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The "Removing Bad Links" Lesson is part of the full, Modern Search Engine Optimization (SEO) course featured in this preview video. Here's what you'd learn in this lesson:

If your site has bad links that have been indexed by Google, Mike reviews tools and tips to eliminate these links and inform Google that you disavow them. Mike takes questions from students.

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Transcript from the "Removing Bad Links" Lesson

>> Let's talk about what happens in the event that maybe you do hire a contractor. And you find out that some of this stuff has been done. So what you'll end up with is in Google Search Console, you'll see very visible alerts. That you have basically bad links.

[00:00:18] And what these often look like they're like rings of sights that just contain pages full of keywords. And cloned copies of blog posts, and in the comment section of sites they'll just be like links to various places. And it basically is a tangled web of an attempt to gain the SEO system.

[00:00:37] It's all of these sites linking to each other. Some of these like Black Hat companies they'll just own a bunch of domains, and deploy a bunch of WordPress sites. And that they will look like there's sort of content there. But the only purpose they serve is to try to build a little credibility and then lend it out.

[00:00:55] Or to try to be like those 100 purple circles that all point to a single entity to try to boost its credibility. Oftentimes, very often, these these nests will be identified. And they will be penalized, and anything they'll link to what we penalize. So you are responsible, like when Black Hat efforts happen and they refer to your site.

[00:01:22] The assumption is, that the business owner or someone associated with that made it happen. So you need to take responsibility, for cleaning up these bad links. The first thing you should try to do, is reach out to the owners of these sites. And see if you can get your link taken down.

[00:01:41] If you get no response or if this strategy doesn't play out, you can use Google's Disavow Tool. Which is where you basically formally say, when you're building the edges in this graph that connects all of our sites like this. This is not an intentional edge, this was not something that I wanted, something that I asked for.

[00:02:02] And please remove it from consideration when evaluating the weight of my site. Otherwise when these circles of self linking Black Hat SEO sites, when that gets taken down. Your site's gonna get dragged down with it. I mentioned earlier about trading links with vendors and stuff. So when we talk about referring to a vendor, one link is fine.

[00:02:31] Setting up an arrangement where you all like make 100 links to each other site. That will be detected quickly. And you will be penalized in the same way as these self linking Black Hat SEO sites will be penalized. So the idea is you can't, lending a whole bunch of credibility back and forth.

[00:02:50] That's, that is not going to be effective. If you do need to link to someone's site very very often, make sure that in your a tag you add <rel= "nofollow''. And this is an instruction to the web crawlers that they should basically disregard as you lending credibility other site.

[00:03:09] So site will still get crawled, right? They'll still traverse it, you'll alert if link ends up being broken. But you're basically saying, this is not endorsement, right? This is just like don't read this, when you're calculating the PageRank. And dead links are easier than ever to remove from your site, they show up in.

[00:03:31] If you set Google Webmaster Tools up to send you periodic reports of any kind. This is the kind of alert that you can't even turn off, right? It'll tell you that here are broken links, we discovered these. And you should fix those as soon as possible, because letting those linger indicates that your site is not maintained.

[00:03:50] And up to date and you will, other people will leapfrog you due to the recency bias we discussed earlier. So let's talk a little bit about ads. So this is an area I have very direct experience with, having built several products for Yahoo that are in the ad space.

[00:04:15] Ads are a tool that pretty much every business should use. Yes,
>> Just before we get to,
>> Yeah.
>> Far ahead. Makita asks why Google says to use Disavow only if everything else fails.
>> So Google says use Disavow only if everything else fails. Because they don't want their system to be choked in all likelihood, right?

[00:04:42] And and oftentimes when you end up with these links, there are a lot of them. And they're the result of some consultant who owns this, like spam ring of placing them there. And they basically want you to take it up with them first, and to use them as a last resort.

[00:05:03] It's not easy to submit a disavow requests, you have to basically affirm that this was not me. I do not own the site. And they make it a last resort kind of process there. It's not a really easy automated tool. It is sending a list for submission and they'll get approved later on.

[00:05:28] So their hope is you don't have to do that.
>> Is that method of, [COUGH] Could you use it to tank a competitor? Is it used in bad sense? Everywhere if the domain owner is responsible, then you could set up bad links to their, [CROSSTALK]
>> You totally could.

[00:05:52] I mean, that's like a, [CROSSTALK]
>> I did figure it.
>> [LAUGH]
>> You think about this? [CROSSTALK]
>> Conferences and they would share stories about all this Black Hat stuff. Or they get sites taken down and blacklisted, and it would be like months before they come up.

[00:06:08] And running as they appeal to Google and,
>> Yep.
>> I mean it's a constant battle out there.
>> It is, and the same goes for reviews by the way,
>> Right
>> Like all the time I mean, you see app reviews that come out. If you wanna see some interesting reviews, go look at the the mobile app for any cable news site.

[00:06:28] And you've got big spikes at one star and five star from. So, there is bias and there is sort of behavior, that is sort of coming from competitors. The thing you can do about that, is to pay attention to it. And to try to hide it off as soon as you can.

[00:06:49] There are firms that exist for the purpose of repairing reputation. I haven't worked with any of them personally. So I'm not going to name them or say that it's a good idea to hire one in particular. But it's a thing, right? It is the online equivalent of throwing a brick through your competitors window.

>> Yeah.
>> So, also not a good idea, [LAUGH]
>> Just like security you have to kind of understand the attack trajectories. And then try to figure out how you can mitigate them if they do happen. It's the same one.
>> Yeah.
>> And reviews and stuff like that.

>> The hope is that by the time you're on your competitors radar, you've built up enough of a reputation. That hit is not gonna take you completely out. And this is why, this is a good reason to start early, right? So before you're even on the radar of people you've already reached out, their customers have heard about you.

[00:07:49] Before their competitors have heard about you.
>> One thing to add with that is transparency as well. I mean a lot of case studies were, if your competitors are attacking your website and writing false reviews. Then to actually respond to that, you have that feature even on Google Maps.

[00:08:04] Where you can respond and say, this was not accurate, or we've tried to locate this customer. But they never shopped and they weren't on our record. And I think a lot of the, it's about that communication as well. So that when others see it, they can note you have responded correctly to it.

>> That's a great point. Yeah, there's nothing that more easily diffuses an angry customer. Than that calm, helpful, and polite response saying like, here's our support number. I'm waiting by the phone right now to. Even if you think it's malicious, that's a good thing you can,
>> Couldn't make the other way though I mean, if you've got like a psychopath on,

>> [LAUGH]
>> Whose like they didn't serve me. Again it's like, are you really gonna bother responding to that?
>> I would.
>> Yeah?
>> I would, I think the thing. So what you have to remember there is you have to be objective driven. And you have to, it's not really about the the principle of whether this person was correct or not.

[00:09:01] It's about whether your response to that person, will take the sharp edge off of the way that looks. If a stranger came by and saw it on the side,
>> That doesn't makes sense.
>> Right?
>> You're not responded to him you're respond to this first whose coming later to read.

>> It's about your business's reputation, and that is a quantifiable thing. And what you do should be oriented towards that. So go, scream into a pillow. And then write the,
>> [LAUGH]
>> Write the response because just, that's what it's all about. A new customer comes by, they can either see that with no response whatsoever.

[00:09:36] And Gosh, maybe responses to other feedback and they feel, they responded to the thing about. I found a fly in my soup, but not this one here, and like.
>> Sure.
>> It would look odd to their eyes.
>> Sure yes.
>> There is a way that they could, a lens through which they could see that they would make them not do business with you.

[00:09:54] So you just wanna diffuse that, and that's the only objective.