked well, but now isn’t, that’s good news. But, if I find out your site has been around for less than a year, ranked well, but all your links came from LetsSwapSkankyLinks.doh, and now you’ve disappeared from the rankings, that’s bad news.

Second, I run some backlink analysis to see if the site shows a history of attracting legitimate inbounds, aside from the junk.  If it has, there’s hope. More research is needed, though. I want to identify every link I can pointing at the site.  Since nasty inbound links can happen without our pursuing them, bad links alone are not enough to make a sound rehab decision.

Third, I look for evidence of specific inbound links that I know from years of experience could never have happened by accident.  This is an art, and it’s not just looking for links from URLs like BuyLinksRankHigh.dum.  It’s not that there’s a specific set of telltale signals that will work for every site, but I know it when I see them.  You can too.

Lastly, just because you want to clean up the mess and play nice does not mean you can clean up the mess. I hear case after case from people who are trying to get sites to remove paid links, with no success.

The resume of a perfect candidate site for link rehabilitation would have these five characteristics.

  1. Whether the site is brand new or ten years old, it will have legitimate linkworthy content in the first place.
  2. That linkworthy content will show prior citation evidence indicating it had attracted legitimate merit-driven links. And I don’t just mean a Yahoo and DMOZ directory link.
  3. The site owner will have a sense of the link building history of the site, and it’s a bonus if they know whether or not they have have used link building services, which ones, and when. (double bonus if they have a list of every link they bought)
  4. The site is continuing to add quality new content.
  5. The site is committed to playing by the rules.

That last one is non-negotiable.

If you aren’t sure you are a viable link rehabilitation candidate, I and many other legitimate link builders can help you decide. Even if you have to pay a consult fee to find out, that’s far better than wasting even more time and money chasing bad approaches that keep your site on death row without you even knowing it.

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

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Link Week Column


About The Author: has been creating linking strategies for clients since 1994. Eric publishes the strategic linking advice newsletter LinkMoses Private, and provides linking services, training and consulting via EricWard.com.

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