Google’s new practice of filtering website pages that have what Google believes to be an un-natural backlink profile has prompted creation of a new SEO practice called “Link Pruning”. If a website page has a high number of un-natural backlinks, Google applies a ranking filter which appears as a ranking demotion. The name given to this filter is “Penguin”.
Google’s SPAM team has stated that their “Penguin” filter is algorithmic and that websites caught in this filter may remove the effects of the filter by removing SPAMMY backlinks. Link Pruning is the practice of removing backlinks that may have negative SEO consequences in Google organic rankings.
Step 1 – Audit
The first part of the Link Pruning process involves a backlink audit. This audit needs to include multiple backlink sources. Google’s backlinks reported in their Webmaster Tools must be one of the sources. Unfortunately, Google backlink reporting tool:
- Includes backlinks that are historic which may be either dead or on pages that Google has de-indexed
- Is not inclusive of all links Google knows about
- Does not indicate which links it believes are unnatural.
Position Research’s backlink audit includes backlinks from a minimum of:
- Google Webmaster Tools
- Majestic SEO
The task of determining which backlinks are more likely to be included in Google’s “Penguin” filter is challenging. If good backlinks are removed, rankings will decline. Likewise, removal of unnatural backlinks in sufficient quantity will have a positive effect on rankings by removing Google’s filter.
A comprehensive audit needs to include as many backlinks as possible as well as backlink metrics that help establish its “SPAM” level. In order to provide this kind of information, each and every backlink and the page it resides must be inspected and evaluated.
Backlinks found on pages with the following characteristics have higher spam scores.
- Very low PageRank value
- Many of the same Class C IP pages
- Many outbound external backlinks
- Free directory sites
- Low amount of content
- Content that is not unique
Backlinks that have rel=”nofollow” attributes or on pages of brand name or “trusted” websites are okay.
Step 2 – Prune
The Pruning process involves 3 parts:
Manually webpage review. Some backlinks may reside on brand name or trusted website pages. These may be okay even though they may possess some spam characteristics.
The email sent should be respectful and request the removal of specific backlinks on specific pages.
Dear Webmaster of XXXXX,
It has come to my attention that the following pages on your website includes a Search Engine Friendly (SEF) link to http://www.domain.com . These pages appear to be either:
- A directory
- Contain either an excessive number of outbound links
- Duplicate content
In either case, these pages appear to have a negative influence on my Google rankings. As such, I respectfully request that my link be removed from these pages.
I realize my request may not be honored. However, Google has requested that I include a list of SPAMMY backlinks that I have attempted to have removed as part of my re-inclusion request. If my links are not removed from your site, your pages would be part of that list. For both our sakes, I believe it would be better to remove my link.
Checking for backlink removed. After a reasonable period of time (1 week), the backlink is checked. If the backlink is still active, another email is sent. Up to 3 emails are sent. If the backlink is still alive, the process is abandoned.
Position Research pricing:
- 0 – 1000 links: $250
- 1001 – 3000 links: $350
- 3001 – 10000 links: $450
- 10001 – 20000 links: $650
Sample Excel (2010) Backlink Audit Report here.
Customers are responsible for contacting backlinking sites for removal of their backlinks.