Link PruningGoogle’s most recent update, Penguin, is a bazooka being pointed straight at artificial link building.

It appears that the Penguin update is looking for patterns that show link spamming behaviour, and then reducing the value that those links gave previously.

What you may need to do now is a programme of link pruning or removal of poor quality links that are causing your positions in the search rankings to fall.

What Links Need Pruning?

Initial analysis of sites getting punished by the Penguin show artificial patterns of identical anchor text coming into the site, specifically for highly competitive keywords, also known as “money” phrases.

The good people over at MicrositeMasters have produced an analysis of the types of sites that were penalised, and their graph clearly shows the correlation of sites with a disproportionately high number of keyword rich anchor text links.




So, the first step in your link pruning may be to try to get a better spread or variety of key phrases in your anchor text.  You can run a report showing inbound anchor text links, and that will give you a good starting point to get in touch with webmasters to get this links amended.

Will this be easy?  It certainly will not!

Eric Enge from Stone Temple Consulting is writing in practical and clear terms about link pruning, and he recommends a rolling programme of link reviews and acknowledges getting links removed or amended is nearly as difficult as creating them in the first place.


Other characteristics of sites ripe for link pruning

  • sites that come from completely irrelevant and unrelated topical areas.
  • sites that are very poorly written, and in particular if they are using what appears to be machine generated translation
  • sites with a huge link “footer” at the bottom giving away links to other link farm type sites
  • links coming from sites all having the same IP address
  • links coming from sites all owned by the same person or company
  • links from sites with link selling keywords on them like “free link” or “upgrade your link”


Is it worth doing link pruning?

The big question considers the amount of resource it will take to do this link pruning.  Is it worth it?

If you have received a warning message from Google Webmaster, then you certainly do want to clean up your act, and in your reconsideration request, you can list all the links you are trying to get rid of, whether you have managed to get them successfully removed or not.

And the glib answer is if you weren’t doing deliberate spammy link building in the first place then we wouldn’t need to be discussing this at all.

Prevention is always better than cure, and my belief over the last 12 years to getting nothing but high-quality inbound links has never wavered.

But, if you have succumbed, then pruning away some of the worst links and replacing them with higher quality links will always be a good idea.

Further reading:

Team Hallam: Link Building Top Tips

One response to “Link Pruning: SEO and the Penguin Update”

  1. I’m confused at this so called improvement from Google, as certain results seem to indicate the complete opposite of what they claim to have done. For example, my black dating site ranked on page 1 for the phrase black dating and then took a Penguin hit. Yet when I check the back links for the current top 10 sites, nearly ALL their links are like those mentioned! They’re from other sites owned by them in the main, full of articles designed to provide links, spam my sites that haven’t been updated for years and in one case, a website with PR5, which simply states it is no longer operating! How are you supposed to compete with sites that just own loads of domains, stuff them full of “articles” and links (exactly what Penguin was supposed to deal with), yet sit happily on page 1? Out of the current top 10 on (pages from the UK) for the search phrase “black dating”, 3 of the sites are American! To me it seems like Google’s completely lost the plot here!

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