Could someone be removing your links?

Link removing machine

Several things have happened over the last few years that has made linking and SEO efforts increasingly complicated. As a Business listing service, has witnessed some interesting developments in the directory business. The most recent being the online conversation around links from directories. If you happen to run a directory or know someone who does - then you know that there has been a huge increase in the number of requests to remove listings in an effort to restore their flailing Google rankings and search results.

Conspiracy or paranoia?

But something else may be happening. Could competitors be removing your links in order to help their own rankings? Some people are reporting that fake requests are being made, essentially spoofing, and having listings and links removed without the actual owners knowledge.

Let's back up a bit. What was the sequence of events that led to this? And I'll take this opportunity to state, that this is my opinion and not necessarily fact, because you know, it's the internet.

Locally famous

Well one thing that happened was that Google began putting an emphasis on so called Local Search in search results. So sites that were organized by state/province, city and address, or with a geographical/ hierarchical drill down began to have some good weight in Google search results. Sites like BizSheet.

Where there is opportunity- there is spam

Something else that happened was that SEO firms realized that there was good value in adding their clients business info to free business directories because a) it was easy b) it was free, and c) it was effective. Naturally. Some less scrupulous companies developed bots that would create hundreds and thousands of listings. Many of these listings had poor information - often random text filled out in fields but with keywords interspersed throughout. Bizsheet had to battle these bots, implementing several forms of protection such as Captcha, hidden bot traps and my favorite Project Honey Pot (recommended - protect your site and help catch spammers and harvesters).

So having cleaned up our business directory, we started to get some great, honest to goodness listings from companies from all over the world. But we started to also get repeated content - duplicates - from hand-posted listings. These were probably added by offshore folks who were hired by SEO folks to add business to local directories and probably to as many business listing directories as possible. Our stats reported a lot of ip from India.

Google is like Cher and Madonna - forever tweaking to remain relevant

The next big thing that happened was that Google tweaked their algorithm to find these types of listings that were repeated, spammy or obviously the result of link building efforts. And they penalized those businesses - so they saw their rankings impacted severely. Many report losing 70%, 80% or all of their online business.

Where there is opportunity - there are new business opportunity

So then comes the next thing - companies popped up all over the place promising to remove bad backlinks. They use automated emails for the most part to manage link removal requests and send follow ups until the link or listing is removed. Not a bad service actually, presuming that the email is actually coming from an authentic source.

Now what smart guy?

So what do you do? How do you find out if someone is doing this to your inbound links and business listings?
  • Watch your inbound links
  • Keep a list of your best links
  • Watch your traffic report in Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools
  • Report your missing listings to the directory (most will have an email trail to trace back)
  • Be vigilant with your online identity!

Stay tuned.
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