We, the SEO professionals, spend a considerable time in creating backlinks to improve website rankings. On the other spectrum, we have Google that works continuously to improve the search engine results and unleashes the Penguin and Panda updates to penalize the website violating search engine ranking norms.
In the midst, we have websites that don’t follow any black-hat SEO practices but still gets penalized and begins to lose the backlinks built with much effort.
In this article, we will share some ways to get back the lost backlinks.
Why You Lose Links?
Let us go through the typical reasons of losing backlinks. These reasons include:
- Manual link removal or editing by webmasters
- Ownership change of the websites and removal of outbound links by new owner
- 301 Error- It happens when the page redirects to some other place, and your backlink is left behind. It might take place because of a site makeover or launching a site anew after cleaning the previous content and links.
- 404 Error– It happens when a webmaster changes the URL structure and forgets to redirect the old URL to the new URL. It might also take place when a webmaster tries to republish your post and creates an error in the process.
- NoFollow Tag– The intended backlink has the nofollow tag appended with the link, which means the site links to you but doesn’t want to pass link juice, hence, the nofollow tag.
- Poaching by a Competitor– Your competitor may poach your link by offering better content and approaching the webmaster with the new URL, requesting the webmaster to replace the old links (yours) with the new one (his).
Reclaiming Your Lost Backlinks
Whatever be the reason behind losing backlinks, the recovery of lost backlinks is important to maintain and improve the search engine ranking.
Approaching the Webmasters
The simplest way to re-acquire the lost backlinks is to approach the webmasters. During the process of refreshing the content or moving the pages by the webmasters, you may lose your backlinks. In such a scenario, you can reach the webmasters and let them know about the removal of the link and ask them to put the links again. As they added those links earlier, they will add your backlinks again. Therefore, it becomes a three step process.
- Downloading your links.
- Finding your lost links.
- Approaching the webmasters to add your links again.
The backlinks are of no use if it redirects to a broken page. It is necessary to find out these pages. Therefore, one needs to follow a process of finding the missing links and fix them.
Deep Crawl and Screaming Frog are the tools that return all the internal links associated with the content URL. You possess control over these internal links and therefore, reclaiming these links is easy. The crawl results are filtered by client error to get the list of all the web pages that return error codes when your internal links point to them.
If the data is in bulk amount, export the results to excel and refine/filter the column of the status code to get the required list. Once you have the list containing all the broken pages, you can redirect the web pages via 301 redirects to your internal link to avoid the error page.
Reclaiming External Links
External links are a bit difficult to recover because we do not have control over them. Also, to fix these external backlinks, one needs to use a combination of different tools. Let us go through the process.
Majestic and Ahrefs
Ahrefs and Majestic are tools with which you can scan your website, and it will create a list of links made on your site. Once you get hold of the list, run a deep crawl to find the links returning the error by running the search by the Client Error.
Therefore, as a first step, you need to use tools like Ahrefs and Majestic to find out the sites providing links to the pages that have been deleted or moved. Next, you export the backlinks into Excel sheet. Utilize the Screaming Frog’s List Mode to find the broken or lost backlinks by crawling over the target URLs. Filter such result by Client Error and you are done.
You can also utilize VLOOKUP function of Excel for mapping the URLs with their status code. Filtering your list by status codes will provide the broken backlinks. Once you have got your list of lost backlinks, the next step to reclaiming your backlinks is to approach and request the linking site via e-mail with the updated URLs.
It might so happen that your page may have a duplicate content that dilutes the link juice. The duplicate content may vary from the original one. Let us go through a few such cases.
- HTTP:// v/s https:// – The web pages may be available in both the domains.
- The difference in the casing- The URLs may be written as both yoursite.com and www.YourSite.com.
- The URLs may exist as with and without trailing slash.
If such is the situation then some backlinks are attached to one of your sites and others are also redirecting to the same content but onto a different site(duplicate). Hence the link juice is diluted.
How to resolve this problem?
The Deep Crawl is used to find the URLs that direct to your canonical site. After getting the list of the websites, redirect the URLs to the original site if it is an internal link. Else the webmaster can do the same if it is an external link.
If the above strategy fails, the canonical tag is the best way to avoid the duplicate URLs. Canonical tag at the head of your page refers to the duplicate page as follows:
<link rel=”canonical” href=”(https://www.mysite.com/)”>
If such a tag is used in your original site, the Google bot knows that the site mentioned here is a duplicate one. Hence it disregards it and prefers the original site while redirecting. In this way, all the link juice is intact with only one of your authentic sites and hence avoids dilution. It also helps in improving the indexing of the original site.
Automatic or Natural Death
As already mentioned, the backlinks may die a natural death. In such cases, reviving those links is important. However, to know that the links have suffered a natural death, it is better to subscribe to Google Alerts. It sends you the notifications whenever you lose a backlink.
It also sends notifications of all those occurrences where your website is mention on the Internet. So, you can reach out to the web pages containing the references to your sites and ask them to provide you with the much-needed link juice. Apart from Google Alerts, you can also use Brand Mentions tool to find such links.
Checking for the rot links should be an iterative process. There exist a few ways to reclaim such links.
- Custom Link Tracking Script- You can develop a customized Link Script to track your links.
- Excel- You can also use the XPath, Excel Formula and the IF Statement to get the XPathOnURL. XPath will get you the href attributes matching a particular domain from a page. Once you have those hrefs, a simple IF Statement can let you check if the link is live or not. However, it might not return a value if it finds nothing to return. You can use two quotation marks to ensure that a blank cell is not returned. Also, one needs to ensure that you are looking for the right domain and the correct cell reference for the inbound link.
A Few Considerations
Avoid Purchasing Links
Though it is a fact the Penguin algorithm filters the purchased backlinks, some users still adopt the style to feature on the first page of the web result because there always exists a workaround to avoid penalties. However, if you are purchasing the backlinks, be sure about the contract because the webmaster will remove the backlink without your knowledge once the contract expires.
Always try to keep the content updated. The Google replaces the older sites with the new updated versions. Hence the new releases tend to have more backlinks and link juice.
Remodeling of the Website
Always keep track of all the backlinks linked to your site. Sometimes when the reclaim of the backlinks is not possible. For example, the content of the website may change enough so that the site can no longer refer to your site.
Contacting the Webmaster
Most of the time, webmasters remove the backlink when they are revising and reviewing their old content. In such cases, communication with the concerned webmaster is crucial. In such communication, the vulnerability should never surface. The loss of backlinks is very tragic and can cost a lot. But the helplessness should not form part of the email.
Linking is one of the important aspects of SEO. Hence, maintaining the old links is as important as creating the new ones. Reclaiming the lost backlinks is certainly not a herculean task.
However, keeping track of all the web links especially when you are dealing with tons of them can certainly become difficult. Therefore, a regular check is recommended. Tools such Buzzstream, Majestic, and Linkscape Data help you keep an eye on your links and identify them.