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Judging by my error logs, the Google craler errors, and the massive amount of DCMA takedown notices I get it has become apparent that the previous owner of my domain name (ianspence.com) used to host pirated content, specifically software.

A quick peek in my error logs shows hundreds of URLs like:

  • /graphic/downlaod/full-version-foxit-reader-3141125-free-download-keygen-crack.html
  • /security/downlaod/full-version-fix-it-utilities-professional-10334-free-download-keygen-crack.html
  • /mobile/downlaod/full-version-tunebite-7120101-free-download-keygen-crack.html
  • /antivirus/downlaod/full-version-avg-anti-virus-plus-firewall-internet-security-90730-free-download-keygen-crack.html

Looking at Google Webmaster Tools shows me that Google is trying to crawl these links as well, always returning 404. Last year, right after I purchased the domain, I received a flurry of DCMA takedown notices for links like the ones above that were indexed on Google. I never did hear back from Google after contesting every single takedown, but they did stop.

My question is, what is the best course of action? Are these old URLs hurting my sites reputation? How can I stop them?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

The damage has been done. You are in deep kimchi and will be for a while.

The best thing you can do is wait. It will take quite a bit of time, but in the meantime, make sure that these links remain broken. It is okay to allow them to 404. A 410 is better, but not worth the effort to implement.

If you have not registered for Google Webmaster Tools, you can verify the site with Google. As well, you can go to Google Index, Remove URLs and enter each URL you find requests for in your log files. It takes Google a while to take notice of this but it works. It does not matter if these links are in the index or not. It is a voice you have to disavow this content.

The good news is, Google will see the new ownership. Google does look at domain name registrations, hosts, an so on. What I would suggest is making sure your domain name is registered with a good registrar- if not- you can transfer the domain name to a quality registrar. I recommend GoDaddy. As well, make sure that your site is hosted on a quality host. The point here is to make sure your site lives within good neighborhoods. This will go toward trust scores. If you can afford it, enable HTTPS and get a certificate. You do not have to keep it for a long time, but it can help with the trust factor.

If is is at all possible and appropriate, Register with Google+ and use the author tag to identify your work. Also work very hard to get quality inbound links (backlinks). Both help with the trust factor. It may also help to have Google Analytics.

The point is to do everything you can do to signal quality and the new ownership of the site. Do as much as you can and I am sure that the amount of pain you have to endure will be much less. Here is one piece of advice I can give with confidence; do not go cheap or free. Go ahead and spend some money. You do not have to spend a lot of money, but do not be cheap either. Going cheap causes new problems and will not help you fix this problem. In fact, it can make it worse.

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Thank you for this insightful comment. I've taken steps to return 410 errors on these urls, as they all go to a /downlaod/ folder. I've also modified my robots.txt file to disallow that dir as well. HTTPS isn't an option right now because I use cloudflare, but they are releasing SSL for all customers soon, so that will be coming. I'll link my domain with Google+ like you said. –  ecnepsnai Apr 22 at 4:40
    
Normally, I would not pull out the entire tool set, but for about a year or so, anything you can do will really help. I empathize with your plight. It is winnable. If you cannot do SSL, then I would not worry about it too much right now. But when it does become available, then think about it because it is assurance that your site is correct and you are you. Another idea. Not sure what it is worth, but if you get some friends to add a rating on Web Of Trust (WOT), and other trust related sites, that may help too. Who knows. –  closetnoc Apr 22 at 5:15
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