Summary: A risky backlink is one which is most likely installed on a less than reputable site or blog. In many cases it will be your entire article pasted word for word and in some cases the entire backlinking site will be comprised of nothing but ‘duplicate content.’
If you run a blog and are creating quality content you’re eventually going to notice you have some “risky” backlinks pointing back to your blog and those links should be disqualified from consideration by google using google’s own Disavow tool. If you don’t know what a risky backlink is you should get yourself a free account with SEO Profiler. They’ll send you an email occasionally with a list of your latest backlinks and a risk rating assigned to each one.
A risky backlink is one which is most likely installed on a less than reputable site or blog. In many cases it will be your entire article pasted word for word and in some cases the entire backlinking site will be comprised of nothing but ‘duplicate content.’
I’ve encountered a few of these – one was even a news aggregator which automatically imported my articles(and many others) and displayed them verbatim, including the featured image. The backlink provided to my blog was typically hidden in a tag or some other irrelevant spot outside of the article body itself.
SEO Profiler has always indicated to me that the links coming from that spammy site are 45% risky and that was troubling.
I wrote the owner of the spammy website and very, very nicely asked them to remove the links and if that was too much trouble then to please remove my blog’s domain from their aggregator. They never replied and I’m still seeing new backlinks created by that spammy website. But I’ve long since stopped worrying about it because I used google’s Disavow Tool, found in google Webmaster Tools, to disavow that entire spammy domain. This is in alignment with google’s suggestion regarding bad backlinks:
If you’ve done as much work as you can to remove spammy or low-quality links from the web, and are unable to make further progress on getting the links taken down, you can disavow the remaining links. In other words, you can ask Google not to take certain links into account when assessing your site.
What kind of spammy or low-quality links could you remove? Pretty much, just the ones you’ve personally installed over the years. You remember – the ones we all used to stay up late at night working on? And subsequently, the ones which google now penalizes websites for having. If you have such links, this means you can go back to those places and remove them – and that’s your absolute best option. But if you are the victim of a spammy site simply backlinking to your blog on a regular basis, and the owner won’t play ball – the disavow tool is the next best option.
According to google:
If you believe your site’s ranking is being harmed by low-quality links you do not control, you can ask Google not to take them into account when assessing your site. You should still make every effort to clean up unnatural links pointing to your site. Simply disavowing them isn’t enough.
What makes spammy links? I won’t say “most” duplicate content because many blog owners are simply curating using your blog as a reference. Some blogs will use your text in quotes with a nice backlink to give your blog credit. But in some instances, such as the news aggregator which latched onto my political blog – duplicate content, and a website which is comprised of total duplicate content, backlinking to you can be risky and that can be detrimental to your blogs overall health.
For those of you who just rolled their eyes and thought “google no longer penalizes for dup content,” I urge you to reevaluate your blogging philosophy. Google has stated that dup content won’t be penalized unless it’s spammy. Check out what Google’s Matt Cutts has to say on the matter:
A definite newer tactic among site and blog owners is to set out to discredit their competition using negative SEO which is a side effect of google deciding to issue penalties for spammy backlinks in the first place instead of just disavowing those bad badlinks themselves. Basically, they left it up to you and I to do the disavow manually.
What is “Spammy”
Since google doesn’t want to show the same content twice to it’s searchers, it must decide which of the instances of content came first or which of the two seems more popular among searchers – yours or the person/blog who is plagiarizing your work. Luckily for me in the above mentioned scenario of the news aggregator – I was lucky that the spammy site was pretty much a ghost town with zero activity. In such a situation the hard working, quality content creating blog will win out as it will be obvious to google which of the two is legitimate.
But beware. This scenario doesn’t always work out in a just fashion and there will be instances when the wrong entity is credited for creating the content when in all actuality it was someone else on another blog completely.
On the flip side, the site which is plagiarizing the content in many cases will be labeled “spammy,” just by the process of elimination. So if you’re in fact publishing duplicate content and those you’re linking to have been informed you present a risk factor – what will they do? That’s right …. they’ll log into websmaster tools and disavow your links and/or domain. If this happens enough – guess what else happens? You could potentially earn the reputation of being spammy.
Still think duplicate content comes without a price?
Can’t other site/blog owners disavow the heck outta me in their google webmaster tools as a method of negative SEO attacks?
Maybe, but it would typically take many disavows to discredit a blog which is well known by google for producing quality content. It most likely wouldn’t be possible no matter how many times they disavowed your blog. On the other hand, a blog or site which plagiarizes content on a regular basis and never adds any value can and does take a beating – and rightfully so.
To make sure your blog is impervious to any/all of the above you should simply produce quality content and limit duplicate content to just quoted text in moderation and always, always include a nice, substantial link back to the source of the quote.
How to Disavow Spammy Backlinks/Domains
To disavow risky backlinks follow this link to googles disavow tool and choose your blog’s domain from the drop down list(in the event you have more than 1 blog plugged into websmaster tools). In a separate notepad file (the file type must be .txt and it must be encoded in UTF-8 or 7-bit ASCII) – have prepared a list of the offending links, one per line. Or simply disavow the root domain of the offending, spammy backlinking site.
You can use webmaster tools to export a list of all your links, but it will be your responsibility to determine which of them are high risk. For that reason I will once again suggest the SEO Profiler account. It’s free(limited) and does a better job of informing you of which links are risky and which are not.
Here is an example of a valid disavow file. The lines beginning with # are simply commented out and aren’t necessary but are rather useful if you’d like to leave a note for your future self:
In the above example 2 individual links and one root domain has been completely disavowed. The file below does the same exact thing, minus the notations:
If you’d really like to twist the spammy blogger/webmaster’s arm and force him/her/it to remove spammy backlinks to your blog and are willing to pay for it – there are definitely ways to make that happen.
For most cases, however, the disavow tool should do the trick.