Link Removal is Serious Business!

Zoidberg gets angry when you don't remove your links to his site.
Zoidberg gets angry when you don't remove your links to his site.

Well, it’s official – the Google Penguin updates are costing me money. Thanks a lot, Matt Cutts! Just kidding. It’s actually kinda funny.

The Backstory: I have a few Web 2.0 properties that I don’t really care about. I never post new content on them, and I never update them. Ever. Really. I never ever even look at them. But a long time ago in a land far, far away (circa 2005), I signed up for Text-Link-Ads because I thought maybe I could make some extra money by selling links on these properties that I don’t really do much with. And wouldn’t you know – I’ve been making about $25-$50 a month for the past several years from those sites. It’s been a lot of fun. I mean, it’s nothing to brag about, but it is some extra money. I’ll take it! [BTW just to be clear, I would never ever sell links on because I actually like this site and I don’t want any ads/paidlinks on it simply because I don’t want anything screwing up this really crappy design I’ve got going here.]

Every few months, I’ll get a ‘link requested’ or ‘link cancelled’ email from TLA, and I LOL because it’s still funny to me that anyone would want to buy a link on any of my crappy sites that altogether get maybe 20 visitors each month. I shouldn’t laugh when they cancel their links, but I do because it’s funny to me that they bought them in the first place.

Most of the time when a link is cancelled, I leave it live on the site. I rarely take links down. I simply don’t care enough to actually go update those sites. So whoever bought links from me and then cancelled – you are probably still getting links on my sites for free. Not a bad deal, right? Wrong! It is a bad deal. Because now we live in the age of Penguin, and Penguin is rabid for bad links.

For the past 15 years, the SEO world has profited on the fact that Google likes links. Now it’s time to profit on the fact that Google Penguin hates bad links. It’s like everything has been reversed, or maybe it’s like everything has come full circle. I don’t know. I’m not good with analogies and metaphors. But I do know this: smart, opportunistic SEOs will use Google’s hatred of bad links to make even more money.

That’s right, folks: LINK REMOVAL IS SERIOUS BUSINESS. I predict that the next few years will be marked by a massive rise in the number of link removal services offered by independent SEMs, SEOs, and agencies alike. I don’t typically make predictions, so I’m kinda nervous about that one. But seriously, take a look at this email I got from TLA:

Link Removal Request Email from
Link Removal Request Email from

After the 5th day and 3rd notification we will remove your site from the marketplace!

Wow. That is serious! I’ve never received an email like that from TLA. Like I mentioned earlier, I always leave the links up – even after the person stopped paying for them. Maybe I’ve missed these email before, but I’ve don’t ever remember seeing an email from them with an ultimatum like “Take them down or else!” I feel like they are bullying me. Yeah. This is link removal bullying. Well, not really. But they’ve definitely taken a new approach to link removal requests. On the bright side, the email included a complete list of all the links I’ve never taken down. So I guess I’ll set aside some time to remove all of them. And there goes my $25-$50 per month that I was making. Thanks again, Google Penguin. Now how am I supposed to buy all those +1’s each month?!?

Now let’s get back to link removal and link removal services.

My theory: didn’t change their link removal policy just because they had nothing better to do. Well, maybe this has been their policy all along, and I’ve never really noticed. Or maybe this is just the first time they’ve ever decided to enforce it. It doesn’t really matter. Regardless of the cause, this is the first time I have ever received an email about it. And this email was obviously catalyzed by the Google Penguin updates.

There are a ton of webmasters, link builders, and SEOs that are really scared of the Penguin. It is only logical that the same people who have been interested in building links are now interested in removing them. So, not only does a company like TLA have to provide  a high level of service and support in the acquisition of links – they also have to add a new level of service and support dedicated to the removal of links (when advertisers stop paying publishers for the links).

As noted earlier, when advertisers cancelled links on my sites, I just left the links up. I didn’t take them off my sites. Did that cost me money? Sure. Was I giving something away for free? Yeah. But I didn’t really care enough to spend time updating my sites every time a link was cancelled. It just wasn’t worth it to me. But now, with this new policy from TLA, I’ve got to remove links when they are cancelled…OR ELSE!

In the end, I think this is a good move on the part of Over the years, I have enjoyed using their services. Any time I’ve needed additional support, their customer support team has been very quick to respond and very helpful. So this new addition to their service makes me happy as a publisher. Ultimately, if you’re buying links from anyone, you should be able to have the links removed whenever you want.

I have worked with enough link publishers to know that they don’t really specialize in link removal. In fact, in my experience, the removal of links is the one thing that most link publishers could care less about, especially the link publishers who specialize in building private network links in bulk. I mean, seriously: how do you expect someone to remove 100,000 links? Even if they are on private networks, it’s pretty much impossible. It’s even more impossible when the links were built in comment threads, profile pages, and articles that were built on sites not owned by the link publisher. So really, good luck with all of that. But that is exactly why I think it is a good thing that link publishers are taking the time to create processes that make link removal an easier thing to manage.

Site owners who were negatively affected by Google Penguin must come clean. Google Penguin will continue to have updates, and at some point, ALL site owners will have to come clean about their links and linkbuilding history. How many of the bad links do you need to remove? Well, according to this post and this thread, the answer is 85% of the inorganic links need to be removed before you submit a reinclusion request. I’m not sure if that’s a solid number or if it will work for any situation. At any rate, Google wants to see you at least trying. In fact, at SMX Seattle last week, Matt Cutts said that he’s actually had webmasters sending in screenshots of their please-take-down-my-links emails to link publishers. Matt’s point: he wants to see some effort.

So good luck and Godspeed with your link building…err…removing!


SMX Advanced 2012: Surviving Personalization with Google & Bing

SMX Advanced 2012 (Seattle)
SMX Advanced 2012 (Seattle)

First up is Marty @aimclear

Brand Identity Feed

The SEO stuff doesn’t have to do with SEO

Offering strong incentive for existing community classic social advertising and PR hooks: product updates, deals, offers, commercial plays, hr news, etc…

It’s not about fancy SEO changes

Use classic feed marketing tactics

Alltop – go to Alltop and find your site and reach your users

Internal relations: start by wiring up internal stakeholders

Get to know the media: bloggers, tv journalists, publishers, newspapers, radio jocks, circle subscriptions as seo targets

Run facebook ads to people who are in your niche

Customer service: intersection of commerce and seo

The best SEO is a product that doesn’t suck

Celebrate community: where your business lives

Sync with publication calendar

Blog headlines and serial concepts – then returned to aimclear with client feedback

AJ Kohn has written about optimizing Google+

More aggressive participation
– set community based KPIs
– Active participation to serve and delight
– Research and proactively engage users
– social ads to build circles
– give, give, give, give, give
– network w/ competitors’ community

@aaronfriedman from Spark

Buy ads on Facebook

Don’t plagiarize

Don’t neglect your network

Don’t use generic images

Be creative.

Be useful and helpful.


  • Twitter longtail suggestion
  • opengraph optimization
  • “tweet what you want” code

tweet the longtail. First, find the keywords. Second, look at the social data (socialmention). Next, develop content. Have a list of users for outreach. Grow your network.

OpenGraph Optimization. Sample of 300 webpages. The OG meta tags content is sometimes empty.

OG titles: 95 characters

OG desc: 297 characters

Put some code in your twitter button: p class “tweetThis” – change you message the next day

Engines are more social – THE RISE OF ENTITY SEARCH

Engines are creating a new database, a non-text database

It’s about understanding concepts through words

verbs, action attribution, frictionless sharing

Entities are the sections in the SERPs

Be excellent to eachother and relevant for what you want to be known for.

The future of entity search is interest-based demographics

What I tell you I am interested in defines me

Social data is your attributes

Klout and Peerindex and mentionmapp are already defining you based on your interest and influence

For now:

Focus on rel-author
– This will play a huge role in entities

Focus on quality content
– Develop according to what users are looking for

Spend time growing your userbase

Next up is @rhea CEO at Outspoken Media, Inc

The future of search is personalization.

The business case for personalization.

Google Personalization methods Oct. 2006

Google Now personalizes everyone’s search results Dec. 2009 by Danny on SELand


  • Location
  • Search History
  • Social Search

Check out to see your search history

Google allows you to connect accounts. And they crawl that profile and they start to see the network.

How does google track your friends?

– GMail
– Interactions you have with other people on google products
– Connected accounts
– Links
– Friends on other sites who connect to you

2 primary signals to identify you:

– similarities between your accounts and profiles
– similatiries between your connections


PostRank, now Social Reporting in Google Analytics

– Conversions
– Sources
– Sharing

Measure personalization in GA

Rhea shows 41% of OM traffic is signed into Gmail

Amit Singhal: secure search was the key to personalized results

Rhea thinks ‘not provided’ would let us deconstruct personalization, and it would be much easier to game

Google doesn’t want to take over Facebook, they want to enhance search with the search graph


Write geo-targeted content (location specific organic keywords)

Use markup language (Schema informs freebase, which then is used by Knowledge Graph)

Offline networking to build relationships

Identify networks where if you get in a car wreck, you probably also need a chiropractor, a mechanic, etc…

Make your site mobile friendly.

Targeting for multiple languages.

Local search.

Write great relevant content.

Submit data through Freebase.

Setup authorship – it improves clickthrough.

Brand thought leaders.

Publish content often.

If you are not on facebook publishing content, you are a dumbass.

Create community account logins. Let people login on your site through Facebook.

Use gmail for login.

Use events to drive queries.

Create and post to Google+ page

Setup Google+ Direct Connect

Increase your Google+ followers

Use LinkedIn to identify your network

Use facebook login for comments

Create long and short tail content (check out hubspot for resources)

Engage community like SEOmoz — threaded comments, vote on comments (ego bait)


Marty,with personalization, do you still use rank checking tools? – Nope.

What are your thoughts about buying personalization? It sounds really shady.


PageRank Update: November 8-9, 2011

Last night, around 11:45pm PST, I started noticing that the PageRank had increased for most of my sites. Or it stayed the same. I haven’t seen the PageRank for any of my sites drop. That’s for sure.

Probably the best part about this PageRank update is that no one is really talking about it. I’m at PubCon in Las Vegas with some of the best SEOs around, and no one has even mentioned it. I’ve been wondering when the day would come where people would lose interest/fascination with PageRank. Are we there yet? Maybe.

New Google Robots.txt File Disallows Eric Schmidt from CEO Directory

My buddy Mike Smith made a funny joke about a new robots.txt file or robots meta tag for Google in the post-Eric Schmidt CEO era. I went ahead and made it. Funny?

New Google Robots.txt file disallows EricSchmidtBot from CEO directory
New Google Robots.txt file disallows EricSchmidtBot from CEO directory

Now, anyone wanna give me the username and password, so I can upload this file via ftp?

PS. I was going to make a title joke, too. But I’m too busy to do all that. Maybe someone should write a post about this with the headline “Page & Brin Update Eric Schmidt’s Title Tag” 🙂

Update: Anonymous source claims Brin & Page caught Eric Schmidt buying links. (j/k)

Monitoring Historical PageRank Trends & Changes

With today’s Google PageRank update, I had to dust off a few old Excel docs. Actually, I pretty much check the PageRank for all of my sites every couple of months, so there was no ‘dusting off’ involved. I know, I know. PageRank is dying and/or dead. And it’s Toolbar PageRank, so it’s not even current data. In fact, looking at Toolbar PageRank is a lot like looking into a telescope that is pointed at the center of our universe. Essentially, you are looking back in time. Don’t be surprised if Emmett Brown jumps into view with a flux capacitor, offering to have Mr. Fusion eat all your garbage.

But seriously, I thought I would share the method that I use to visually monitor historical PageRank changes and trends for a set of URLs:

Monitoring Historical PageRank Changes & Trends
Monitoring Historical PageRank Changes & Trends

Yeah. I know. It looks like a weird game of Minesweeper (SEO version). But it’s easy to set up, using conditional formatting, and it really helps to quickly identify Toolbar PageRank lottery winners and losers.

Now, do I freak out if some of my sites drop in PR? Not at all. What about the URLs that move up in PageRank? Well, I do take a little joy in that. But overall, I really don’t use this data to make any major SEO decisions. And I wouldn’t recommend using PageRank as a KPI for your SEO campaigns. However, this data can be used for diagnostic purposes if something totally random occurs with your PageRank. For instance, if you see a massive PageRank drop (i.e. PR4 –> PR1), then I recommend you find out why that might have happened, as it could be affecting your overall results.

Let me know if you have any other ways of monitoring PageRank trends. I’d love to hear about them.


PS. I know that ‘-1’ is not a valid PR value. I use ‘-1’ instead of ‘PageRank Unavailable’. It makes it easier to sort. Boom. Roasted.

PageRank Update January 2011

"It's about damn time." - Angry PageRank Bird
"It's about damn time." - Angry PageRank Bird

Well, it looks like Google updated the toolbar PageRank today. And now everyone is going to be checking their sites for PageRank changes. It seems like the last PageRank update was back in early 2010 (April, right?). Ahhh, yes. Those were the days. Pre-caffeine. Pre-MayDay. Pre-Snooki being a New York Times best-selling author (link). Welcome to 2011, Google. Thanks for joining the party. Better late than never. I guess.

Get Event Listings in Google with the vEvent Microformat Code

Guest Post By: John Greer (@FogLlama)

You may have heard about Google’s rich snippets recently, where they are altering the standard blue and green listings to have a little more flair:

Google Rich Snippets on Facebook Profile Results
Google Rich Snippets on Facebook Profile Results

Notice that Facebook has a “Friends” section.  I grabbed a random “John Smith” and there’s a group of his friends included (no Pocahontas?).  Facebook made this possible by using microformat tags on their code (they are using the rel=”friend” tag.)

Here’s a different rich snippet on a Yelp listing, where they are using the aggregate review microformat tag, and Google is showing this:

Yelp's Listings Feature the Review Microformat Tag
Yelp's Listings Feature the Review Microformat Tag

(Who is reviewing Goodwill by the way? “This place is no Neiman Marcus, what a joke!”)

Those rich snippets were demonstrated last year.  A newer version though is the inclusion of events in listings.  Also on Yelp, Google has rich snippets like this:

Yelp added the vEvent Microformat code around event listings
Yelp added the vEvent Microformat code around event listings

Yelp simply added the “vEvent” microformat code around the event listings they already had, and Google began showing select events below the main URL.

With the event tag, I’ll be interested to see if Google must recrawl a page to update the event list, or will it simply drop events that have past dates?  In any event, it’s an awesome way to get 3 additional links in your listing and attract a little more attention.

You can start adding these and other microformats and RDFa tags today (here’s a little more on the difference between those).  Yahoo has been using them with SearchMonkey for a couple of years in fact.  There’s no guarantee though that Google will show them yet, Facebook , Yelp and other sites have been singled out for listings.  At some point though, these listings are likely to start rolling out to everyone. s

Link Building Idea: Buy Some Links on Google Profiles

Hey check this out. It’s Mashable’s Pete Cashmore and his Google profile (now with more Google Buzz):

Google Profile: Mashable's Pete Cashmore on Google Buzz
Google Profile: Mashable's Pete Cashmore on Google Buzz

It appears that Google has placed a nofollow on the links within Pete’s Google Buzz feed. However, the links in the right-side column are dofollow. How about that?! Holy crap! These are dofollow links from the domain!

Because Pete is obviously a smart guy, he realizes the value of linking to his own properties. Hence, he has linked to and various Mashable properties on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

At the time of this screengrab, Pete had 9,647 followers, so it’s only a matter of time before this page has a high PageRank. This Google Profile will ultimately have a lot of authority, and those dofollow links in the right-side column will drive some serious link juice. And remember: these are links from!

Now, let’s be realistic. Despite the current dofollow status, I’m sure Google has discounted these links in some way or another. But the fact remains that these are dofollow links coming from Furthermore, check out the bottom of’s robots.txt file:

  • Allow: /profiles
  • Sitemap:

When you read the XML sitemap file, you see several hundred txt files of Google profiles, such as this one. Inside each one of these txt files, there are 5,000 user profile URLs. The take home message: Google wants these profiles crawled, and they are actively making it easier for all spiders to find them. Google Profiles are obviously important in Google’s venture into social media and social search.

What about the buying links idea?

Well this should be fairly obvious. Google is allowing dofollow links on Google Profile pages. While it may be tough to get links from reputable profiles, there are many users who may be open to the idea of selling links. And some of these profile pages will end up with high PageRank, especially when people begin to link to their Google profiles. These are links from the domain. Even if Google moves to disallow these links, there is still value from these links. Why not offer the profile owner(s) some money for a link in the right-side column?

Here’s a simple plan of action to acquire links from Google Profile users:

  • Google profiles have custom URLs
  • These URLs take one of two possible formats:
  • If you can find the username at the end of the URL, then you will know the gmail address of the profile user.
  • And that is how you can contact them.
  • Then it all comes down to your ability to not creep people out by offering them money for a link to your network of phentermine and poker websites [cuz those 2 things always go together, right?]

There it is. I hope you enjoyed that. Stay tuned for more. And stay tuned for a nofollow attribute from Google. I’m sure it’s right around the corner.

Happy Link Building!

[Full Disclosure: Neither Mashable or Pete Cashmore compensated me for the free brand exposure to my 10’s of readers. I’m just a fan, and I think everyone should be a fan of Mashable. #teammashable]

Update: Feb. 17, 2010: Nofollow attributes added to Google Profiles

It seems Google is onto us. Google has added the nofollow attribute to all links in the rightside column of Google Profiles. I wanted to see if they nofollow’d links to Google Profiles, so on my Google Profile I added a link to my Google Profile. No luck. It’s nofollow’d, too. Damn. Nice work, Google. Until we meet again…

Matt Cutts: Google Using DMOZ Info to Create ‘Better’ Title Tags in SERPs

Wow. Around 2:14 of this video, Matt Cutts says Google “can sometimes use the Open Directory Project snippets” when populating snippets for URLs displayed in the SERPs. He then goes on to talk about how Google can also use that information to create a “better” title for URLs in the SERPs:

…Webmasters are probably not as used to the idea that we’re willing to find a better title as well. So if you have a bad title or a title that we don’t think helps users as much, we can try to find a better title – and one that we think will be an informative result, so that users will know whether that’s a good result for them to click on.

So I just wanted to give people a heads-up about that because they’re used to the things below the title changing, but they’re maybe not as used to the idea that the title itself can change in our search results as well.

Thanks for this video, Matt. The last part is fascinating. We saw that Bing was doing something like this back in early June.

One question: Is Google going to do my title tag SEO for me now? That would sure save me some time. 😉 I’m sure if I was Boser or Graywolf, I would have a big problem with this. I kinda do, but I’m too busy to write much more. I guess I’d really care if a page with no title tag could outrank my page after Google created a “better” title tag for that page. That would be upsetting. But I am confident in my SEO abilities. Now where was I?

BTW, Yahoo is doing the same thing.