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Steps to take after receiving a link warning from Google

It used to be that Google was a secretive entity and it was all up to trial, error, and guesswork to determine what it was thinking about your website. To some extent this is still true, however Google has become somewhat more transparent about its practices in recent years. Google wants to provide its users with the best possible search results and Google understands that in order to do so, it should share what it is looking for with website owners. Links are an important part of the Google algorithm and Google pays attention not only to the quantity of links but also to the quality of links. To weed out the sites that attempt to “game the system,” Google penalizes sites that participate in shady link building practices. In some cases, website owners don’t even realize that what they are doing is wrong, so Google has begun sending out notifications to webmasters alerting them when unnatural links are detected. The notice serves as an FYI and doesn’t always mean that a penalty has occurred (yet). However, if the notification also coincides with a significant dip in traffic it’s likely that you’ve already been handed an unnatural link penalty.

Follow these steps to do what you can to remedy the situation:

Create an inbound link list
If you’ve been actively link building you should have a list of all of the links that you’ve generated over the years and that is a good place to start. However, there’s a good chance that there are plenty of other links that have accrued naturally that you don’t know about. There are SEO tools that exist that can pull a report of all of your inbound links. Google Webmaster Tools is a free tool that will provide a report but it’s also recommended to use additional paid tools like SEOMoz or Majestic SEO since each program pulls data slightly differently that can result in a different set of links.

Manually analyze the list

Once you have a list of all of the site’s inbound links you will need to manually visit each link and conduct an SEO link audit in order to determine which ones are bad and could potentially be causing the issue. When you’ve found the links that aren’t appropriate, reach out to the owners of those sites and ask them to remove the link. Keep track of which links have been removed over time and reach back out if necessary. This is a time-consuming process but is worth it to save the health of your website.

Create quality links
As they say, the best offense is a good defense. If you work at building quality links that point to your site the good links will outweigh the bad ones. Google looks at a link portfolio overall. Sometimes there is nothing that you can do about a bad link even if you’ve done everything that you can to try and get rid of it. Spend your time creating and sharing great content on industry relevant sites and within social media.

Create great content
Content based links are the best ones to achieve for SEO purposes. They help to generate natural links and are shared in social media improving your social signals. If you become known as a great source of information through your content, that content will result in quality links pointing back to your site that will be viewed in a positive manner by Google.

The good news is that now, more than ever before, you can know what Google is thinking. But as with all information, it is now incumbent upon you to respond to that information, because your competitors probably are.

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