What Types of Sites Actually Remove Links?

Since the disavow tool has come out SEOs are sending thousands of "remove my link" requests daily. Some of them come off as polite, some lie & claim that the person linking is at huge risk of their own rankings tank, some lie with faux legal risks, some come with "extortionisty" threats that if they don't do it the sender will report the site to Google or try to get the web host to take down the site, and some come with payment/bribery offers.

If you want results from Google's jackassery game you either pay heavily with your time, pay with cash, or risk your reputation by threatening or lying broadly to others.

At the same time, Google has suggested that anyone who would want payment to remove links is operating below board. But if you receive these inbound emails (often from anonymous Gmail accounts) you not only have to account for the time it would take to find the links & edit your HTML, but you also have to determine if the person sending the link removal request represents the actual site, or if it is someone trying to screw over one of their competitors. Then, if you confirm that the request is legitimate, you either need to further expand your page's content to make up for the loss of that resource or find a suitable replacement for the link that was removed. All this takes time. And if that time is from an employee that means money.

There have been hints that if a website is disavowed some number of times that data can be used to further go out & manually penalize more websites, or create link classifications for spam.

... oh no ...

Social engineering is the most profitable form of engineering going on in the 'Plex.

The last rub is this: if you do value your own life at nothing in a misguided effort to help third parties (who may have spammed up your site for links & then often follow it up with lying to you to achieve their own selfish goals), how does that reflect on your priorities and the (lack of) quality in your website?

If you contacted the large branded websites that Google is biasing their algorithms toward promoting, do you think those websites would actually waste their time & resources removing links to third party websites? For free?

Color me skeptical.

As a thought experiment, look through your backlinks for a few spam links that you know are hosted by Google (eg: Google Groups, YouTube, Blogspot, etc.) and try to get Google's webmaster to help remove those links for you & let us know how well that works out for you.

Some of the larger monopoly & oligopolies don't offer particularly useful customer service to their paying customers. For example, track how long it takes you to get a person on the other end of the phone with a telecom giant, a cable company, or a mega bank. Better yet, look at how long it took AdWords to openly offer phone support & the non-support they offer AdSense publishers (remember the bit about Larry Page believing that "the whole idea of customer support was ridiculous?")

For the non-customer Google may simply recommend that the best strategy is to "start over."

When Google aggregates Webmaster Tools link data from penalized websites they can easily make 2 lists:

  • sites frequently disavowed
  • sites with links frequently removed

If both lists are equally bad, then you are best off ignoring the removal requests & spending your time & resources improving your site.

If I had to guess, I would imagine that being on the list of "these are the spam links I was able to remove" is worse than being on the list of "these are the links I am unsure about & want to disavow just in case."

What say you?

Published: April 9, 2013 by Aaron Wall in seo tips


April 9, 2013 - 3:14pm

Interesting that most people voted to always ignore them. So how is someone supposed to clean up unnatural links if they were done deliberately to hurt your site?

"As a thought experiment, look through your backlinks for a few spam links that you know are hosted by Google (eg: Google Groups, YouTube, Blogspot, etc.) and try to get Google's webmaster to help remove those links for you & let us know how well that works out for you."

I can tell you how it worked out for me. I filed 2 abuse reports against couple of blogspot blogs last year that linked to me and they are still online untouched....so I just disavowed the entire blogspot domain name :O

April 9, 2013 - 5:55pm

Very good post. I liked and "Kingged" it on the IM Social Site - Kingged.com and I left the following comment:
Great insights have been discussed in this post, and they give webmaster food for thoughts. Using there are many who don't use the disavow tool rightly, but businesses with good principles would want to stick with what is legitimate. What matters at the end of the day is what Google wants from every site owner - that is, respecting its link building policy.
Sunday - Kingged.com contributor

April 9, 2013 - 10:53pm

I know a few whose sites got penalised for not removing the links after they got link removal emails.

Large sites can surely survive by ignoring the requests but small businesses will definitely suffer.

April 9, 2013 - 11:19pm

...even if they comply with link removal requests. That was the main point I was trying to express in the above post. ;)

April 10, 2013 - 6:42am

I think that too many people are rushing to remove links even before they really evaluate if the link is spam or not. But this is anyway why an initial good linking strategy is needed, so even when something like penguin happens you can still stand up to it.

About the removal of links, I do understand people that ask for money, as my time is worth money too if I had to stop working on my money making projects or clients to find a link and edit a page I would want to be compensated, as I am actively loosing money while doing this and not working on my clients.

April 11, 2013 - 7:21am

I get these emails from time to time. Some annoyances with these requests:-

1. Some threaten me from the very first sentence of their email. "Your site will likely be penalised (if it isn't already) because you are unnaturally linking to us". Never mind how do you do.
2. Some use a Gmail address (as you note, Aaron). Seriously, you think I'm going to follow some anonymous person's request? In fact, Gmail is the no.1 source of spam that irritates me - SEO / website development proposals from "companies" that apparently have no website of their own or contact details other than a Gmail address.
3. Some companies request I turn the link into a nofollow if I can't remove it (as if that's going to be less admin).
4. Some have this holier-than-thou my-hat's-whiter-than-yours attitude. It's not enough to issue a request, they have to state just how pristine and clean and reputable their company is (funnily enough, this is often combined with point 2 - the anonymous Gmail address). The unspoken, tacit corollary of this is that I am of a lower "caste", and it's just SO embarrassing that they're associated with me via this link.
5. The complete disregard to my time. I'm not only requested to spend my time for no cost fulfilling their request, but I must also perform this request urgently, like, RIGHT NOW.

Web Design Glasgow
April 16, 2013 - 12:10am

What's the odds on me removing one, if I can't be arsed adding one? Probably no chance. Honestly, it as rare, and only if the request is asked in a congenial manner and the site requesting a link is a good one and related (but not a competitor naturally) would I think about adding one. Even then, finding an appropriate page to add an external link is usually a headache. Good to read this though and see the nonsense about threats and the like.

May 10, 2013 - 8:30am

This is of course a catch 22 situation created by Google's unreasonable expectation of webmasters to remove any and all external links which might be seen as unnatural by them. But the bottom line is if don't please Google, you don't get to rank. Google is the playground bully with all the power and we all bow down to them to succeed.

I can understand the frustrations of webmasters receiving these email but at the same time it is was Google wants sites to do. Straight disavowing would make more sense but that wouldn't give the linking sites the chance to get rid of the link and avoid whatever potential downsides there are to being on someone's disavow list.

March 6, 2014 - 1:56pm

I don't know how to remove bad Blogspot links. They are not in whois and there is no contact on the blogger site itself. I've tried commenting on the post itself asking for removal but either the owner never looks at the blogspots and doesn't know there are comments or just ignores them. Maybe I should ask in Google webmaster tools forums.

Add new comment

(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.
(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.
(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.