Here is a response to one of my emails in which I ask a webmaster if they could remove a link to a client's site. This is the response in its entirety:
Sigh. That site went on our disavow file.
If you are trying to remove links for the purpose of removing a manual penalty, then in most cases you do not have to pay for link removal. Here is what Google employee John Mueller says about this. (Start watching at 56:50)
Question: Re: Link penalty - Should I pay webmasters demanding a fee for link removal?
John Mueller: Personally I'd recommend not going down that route. If this is something that you want to have removed just for Google's indexing and crawling then probably it's ok to just list it in the disavow file. On the other hand, if it is something you want to have removed from the web completely and you don't want to have this reference on the web for your website then maybe you can talk to those webmasters to see what you can do about having those things removed. But, essentially from our point of view when it comes to unnatural links to your website we want to see that you've taken significant steps to actually remove it from the web but if there are some links that you can't remove yourself or there are some that require payment to be removed then having those in the disavow file is fine as well.
Here is another Webmaster Central Hangout. At the 13 minute mark, Google employee Mariya says, "Do not pay for link removal! This is what the disavow tool is for."
Do I pay for link removal?
When I am trying to remove an unnatural links penalty for a site I rarely pay for link removal, but there are a few situations where I will actually recommend that the site owner pays to have links removed. I may do this if I am working on a site where I am not having much success at getting links removed. I don't know exactly how the webspam team initially views a site but I think that it is possible that they may look at a site quickly and see that there were no links removed and possibly not even look at my spreadsheet but quickly press the "we still see unnatural links to your site" button. So, if I've had poor success removing links then yes, I may pay for some to be removed. But, I rarely pay more than $5-$10 per site for removal.
Is it wrong for site owners to ask for money to remove links?
I just wanted to mention that I don't believe it is wrong for site owners to ask for money to remove links. Some of these site owners get many requests a day for link removal and the time spent removing links from their site is probably substantial. Where I take issue though is with greedy webmasters. I have personally had people ask for hundreds of dollars just to remove a single link. This is an example of people capitalizing on the desperation of penalized webmasters. That makes me upset.
Should I threaten with the disavow tool?
I have seen it often where site owners get into battles with angry webmasters who want money for link removal and make threats like, "Remove this link or I will put you on my disavow file!" At this point, Google has said many times that they do not use the information from the disavow file against the sites that are being disavowed.
If a site is asking for money to be removed, I simply make a note in my spreadsheet that they wanted money and yes, I add them to my disavow file. Google will see in my spreadsheet that I have actually taken the time to gather email addresses (on site and whois) as well as contact form urls for this site and really should be satisfied with this work. They don't expect you to make payments to get links removed.
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