I personally participated in multiple backlink analysis projects and cleaning up questionable link profiles. My experience in detecting and removing malicious backlinks, a process I call "pruning", has been in great demand following the launch and various updates of Google Penguin.
Below is my methodology for identifying backlinks that damage a site's organic positioning and visibility , for requesting removal and tracking the process for its management flow and for communicating its removal efforts to Google. The stages are:
Before you can begin the process of clearing incoming links, you need to inventory your current backlinks . So we must detect as many backlinks as possible of the site for which we have to analyze the link profile.
For this purpose I use link intelligence tools , which allow me to find out which pages are linking your site. In addition to providing a list of inbound links, these tools also provide us with multiple information about each backlink.
There are multiple link intelligence tools, I personally use:
It is necessary to use multiple link intelligence tools, to get as many backlinks as possible and get closer to reality, as no single tool contains all the backlinks to a site.
After collecting all the backlinks that point to our domain, in this phase the backlinks collected by the various tools are verified to obtain the following information:
Among other things, the backlinks reported by the link intelligence tools may no longer be present and therefore it must be ensured that they are actually published.
After manual analysis of the backlinks, a list of toxic and unnatural backlinks is generated. The list is created based on irrelevant niches, position, domain authority, type of linking page and many other factors.
In this phase, the effective removal of the backlink is evaluated whenever possible. Therefore, we collect the contact information of the sites from which we want to remove the backlink and contact them through the contact form, e-mail address or any other possible approach in order to continue further with the process of removing the links.
From an operational point of view, the contact information of the site owner or webmaster may be available on the site. In other cases, you can use a whois directory to search for information about the site owner. I include the following information on a spreadsheet:
The analysis of the backlink profile is the most important phase of the whole process. All links are checked and verified. The backlink audit process must be done very carefully, in order to avoid the removal of inbound links from valuable sites.
To identify low quality backlinks , you need to order or assign a value to each backlink that we have collected and verified previously. This process requires a lot of time and attention from the SEO consultant , as it is necessary to manually check the pages hosting the backlink and judge each resource on its authoritativeness and relevance to our site.
In this phase the backlinks are mainly labeled in this way:
I personally believe that these tools can only provide an indication, but they are not completely reliable. Therefore, I prefer to proceed with the manual analysis of at least the most suspicious backlinks: after a certain amount of analysis, I can get an idea of the backlinks that are unnatural or irrelevant based on the anchor text or the domain name that links.
After performing the manual backlink removal process, we have to work on those that have not yet been removed for the most varied reasons (for example, because many times the site owners request a payment to remove the link, or we simply have not had a response ).
A disavow file allows a site owner to tell Google which backlinks they don't want counted in the PageRank calculation. It is actually a message to Google to say "please ignore these backlinks".
Before starting to create the disavow file, we will have to make a decision on each backlink if we want to refuse at the single URL level or at the whole domain level:
Reject URL : it means that Google will ignore any backlink coming from a specific URL, such as Sito.com/pagina-col-backlink.
Reject Domain : means that Google will ignore all backlinks from any URL in that domain, such as Site.com.
In my personal experience, I've never felt the need to decline at the URL level. The reason for this choice is that sites that have posted an unnatural backlink are unlikely to come from a domain from which you might want a link in the future.
In the case of manual penalties , after trying to remove all the backlinks deemed harmful and uploading the disavow file, a reconsideration request is sent to Google so that it can review your site and remove the penalty. It may take a few days for the request to be processed by the Google team.
Now that you know my method of backlink analysis, if your site has suddenly lost a lot of organic traffic, this verification can probably solve your problem.
If you regularly run Link Building campaigns, monitoring your site's link profile is a prudent and defensive SEO strategy. It allows you to avoid or in any case minimize the risk of algorithmic and manual penalties.