Ethical link building for ecommerce sites requires hard work, creativity and a bit of good fortune. It’s tough to get quality backlinks to commercial sites, and many shops have wittingly or unwittingly (through contractors) engaged in spam or borderline spam activities to get them — including paid links, blog networks and comment spam.
Ever chasing shady link building tactics, Google has changed the way its valued links many times over the years through search engine algorithm updates. Perhaps no update has ruffled as many feathers as Penguin in April, 2012. Not only did some sites’ rankings hit an iceberg, thousands of webmasters found warning in their Google Webmaster consoles of suspect “unnatural links” (spam and/or paid links) in their link graphs, with a recommendation to go after and remove them.
Naturally, that spread panic through the search blogs and forums. Google webspam lead Matt Cutts assures us that the warnings were sent out to improve transparency, and receiving a warning does not mean your site has been penalized. Unless you’ve experienced a dramatic drop in traffic (that hasn’t rebounded since the update indicating it could have been some other factor responsible), you’re likely okay. You can determine this from your Webmaster Tools account or web analytics. (Hint, rankings would tank across your keyword profile, not just individual words). Remember, the update occurred in February, 2012, but “aftershocks” have been and will continue to be felt as the algorithm is tweaked further.
How to take action on link removal
Whether or not you’ve been slapped by Penguin, there are a few tools that can help you organize a “link teardown campaign:”
Download your link profile from Webmaster Tools and upload it to SEOGadget, and for the price tag of zero dollars, the tool will flag low quality links and even attempt to find contact information for each linking site so you can follow up with a removal request.
Despite the dreadfully difficult to spell and remember branding (and confusing as Removem is a video game), these services can help automate the campaign for you, creating and sending email, following up with reminders to contacts, and reporting on results. Though they are paid tools, the time you save and errors you spare make them worth it. (You don’t want to risk copy-and-paste errors so common with manual PR and link building campaigns).
In the future, Google may adopt a “disavow” feature, similar to Bing, which allows you to flag links from domains you don’t support linking to you. Matt Cutts mentioned at a recent conference that it’s something his team is considering.
If you’re on the receiving end of these removal requests
I’ve been receiving a lot of requests from sites who, in the past, have spammed Get Elastic‘s blog comments, and slipped through moderation (years ago, we did not pre-moderate blog posts, as we grew we had to stop it before they got through, don’t want spam links live for any amount of time.
If like us, you’re a blog or website receiving these requests – it’s the TYPE of link, not your site, that’s the problem. The blog comment spam is the tactic getting in trouble, it doesn’t mean your blog or site is not trusted by Google. Don’t be offended! Though you may be annoyed at the demands of spammers, think of it as helping you find spam you missed in moderation.
How to build good links to ecommerce sites
If you missed it, we have a number of ideas in our Guide to Link Building for Ecommerce.