As you build and grow your site, you’re going to accumulate links pointed at your pages. These links are a fundamental backbone of the Internet, and as such, are a fundamental part of Google’s ranking algorithm. Links are important to your growth, but they can act as a double-edged sword. Links from the wrong kinds of sites can have no benefit at all, while some links can actually earn you search ranking penalties.
Links, as far as a website is concerned, come in four basic flavors. These are the exceptional, the good, the neutral and the bad. What works as an exceptional link to your site might be merely neutral to another, and a lot of factors go into that determination.
Exceptional links are links that come into your site from a high quality source that is highly related to your industry. In the world of SEO, for example, a link to your site from Moz might be an exceptionally valuable link. These links can boost your ranking significantly, funnel in quite a bit of traffic and are all around excellent to have.
Good links are links that come into your site from a source that is somewhat more removed than the exceptional links. Either they are lower quality sites, less popular sites or sites that are less related to your industry. Again using SEO as an example, a link from Bob’s SEO Blog with 100 monthly readers might be on the lower end of good. It’s related, but it’s not high profile enough to really benefit you organically.
Neutral links are links that come into your site from a source that, frankly, doesn’t matter to your site. A link from a page with two monthly readers, a link that’s never clicked, a link from a site that’s only barely related to your industry; these are neutral. They don’t hurt you, but they don’t do much to help your ranking either.
Bad links are links that come into your site from drastically different sources or, more often, from spam blogs. A link from a blog with bot-created spun content is going to be damaging, if not now, then in the future. Google’s Penguin algorithm works to detect negative links and penalize sites using them. Additionally, such bad links can be part of an actual Negative SEO attack, aimed at your site to hurt your ranking.
Bad links are understandably a problem. Sometimes, you have no control over them. You may not even know they exist until you pull a backlink profile and begin to look it over. Other times, you may have contracted a black hat SEO company unwittingly, only to be left with the damage when you drop them for a more legitimate company or an in-house solution. Yet other times, you may have fallen for a Fiverr scam and purchased a few thousand backlinks, convinced of their value by a compelling salesman.
No matter the cause of the negative links, you’re still left with a penalty, either active or impending. You can’t let bad links sit; they’re like ticking time bombs, ready to drop the ranking of your site overnight.
The typical process for dealing with bad links looks like this:
This can be a very time consuming process, particularly if your site is large and old, having spent years accumulating links without auditing them. In particular, step 3 can take an exceptional amount of time, step 4 is never guaranteed to work and step 5 requires waiting for Google’s processing.
Smart webmasters seek to automate any process they can, which is why tools like Remove’em exist.
Remove’em is a tool designed to automate the entire process. You can visit their site for a quick, basic link audit that will give you an idea of how many individual links are pointing to your site, and how many of those links are bad. You can then purchase the service to take action against these links.
Depending on how many links it flags, you may be best off spending the time to do a manual link audit. Generally, if you have fewer than a few hundred or a thousand bad links, you can find them yourself. It’s when you stretch into the thousands or tens of thousands that you really need outside assistance.
Remove’em will, once you purchase the service, go through the process of identifying each bad link and creating a list of the bad domains. The service will then send out letters to every domain flagged and request that each link on the domain be removed. After processing, it will generate a report you can submit to the Disavow Links tool to further remove negative links.
Remove’em is a powerful tool, and for large sites, it’s probably well worth the price. For smaller sites, the work can be done manually, and the expensive automation isn’t quite as cost-effective.
Remove’em also has a few worrying issues. For one thing, there’s a bit of a discrepancy between the free report and the report once you have paid for the service. The free report gives you a large and worrying total of every negative link it finds on your site, and it might be stretching the definition of negative to bolster the number. The larger the number, after all, the more likely it is you’ll want to subscribe to get the issue taken care of automatically.
Once you subscribe, however, the number drops significantly. Rather than count every individual link, they claim, the new total is the number of unique domains. Ten links from one spam domain will only count as one entry, because Remove’em only needs to send one message to get them all removed. All in all, it’s worryingly transparent.
The other issue is the automation itself. Remove’em is good at what it does, but it’s still a machine making judgments based on criteria programmed into it. It’s entirely possible it will flag neutral and good links, for one reason or another. It’s also possible it will miss legitimately detrimental links. Before taking any action, you are well advised to manually review the so-called negative links to make sure they are, indeed, negative links. If you’re on the fence regarding the cost versus the time saved, this can be a big influence on your decision.
If your site is large enough, however, or if you’ve been the target of a negative SEO attack, Remove’em can be a life saver.
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