Let me tell you a very sad story of spammy SEO gone sour:
I own a company that offers historical translation services and we get most of our clients via Google… or at least we used to.
About a 18 months ago, I was feeling frustrated that my site was stuck around #6 on page 1 of Google for our main keywords. I had done everything right in terms of generating SEO-friendly content for the site, as well as natural link-building. It bothered me that none of the sites ranking above me were as relevant as mine.
Around that time, a famous make-money-online blogger started to promote her own (spammy) link-building service. It wasn’t cheap, but I knew that if we scored more translation projects, it would pay for itself. So I decided to give it a try. It gave OK results, but I didn’t go further.
Then in April 2012, disaster struck… AKA Google’s Penguin Update.
The bottom fell out of my rankings on my company site, and traffic dropped about 80%. Web-based leads dried up almost completely.
Since then, our rankings have improved slightly but my previously profitable business is still very quiet.
What should I do?
Brenda is certainly not alone.
Many other business owners are in the same boat. They invested in “grey hat” SEO services because it worked. Unfortunately, they are now paying a heavy price. Recent changes in Google’s algorithm have penalized sites with “unnatural” backlinks.
Google’s New Solution to Bad Links
Last week Google released its new Link Disavow Tool and it was created for people who have exactly this problem. As Google’s Matt Cutts said in the launch video, this tool is for people who have bought spammy links back to their site and now can’t get those links taken down. The tool allows us to report such links and ask Google not to take them into consideration when determining our rankings.
I appreciated that Matt was so candid about the nature of this problem and I’m actually feeling quite grateful to Google for providing hope to those of us who flagrantly did the wrong thing. (Read about my own experiment with buying spam links on Fiverr.)
This is an example of the kind of comment spam link that my $5 bought for me:
And yes, I’m embarrassed :(!
How to Use the Link Disavow Tool
Google’s Link Disavow Tool is just the right thing to help Brenda undo some of the damage to her site from spam links. Of course, this tool is brand new and it will be several months until we can get a clear picture of the impact of using the tool. But it is definitely worth a try.
This is what we did for Brenda’s site, step-by-step:
1. First we went to Google Webmaster Tools and chose the profile for the website in question.
2. In the left-column, we chose “Traffic”, then “Links to Your Site”
3. This gave me a list of 127 domains linking into her site. We downloaded this file and opened it in Excel.
4. In Excel, we deleted all of the good domains that represented genuine backlinks from quality sites – this was about 25% of the list. We cleaned up the file and then copy-pasted a list of about 100 domains into a .txt file. We inserted the word “domain:” before each name of each website (as instructed in this post on the Google Webmaster’s Tools blog). So the listings looked like this:
domain:antinoks.com domain:sputnikmusic.com domain:efactory.pl domain:meonplus.com domain:swisscorner.com domain:wikipediamaze.com
5. We uploaded this .txt file using the Disavow Links Tool.
6. That’s all, folks.
Now we have to sit tight and wait a few weeks while Google uses this data to discount the disavowed links – and hopefully this will result in a noticeable improvement in rankings.
This process took about 15 minutes and was very easy. So if you were hit by Penguin due to spammy links, consider using the Link Disavow Tool ASAP.
I’ll be posting an update on this soon, so check back here and or subscribe to our updates.