Link Pruning is paramount in order to Addressing Penguin

With today’s post I am happy to announce the launch of the Stone Temple Consulting YouTube Channel. And, we are kicking that off with a video interview I did with Bruce Clay on a hot topic – link pruning. As you probably know, Google’s recent Penguin update focused on lowering rankings for sites that use questionable link building practices.
This is a hot topic! If you have been hit by Penguin, or are worried about future variations of the algorithm, this is a video you can’t miss. In fact, regardless of your current situation, pruning the worst links out of your profile is a rock solid idea.
Key Points
  1. Link pruning refers to the identification and removal of unnatural, non-organic, or generally spammy links from a link profile.
  2. In many cases, questionable link building tactics (buying links, spamming links) can result in an eventual loss of rankings.
  3. In the event of a loss of rankings (or warning from Google) due to unnatural link profiles, it sometimes makes sense to investigate a link profile, find the low quality links, and send requests to their webmasters for removal.
  4. Many times, getting a link removed from a webmaster can be as difficult, if not more difficult, then getting the link in the first place.
  5. The key to this process is persistence and communication with Google.
  6. Sometimes, the best you can do is send a list of the links you are trying to remove, and ask Google to discount them. Showing an effort to Google is always a good plan of action.
  7. When removing links, don’t expect to return to your pre-penalty rankings. You must replace the spammy links that were detected with quality links, which can sometimes be a lengthy process.
  8. Link pruning should be considered every month. Ask yourself: What is the bottom 5 percent of links that I have in terms of quality? How can I remove these and replace them with quality links?
Full Interview Transcript
Eric Engle: Hi, I’m Eric Engel. I’m the CEO and founder of Stone Temple Consulting. We are an internet marking optimization firm doing pay per click, social media, and SEO.
And I’m here today with Bruce Clay. Bruce, take this moment and tell us a little bit about you.
Bruce Clay: Bruce Clay has been in business since 1996. We started out as a pure play SEO company. We’ve now expanded into other areas of internet marketing optimization. We do SEO, PPC, analytics. We’re Monitored-certified, as an example. We do conversion rate optimization, social media, and a lot of design architecture work.
Bruce Clay Website
We are probably well-known for speaking at conferences. We wrote the Wiley book Search Engine Optimization All-In-One for Dummies. We do a lot of courses. I sponsor a lot of conferences, the Search Engine Strategies and Search Marketing Expo. I think I’m either notable there for being a speaker, a teacher, an exhibitor, a sponsor.
I think mostly people remember me because I provide drink tickets.
Eric Enge: That’s an important benefit that you bring to attendees.
Bruce Clay: Yes. So, I think networking is important. So, we’re pretty well-established, I think, in the industry and we hope to continue to, obviously, grow within that space.
Eric Enge: Yes, super. So, Bruce, you and I chatted a little bit offline here about this notion of link pruning. And, you know, what we’re really talking about here is a site that may or may not have gotten the problem in terms of being flagged by Google. But they know they have a problem in terms of their link profile. Too many links from unrelated sources, or purchased, or whatever they might be. Can you talk a little bit about how you think about link pruning?
Webmaster Unnatural Links Notice
Bruce Clay: Indeed. All of us began performing what we should contact hyperlink pruning. It wasn’t really; it’s still not a mainstream phrase, but it really does apply to what we do.
Perhaps 6, eight several weeks back, we had a client from one point that was really, really well-ranked, however they experienced that links had been; these people bought into the Kool-Aid, if you will. These people recognized which hyperlinks had been essential, and they think it is essential plus they talked to all of us as well as we’ve been a firm that draws hyperlinks rather than recruiting links, for a moment. All of us don’t purchase them. All of us don’t do that.
So, really, in regards to a year. 5; two years ago, they bought into that idea. Someone sold all of them the balance of products. They'd been around with regard to awhile, so that they stated, “Oh, new eyes. Let’s do this.” These people recently that individual immediately started buying hyperlinks and spamming hyperlinks. Weblog hyperlinks. A variety of truly spammy types of issues.
These people took their rankings, that have been significant, and they lost all of them. These people returned in order to all of us after which unexpectedly we’ve got a website that we were acquainted with, on-page appeared good, but off page had been completely a disaster. And we gone through by evaluation which what they tried was burnt their own believe in scores.
So, what had happened is the PageRank choose to go upward as well as their believe in had gone down. They discovered themselves nowhere within the very first three, four, or even 5 pages of ranking. It was time to do the restore.
And in the world of financial, there’s 2 ways to make money. You either sell more or else you spend less. Because the difference is how you’re at. So that as worthwhile numerator/denominator system seems to be, during this situation, the largest boom for that dollar was actually in removing the poor links instead of attempting to overcome all of them with more great hyperlinks.
Eric Enge: Right.
Bruce Clay: So, all of us created this term known as hyperlink trimming, and in the hyperlink trimming process what we should do is actually we attempt to look for the quality of the sites that really connect to a person. We started by subscribing to Majestic Search engine optimization. All of us used their own ACRank score to look for the likely reduce complement kind of things.
And then we manually went in to all of the lowest-scored pages and we determined whether or not they were organic or inorganic inbound links. And where we determined that they were off-topic or spammy or low-quality blog links or things that looked like they had been acquired instead of earned.
We solicited a either no-follow or removal of the link themselves. That turned out to be a rather lengthy process. For anybody that has ever tried to, “Dear Webmaster, please link to me,” getting rid of links is twice as bad.
Eric Enge: Yes, exactly. Even if you paid for it originally, they don’t want to spend the time to take it off.
Bruce Clay: Yes, because it’s going away. I mean, they make no money if you do that. They’re in no hurry to do that. In some of the cases, we found that even though, through this link network they bought into, they were paying for the links, even when they stopped paying for the link, the link didn’t go away. So, the penalty remained because the link was still there. They stopped paying for it, but that didn’t eliminate it.
Eric Enge: So, how do you deal with that problem, then?
Bruce Clay: Well, you have to be somewhat persistent. You have to request in writing a couple of times. If you can determine who it was that did it through this network, sometimes going to them, they have more juice with those individual sites than you ever would. So, you know, we would attempt to determine where the originator of the link request came from and work through them as an intermediary.
The problem you also face (and we ran into this) is some of them knew they were junk sites. And this is something really bizarre, because I didn’t expect it. When they knew that they were a junk site, as soon as we requested that they remove the link, they sent us an email saying, “We will remove your links for $10 a link.” Almost as if they put the link in knowing that eventually you would have to ask them to remove and it and that would be how they would make their money.
Eric Enge: Yes.
Bruce Clay: I think it’s kind of hard to tell. When things like that happen, you know, there’s only one thing you do is you take that email and you forward it off to Google. Because it’s a good reason why I can’t get rid of my links.
Eric Enge: Right. Well, and that, I think, is a big part of the strategy, right? Because at the end of the day you can’t get all your links removed. It’s not gonna happen. So, what we’ve seen work is you create a Google Doc, you send in a reconsideration request, you point to the Google Doc, and say, “Hey, I tried to get these removed. I couldn’t. Please just discount them.”
Bruce Clay: Yes. And, quite frankly, Google hasn’t; again, there’s no ruler for measuring how many I have to get rid of. It’s a subjective kind of a thing. In some cases, they say that you have demonstrated, on a good-faith basis, that you are removing them, continue to remove them, let us know later. In some cases, you’re demonstrating it, you’ve done a good enough job, we’ll let you back in.
The belief is that if Google actually penalizes you for these bad links, unfortunately, this is a customer belief, that if I was ranked on page 3, I buy the links, I move up to page 1. I get penalized to page 5. We remove the links, you move back up to page 3. The customer is generally upset because they didn’t move back up to page 1.
Well, the only reason you were on page 1 is because you were pre-spam. But we have customers that were upset because, “Hey, I really enjoyed being there. I asked you to fix my links and you haven’t gotten me back to page 1.” Which is two entirely different situations. Sometimes getting back to where you were before the bought the links is all you can really expect.
Eric Enge: Right. So, we won’t have time for it in today’s video, but obviously, then, that says that the next thing you do is you work on building good quality organic links to get you back there. But at least by having gone through this process will have taken the problem out of the mix.
Bruce Clay: Well, we hope. As an ongoing thing, by the way, there’s maintenance to this. I mean, every month you should say: What is my 5 percent worst links, how do I prune that 5 percent and add in 5 percent at the top? How do I churn my link network to have a generally better quality?
Link Pruning IllustratedSimply because, trust me, Google’s going to maintain turning which dial. It’s going to tighten down as well as what made it through recently may not make it through this particular month. Therefore, the surprise associated with Google.