• How to handle link removal requests when it’s really for reputation management

    by  • August 23, 2012 • Linking, Reputation Management • 6 Comments

    There is a new reason people have started to request link removals, and it has nothing to do with it from a “Google doesn’t love me” anymore reason… people have begun sending out link removal requests where the links come from posts where the company is being criticized.  In other words, if I posted a negative review of a company on my blog last year, companies are now asking for the links to be removed as per webmaster guidelines for it being a poor quality page/site, when it is really an attempt to clean up reputation management issues from a company who has screwed up something.

    How should a webmaster handle this kind of thing?  The links were not placed in an attempt to influence rankings at all, so they aren’t falling under cleaning up paid links or spammy article submissions from years past.  It is being done from a “Bwoahahah reputation management just go sooo much easier and I can say it’s because Google is requesting it!”

    Why aren’t they simply cleaning up the problem?

    Which also raises the question as to why aren’t these companies doing more to clean up their reputation management in more meaningful ways that can actually turn an unhappy customer into a happy one… in many instances it doesn’t take much.  Or why aren’t they investing their time into raising their own profile via more positive connections with their site and brand, such as branded blog, Twitter accounts, Facebook pages and Pinterest boards.

    In most of these cases, the companies in question aren’t even addressing the issues that gave them negative reviews or comments in the first place  In the online world, burying your head in the sand is never a very effective strategy when people are upset enough with you to blog about how bad you are. Sadly, too many companies are doing exactly this, instead of defending their position or reaching out for resolutions, in hopes that those people will add updates to those negative reviews or blog posts.

    The rise of link removal companies

    With a lot of link removal companies popping up recently, many which automate the process, businesses with reputation management problems are instead using these services in an attempt to purge the negative feedback links… even if they aren’t affecting SEO in a way other than these sites ranking for their company name, as nearly all of the emails claim.  Some of the more amusing ones will accuse you of running a “poor quality site”, even when you know nothing is further from the truth, while obviously the same doesn’t apply to the accuser!

    Step up for resolution

    If you get a link removal request for a page that is clearly for a reputation management issue, if you still have unresolved problems with the company, it would be a great way to actually get resolution.  However, if it is from a link removal service, the bad company might still not have the motivation to solve the problem unfortunately.  However, I am sure someone will take it upon themselves to write a great blog post detailing how they posted a negative review then the company insulted them by declaring them a poor quality website to get the links removed!

    Even with removal

    Even with the links being removed (if you choose to do so) the company still has the issue that the same negative review is there with the company name, even if it isn’t linked up.  However, if you do decide to bow to pressure and remove the link to their company page, you might even get better negative results if you then link to their Twitter page and Facebook page, where people who find your post could go and voice their own displeasures about said company!

    Link removals could affect your credibility

    If you stand behind your original blog post however, it could affect YOUR credibility if you then remove links to the company you are talking negatively about… anyone who happens upon your blog post would wonder why you are not even linking to the company you had the negative experience with.  In this case, I absolutely would not remove the link, as you are really doing a service to anyone doing their due diligence.  Or you could charge an insane $1,000 link removal fee for your pain and suffering, and see if they bite :)

    It is an interesting issue with more and more webmasters being bombarded with these link removal requests, even when the original links were placed legitimately.  How is everyone else handling this new breed of reputation management cleanup disguised as link removal requests?


    Jennifer Slegg is a longtime member of the SEO community and is an expert on social media, content marketing, Google AdSense and search engines.

    6 Responses to How to handle link removal requests when it’s really for reputation management

    1. August 23, 2012 at 11:44 am

      Was just a matter of time…thanks for addressing this topic.

    2. Pingback: Marketing Day: August 23, 2012

    3. August 23, 2012 at 3:48 pm


      We have struggled with this same issue. Early on, we submitted to many directories and now that appears to have been a shortsighted strategy. Honestly, we are not that enamored with the firms doing the removal work.

      We are now working on the Bing tool to see what happens. Hopefully Google will soon follow with a tool of its own to end this charade. I feel like we are chasing our tails, but of course quality content is always the goal.

      Thanks for your blog.

    4. Jason
      August 23, 2012 at 5:21 pm

      Is it bad that this just gave me a great idea to clean up a client’s reputation probs? LOL.

    5. Matt
      August 24, 2012 at 1:52 am

      I have a good quality content site, but man I am sure getting annoyed by all these link removal requests. I write original content and I (gasp) link to sources where I get info or where people can find more info. I rank well, have never been penalized, but I am getting more and more of these requests. I can see why people have begun charging for the removal, I’m tempted to charge it for my pain in the butt fee.

    6. August 24, 2012 at 12:53 pm

      I can understand your getting upset about all of the link removal requests Matt. We provide a software solution to help people manage and report on their link removal efforts, so I spend a lot of time answering support requests via phone and email.

      Having done this for a few months, I have come to the conclusion that the real reason why people with good quality sites like you are getting these requests is that there are so many webmasters out there with little or no expertise who are trying to do the job for themselves.

      Basically, they are stuck in a situation where they can no longer afford to pay someone to do the work for them because their revenues have been severely hit by a massive drop in traffic, they don’t know the difference between a “good” or “bad” link, so they are adopting a “scorched earth” policy and trying to get all of the existing links removed.

      We understand that the people at your end of the link removal requests are caught in the middle of a nightmare too, which is why we built features into our software to make it easy for domain owners to advise when removals are done etc.

      As to Susan’s mention of a disavow tool from Google, even when/if that comes, I doubt it will change much for those people who are actually dealing with a manual penalty. I really don’t see Google handing those people a get out of jail free card anytime soon.

      As for the possibility of people using our software for reputation management…if they continue the behavior, they will continue to gather negative feedback, and in the end it is the domain owner’s decision on whether to remove the link or not. On the flipside of this, there are also a lot of great businesses out there who have been plagued by negative feedback campaigns from unscrupulous competitors, so nothing is ever black and white :)

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