Should You Pay To Have Your Backlinks Removed?
For years, Google has warned you not to engage in link buying. Maybe, for years, you've ignored that advice and are just now paying for it with lower rankings. The Panda update really did wipe out a lot of websites and knocked many others down a rung or two.
Then came the notifications. You might have read about them. If not, here's the gist. Google started sending out notifications (AKA warnings) to webmasters. The email read something like this:
Before this year, Google would merely tell you about suspicious link activity or they might not. The emails were always pretty non-descriptive. Now, Google flat out tells you that they have detected suspicious link activity and that you should probably get your butt in gear and fix it.
All those years of buying links aren't paying off. In fact, the link-selling industry has taken an interesting twist.
Removing Links For a Price
Remember when article marketing and paid links were all the rage? Now, it seems, that those same sellers are now selling something else: a clean link profile. Oh how interesting this game has become. Those one-time link sellers are now selling another service: link removal.
It's sort of like the old Dr. Seuss story "The Sneetches." If you're not familiar with it, you should be. In the story, a snake oil salesman comes comes to a town filled with strange animals called sneetches. These sneetches can walk and talk, but they have a problem: some of the sneetches have stars on their belly. Some do not. The star-bellied sneetches get a little too "high and mighty" and start thinking they are superior to the plain-belly sneetches. The star-bellied sneetches stick their noses up in the air and treat the plain-bellied sneetches like second-class citizens in the community. Well, the salesman has a solution for the down-trodden plain-bellied sneetches: he sells them stars that they can put on their bellies. Soon, all the original star-bellied sneetches get upset and want their stars removed so that they can once again be different and superior.
This goes on for several rounds with everyone getting all worked up over who has (and doesn't have) a star on their belly. In the end, the salesman walks away with a pile of cash and the sneetches learn a very expensive lesson.
What's the point? Those link-sellers often don't really care about what they're selling you. Before it was a link to your site. Now, it's a link-removal service. What a wonderful merry-go-round. There's only one problem: you're being stripped of all of your cash.
The only benefit of paying someone to remove your link is when it's clearly harming your ranking. Even then, it could tip off Google that you were behind the whole link buying scheme to begin with.
What Should You Do?
In most cases, it's best to leave things alone. If the only kind of links you've built are low quality and/or paid links, you can also consider changing the permalink to the page on your site where all of those paid backlinks point to. That would pretty much clean the slate for you, and let you start over since those junk links will now all be broken. Let them rot (no one will miss them anyway).
If you're still buying links, stop. Get yourself hooked up with a reputable SEO or buy traffic. Buying traffic seems expensive these days, but how much more expensive is it to have an empty website? Going forward, your best bet is to focus on quality backlinks by getting guest blog posts posted to A-List websites, getting a librarian to include your link on a school's resources page, or getting a link from your local chamber of commerce. Don't worry about whether your competition has 20 links or 20,000 links. Quality is what matters in the long-run. If you adopt that view, you'll save yourself a lot of money.