According to Google, more than 400.000 manual web spam actions are taken, every month. Matt Cutts claims that only 5% of the webmasters that have received a manual penalty are submitting a reconsideration request. But, what happens when your website is penalized? Should you bury your website and move on, or should you try to recover it? If you are one of the webmasters that have received a slap from Google, keep reading, because I will show you how to identify and recover from a manual action or an algorithm penalty.
Identifying your penalty
There are two types of penalties, manual and algorithmic. The big difference between these two is that, with a manual penalty, you get a message on Google Webmaster tools, while, with an algorithm penalty, you can only see your rankings and traffic drop.
If you have received a message on your Webmaster Tools account, check if Google has provided any samples of links that are hurting your search engine rankings. Sometimes they provide one or two samples, and you can make an idea of what links are violating their guidelines. You can find some live examples of websites that have received a manual penalty here.
If your rankings have suddenly dropped and no message has been sent to you, most likely your website has suffered from a recent algorithm change. If this is your case, you have to go back in time, and match the day when your rankings have dropped, with the day that an algorithm update has occurred.
In 95% of the cases, both types of penalties are caused by the backlinks pointing to your website.
To get your rankings back, you have to identify the low quality backlinks that are hurting your rankings. I will show you how to do this, using Monitor Backlinks. If you don’t have an account yet, you can start your 30 days free trial now.
What are the bad links that can cause a penalty
The times when all links were considered good are long gone. Now all links must have a certain value and they must be related to your website.
These are some backlinks that can cause a penalty:
Not related to your niche or website
Gambling or porn websites
Links from websites that have been penalized by Google
Spammy blog comments, forum signatures and site-wide backlinks
Links from blog networks
Backlinks with over optimized anchor texts
Links coming from websites with duplicate content
How to identify the links that caused your penalty
To start, login to your Monitor Backlinks account. If you haven’t yet, connect your domain with Google analytics, and get in depth details about your website’s links. From your “backlinks” page, you can choose to view all the backlinks that Google considers. These are the dofollow ones, and those that you should pay attention to. From the right side of the table, click on the thumbs up icon.
Monitor Backlinks will now show you all the links that are passing PageRank, and that influences your rankings in Google. To sort your links, you have several options available.
1. Look for the links with no social media engagement
The first one is to sort your links by their social media activity. Click on “Social” to sort your links.
Most of the time the low quality backlinks have zero to very little social interactions. Keep in mind that it’s not always the case that the links without social activity don’t have good SEO value. Social signals don’t influence your rankings. However, this is a good way to start with the identifying process, and manually verify these links.
If you want to see the backlinks with the most social media engagement, you can click on social again. To check where these links have been shared the most, hold your mouse over each link.
2. Find the links with too many external backlinks
Another way to look for low quality links on your website is to sort them by the number of external backlinks. This type of links can be either spammy blog comments, forum signatures, or other unrelated links. For this, go to “Filters”, and click on “External”.
Hold your mouse over each link, to see the number of external links for the page that is linking to your website.
3. Check for links coming from blog networks
With Monitor Backlinks, you can also check if your website has multiple links coming from the same hosting IP, for example, a blog network. If this is the case on your website, you can see a number, next to the flag of the hosting country. To view all these links, click on that number.
Having too many links coming from the same hosting, can raise a flag to Google that you are doing something unethical, that is violating their guidelines. You can analyze these links and decide if you want to keep or remove them.
4. Verify the backlinks with low PageRank
You can check for low quality links by looking at their PageRank. For this, use the filters on top and check all the links with PageRank 0.
5. Over optimized anchor texts – Google Penguin penalty
If your website has been penalized by Google Penguin, you can check all the links using specific anchor texts. From the left menu, click on “Anchor text”.
Google Penguin is all about anchor text distribution on your backlinks. If you have over optimized a specific keyword, you can view this, on this page. The most frequently used anchor texts must be your website name, and not your money keywords.
Let’s say, for example, that our website has been penalized for over optimizing the keyword “Monitor Backlinks”. On the table, I can find the number of links using that anchor text.
Click on that link and find all the backlinks pointing to our website using the keyword “Monitor Backlinks.
If you want to find links that contain a word, for instance, “monitor”, you can click on “Filters” and then “Anchor”. Type the word you want to look for, and click search.
6. Check for spam TLDs
It’s very rare that an english website will attract numerous links from websites that are not written in english. You can filter your backlinks by their domain extension, as in the screenshot below.
If you want to identify all the backlinks coming from India, select .IN.
How to tag the bad links
And this is how you can sort your links, and determine what are the ones that can hurt your rankings. Once you have found such links, you can tag them, to identify later. For this, click on the settings button, on the right of each row.
On the popup box, add your tag, then tap enter and click submit.
Repeat the process with all the links that you want to remove or disavow.
To find the links that you have tagged, go to filters, and click on “tags”. Select your tag, and Monitor Backlinks will display all the backlinks that contain your tag.
Once you have found the backlinks with very small SEO value, and the ones that may have caused your penalty, you can try to remove or disavow them.
Request link removal
Before considering submitting a disavow report, you must try to remove the low quality backlinks. For this, you have to contact the webmasters with a quick and specific email request. Here is an example you can use:
Always include all the details necessary, so the webmaster can easily identify your URL and where it is placed.
Your email approach should be friendly, and always make your messages look like it was sent by a human, and not an automated system. To prove that you are the owner of the website, requesting a link removal, always use an email hosted by your website. For instance, Patrick@mywebsite.com.
After sending emails to all the webmasters, that you want to request a link removal, wait for one week. This way, they will have time to review your request and remove your link. Monitor Backlinks will send you daily alerts when any of your website links will be removed.
Sometimes, webmasters will request money for a link removal, but never pay a cent! Instead, you can disavow those links those links later.
How to create a disavow report with Monitor Backlinks
To export a disavow report with your bad links, select the links that you want to be included, then click on “With selected” and choose “Export Disavow”.
Monitor Backlinks will download your disavow report, and you can submit it to Google Webmaster Tools, to recover your rankings.
Be very careful when using the disavow tool, because once you have disavowed your backlinks, you can’t get them back. You should always try to remove the links first, and use this tool only as a last solution.
Check what Matt Cutts has to say about the tool
After you have successfully removed some of your bad links, and disavowed the ones you couldn’t delete, you can submit your reconsideration request. You should should only concentrate your efforts on the dofollow backlinks, as there is no reason to remove or disavow nofollow links. Matt Cutts has clearly said that Google does not count backlinks that have the nofollow attribute.
As long as you will keep building high quality backlinks from authoritative domains, your rankings and traffic will recover. To be safe from future algorithm updates, you have to keep an eye on your backlinks.
Ready to submit your reconsideration request? Start your 30 days free trial with Monitor Backlinks and determine what links have caused your penalty.