We’ve been asked many times to articulate in a bit more detail what is involved in an historical link cleanse. As such, I thought I’d spend some time looking at the steps that DSM take to help clients who have seen their site’s authority, rankings and traffic suffer as a consequence of poor quality links in their profile.
Whilst the reasons for the existence of these links are many and varied, we will save that analysis for another day – here we will focus simply on providing some clarity on the steps required to move forward with your search marketing.
Our audit is aimed at analysing all inbound links manually with reference to a variety of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ factors. From this analysis, we can then implement an effective and targeted historical link cleanse.
We collate a full list of inbound links to client’s site, using Open Site Explorer and, using various factors, we assess the quality of all links.
Purely mathematical factors are applied automatically to provide a broad filter of the link profile. Once this has provided a benchmark, links are subjected to a human audit where qualitative factors are considered – such as quality of content on page and relevance of theme.
Examples of factors considered:
- Google Index Status
- Follow/No Follow
- Provides detail to inform variety within overall link profile
- Presence of sitewide links
- Sitewide links have lost significant impact since mid-00s and can be a risky option so worthy of deeper inspection.
- Tagging of page
- Does page have relevant and appropriate tagging – for page itself and for purposes of link to client
- Page Authority
- Moz assessment of page
- Domain Authority
- Moz assessment of domain
- Google Page Rank
- Google assessment of page
- External links
- Does the link provider have an active and successful link profile of its own?
- Number of outgoing links
- Massive outgoing links will devalue quality of link to client. Moreover, they are evidence of poor quality. Inspect with prejudice.
- Age of domain
- Young domains tend to have lower authority value and are common in low quality link network schemes.
- Location of domain
- A natural link profile will tend to have vast majority of links from domains located in same country as client domain.
- Theme of domain
- The quality of a link neighbourhood can infect client domains – avoid links from toxic sites, along with suspicious ones (hacking, betting, pornography, etc)
- Common registrant / IP / DNS / Google Accounts
- If you have links from various sites that share these roots, they may be examples of link networks.
- Link Growth Velocity
- If a site’s link development features abnormal spikes (or drops), it can be an example of link network establishment or abandonment.
- Social Media Activity
- Lack of activity (or existence) on social media is a valid factor in assessing “real-ness” of a site.
- Link Directory?
- Many link directory were setup simply to artificially inflate link popularities and/or sell links from. Inspect quality of site.
- Article Directory?
- Article directories were the successor of link directories and often also automatically filled with useless articles just to get a link from as many domains as possible. Inspect quality of site.
From this analysis, we develop a traffic light system detailing the links which require cleansing:
- Red – immediate cleansing
- Amber – monitored in (scheduled) future reviews
- Green – require no further work
Work is then instigated to remove the ‘bad’ links.
We identify contact details for site owners. Contact details are obtained through a variety of sources, including
- Contacts on site itself
- Domain hosting details
- Whois details
- Social media accounts
Where we can obtain a working contact, we send a polite email, providing details of the link and requesting that it be taken down. All emails (and subsequent conversations) are collated.
After a period of a few weeks, we then submit a list to Google directly asking them to ‘disavow’ any of the outstanding links along with (full and detailed**) evidence of the attempts to remove them ourselves. This list will include
- Links that we could not obtain contact details for
- Links about which we received no reply to our requests
- Links about which we received “no” to our requests.
- Links about which we received payment demands to our requests.
If there has been a specific (and documented) penalty applied to the site (usually articulated by Google via Webmaster tools), we will subsequently, submit a reconsideration request to Google to formally re-assess the site’s ranking.
Over the next tranche of caching cycles (approximately 4-5), we analyse the impact of the historical link cleanse (using some of the factors stated above) and, if deemed necessary, revisit the amber section of the initial link cleanse.
We would emphasise strongly that any positive impact of a link cleanse will ALWAYS be tempered by the negative impact on the size of a site’s link profile. It is, therefore, imperative, that a link cleanse is accompanied by a significant attempt to rebuild the link profile (with good quality links, adhering to Google’s best practice) as a matter of urgency.
If you would like to discuss this in more detail with one of our experienced staff – whether it be a link cleanse or a recovery link-building programme, please don’t hesitate to get in contact.
**Google has stressed in the past how important it is to ensure all efforts are made to eliminate links before resorting to the disavowal submissions and it is vital for any submission that evidence of this activity is presented to Google.