Today’s “Ask An SEO” question comes from Yvonne from Whitby, who asks:
“One of our old websites, now deleted, was hacked some time ago. Now it is sending thousands of spam backlinks to our current website with a different but similar domain.
The hacked site no longer exists (the files were all deleted months ago), but we still see tens of thousands of these spammy backlinks to our current site.
I’m not an SEO professional, but I’ve been tasked with managing my company’s website. I use Google Search Console, Ahrefs and other tools which still show backlinks from this removed website.
Can I expect these backlinks to show up in reports? Would the disavow link help? Should I be more concerned about spammy links? »
Excellent question, and the TL; DR, don’t worry and don’t worry about them. It’s an easy fix.
- Disavow the URL.
- Ignore the tools.
- Focus on the things you can control.
If you think there’s something more going on, this is where you can report malicious activity and bad practices to Google.
But I don’t think that applies to your situation. It’s mainly for other people reading.
Let’s go through each of the three steps.
First, you’ll want to disavow at the domain name level.
Because it’s a site that’s supposed to be taken down, and you took it down, disavow it at the domain level.
This way you don’t have to watch and see if the hack has created more pages or worry about there being more links.
The domain name level applies to all pages of the site.
Second, don’t worry about what the tools say.
The tools have a lot of fake metrics and aren’t always accurate.
They are meant to help you identify certain issues, but that’s where it ends.
Each site should be viewed differently. Having thin content on some pages is acceptable for some sites.
Not all pages are intended to appear in search results.
The tools will flag them as issues and encourage you to fix them.
But that’s not a good use of your time and can lead to cannibalization or over-optimization.
The tools are also not Google, and Google Search Console may not even be accurate or relevant to some of the actual algorithm.
Google has also made huge strides in recognizing and ignoring link spam from hacked sites.
They can never give up Google Search Tools or Console.
It’s out of your control. If you’ve disavowed, you’re good to go.
Focus on what you can control
Links are out of your control unless you build them.
Instead, focus on the actionable things you can implement.
Are there problems that your customers use your products or services to solve?
If so, turn them into blog posts or create product and service pages for them.
When was the last time you crawled your site for internal links?
Pages that are supposed to rank may be new and old internal links may be updated.
New pages are created that can get “juice” from old blog posts and PDPs (product detail pages).
There may be links to the same words on separate pages, which sends a mixed signal to search engines. Change them.
Have you updated your schema to ensure the libraries correctly reflect your business?
Maybe you moved to new countries or regions. Check your service area diagram for this.
Work on public relations and build relationships with journalists and editors to gain media coverage for your business
This could result in quality backlinks outperforming spam and mentions in trusted posts, which contributes to EAT and conversion rates on your site.
There is no need to worry about a hacked site sending links to you from the same domain.
If so, use the disavow tool and try not to stress.
There are many ways to improve any site.
Focus on what is in your control, not what is not.
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