Google will tell you the reason for your penalty, but they are not going to provide you with an extensive report as to how it happened, that is your job as a webmaster.

Being able to scale down data and analyze it correctly is a huge benefit to webmasters looking not only to remove a Google penalty but also to understand how it happened in the first place.  This guide will show you the five best usable sources for link data, and teach you how to use them. Each one on their own may not offer a complete picture of your website, but using them all together offers a pretty accurate picture.  

Google Webmaster Tools

Google’s free webmaster tools offer a list of domains that point to your website, display potential malware, and other small issues with the site.

How to Use Google Webmaster Tools

Visit and create an account. Click “Add a Site” , and add both the www version of your website and the non-www version to ensure the most accurate detailed report. You will be asked to verify the site to ensure you are in fact the site owner. Once the site is linked, click “Search Traffic>Links to Your Site.

You will be given an option to download a spreadsheet of all your referring domains. Look under the section titles “Who link the most”, and click more. The number of linking URLs will be displayed with options to download the current table, download more sample links, and download the latest links. Choose “download more sample links”.

Majestic SEO

Majestic SEO is a link analysis tool that is free for webmasters to use. Just type in your site name into the search bar, and check “Use Fresh Index”. How to deal with all the graphs and other displays will be discussed in Part 4 of this guide, but for now we want to stay focused on how to download the critical data.

Click on the “Backlinks” tab, scroll to the bottom and click “Download Data”.

Open Site Explorer offers a free suite of analytics tools, and even as a free subscriber, they offer some valuable information.  Go to and enter your site name into the search bar. Click the “Request a CSV” link and download your data.


Ahrefs offers a similar experience to Majestic SEO. Sign up for a free account if you have not done so already. Enter your full domain name into the search bar and hit enter. Click either CSV or PDF to export your data. The CSV option is easier to manipulate, and all the websites offer the option, so stick with it for now. offers a website optimizer that is free to use, as well as free tools to get detailed reports on every aspect of your website's on-page and off-page SEO.

Time to Get Organized

Using Google spreadsheets is the easiest way to organize all of your data into one place. If the data is downloaded into Excel CSV sheets, it can easily be transferred to a Google spreadsheet.

The spreadsheet with all the data well organized will be used to send to Google with your reinclusion request, and Google does not open attachments from untrusted sources, so make sure you transfer everything to a Google doc before trying to send.

Create columns for the link URL, activity status, anchor text, domain page rank, follow or no-follow status, link type, action taken, and the contact name of the domain owner. The columns and information added can be altered to suit the webmaster's tastes, the main goal is to create a well-organized, and very clear picture of your link profile to sending to Google.

Once all the links sources are copied into the Excel spreadsheet, use the “find and replace” feature to remove any instances of HTTP://, HTTP//  or www.

Copy and paste all the information from each sheet into a master sheet. Remove all duplicates by going to the Data tab and selecting “Remove Duplicates” after ensuring you only have the Link Url column selected.

Include as many notes as possible, since this sheet will be manually reviewed, it helps to show the reviewer as much information as possible. Always mark a link as deleted instead of deleting the row, this shows the Google reviewer that you acknowledged and handled any links in question, and not just ignored them.

Each of the resources offers different columns in their downloadable reports. In addition to the supplied information in the downloaded reports, it is a good idea to include other information for any links creating a penalty on your sites, such as:

  • Contact Name
  • Contact Email Address
  • Website Contact Form
  • Twitter URL
  • Facebook URL
  • Google+ URL
  • LinkedIn URL
  • Date of the First Contact
  • Date of Second Contact
  • Date f Third Contact
  • Link Status
  • Notes

·Include any information that is readily available for each URL. This allows Google reviewers to easily research the data you have included, and make a quicker decision in your favor.

Inventory Content on Your Site

Even if you are 100% sure that content is not the reason for your penalty, it should still be inventoried for your own personal records.

One of the largest expenses and most time-consuming problems a website can have is a problem with its content. Keeping an accurate record of all the content on your site helps you to identify problem areas, understand bounce rates, and keep you in tune with your competition so you know where you can gain an advantage.

Google’s algorithms come as close to a human eye as possible when it reads content, but only a human can really determine if the content is useful, humorous, informative, or insightful.

The Panda update helped Google to find spun, duplicated, and keyword stuff content, but only YOU can determine if the content on your site is helpful or hurtful towards ratings, traffic numbers, and bounce rates.

Creating a Site Audit for Content

Running a site audit periodically for content is the only way to ensure your website is running smoothly. You can start by creating a Google Docs spreadsheet with the following columns:

  • ID Number
  • Page Name
  • URL
  • Purpose
  • Keywords
  • Maintainer
  • Notes

If you want to perform a more extensive audit, add any of the following columns:

  • ROT (redundant, Outdated or Trivial)
  • Differential
  • Collocation
  • Informational Scent
  • Completeness
  • Accessibility
  • Bounded Horizons
  • Multiple Access paths
  • Consistency
  • Audience Relevance
  • Appropriate Structure

If you are unsure what all of that means, Part 4 of this guide will help clear things up for you.

Now, with the columns created, start with the home page of your site, and start filling out the top row by assigning a Page ID. Assign all top-tier pages of your site as 0.0, 1.0, 2.0, etc. The pages under those top-tier pages will be 0.1, 0.2, 1.1, 1.2, and so on.

Check On-Page and Off-Page SEO Factors

Use to check all of your on-page and off-page SEO factors. The tools are free to use and offer a wide variety of useful and important information about your website.


After gathering all the critical data on your website, you should have a fairly extensive spreadsheet system in place. Even if you have not experienced a Google penalty, the information is a useful tool that can help prevent any future penalties.

In case you missed the previous parts of this guide:

Part One: Identifying a Google Penalty

Part Two: What Caused Your Google Penalty, and How Can you Fix It?

Move on to the Next Guide Sections:

Part Four: Understanding Your Critical Website Data