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Can Removing Backlinks Help You to Penguin-Recover? (Weekly Q&A)

penguin - link removalThere’s an interesting thread over at SEOchat forums discussing the possible ways to recover from the ranking drop caused by Penguin update.

One of the most interesting points being discussed: “Does backlink removal make sense?

Let’s first see what Penguin is actually is.

Algorithm Update vs Penalty

Your website rankings may drop because of either a penalty or an algorithm update. There’s no perfect way to distinguish between the two but here’s what I would do: If you see no one else on the web discussing ranking drop on a specific day and you see some handy notices in your Google Webmaster Tools account saying that you are using prohibited tactics, that might be a penalty.

If your rankings drop and you see all the the SEO forums discussing ranking changes, that might be due to the algorithm update / refresh.

Depending on what caused the ranking drop, your recovery strategy should be different.

Just rushing to remove your links is a waste of time.

With manual penalty, removing links and submitting a reconsideration request did long ago prove to be effective. It’s still not easy to get the penalty lifted, but at least that’s something doable.

With the algorithm update, backlink profile clean-up is needed, but more changes are needed, especially in the way you do link building.

Penguin is the Algorithm Update

That means, Google is changing the way the link juice is flowing and getting smarter at defining good efficient links.

On a smaller scale, that must mean that some of your links get devalued because they were detected as artificial or low-quality or suspicious. You must try to remove or disavow those links because they may be dragging your site down

Further Reading:

I am mostly giving some official sources below – the reason being is that no one frankly knows. Link removal might or might not work. The thread above is only good for giving some food for thought, but not laying out the actual TO-DO action list for you… So what do we actually know about Penguin?

What are your thoughts?

Image source


75 Responses

  1. Valid points and I have not seen above thread and the comment pointed out does make sense. We are removing bad links we control and way forward building better links in ratio to one another etc.

  2. Well its not only limited to removing back-links or creating high-quality links rather its about the structure and content of your own website. It’s more about the On-Page optimization of the page in order to saves yourself from getting penalized.
    The outgoing links from our site affects the SERP and so considerable actions must be taken in order to improve or sustain the ranking in search engine.
    Some other recovery methods are posted at

  3. Sounds fair. I guess if you keep updating your site with fresh content and link building, then penguin should pick up on this and keep your site in good standings with Google.

  4. As part of the recent re-branding and expansion of SEO services, Boykin has prioritized hiring experienced, knowledgeable, and respected people in the SEO industry.

  5. Hi Ann, the Penguin and Panda updates have cause a lot of havoc in the blogging world. Everyone is re-thinking their strategy. Removal of back-links, I think will not do much as the damage has already been done. It’s time I think to clean up the mess. Checking which sites might look suspicious or low-quality and working on raising their standards and at the same keeping high standards for those site that do well will probably do some good in the long run.

  6. I really think that the new link building is removing links. I sat in on SES SF this year at a panel for link building. We spent one hour talking about the quickest way to remove links.

  7. I think tackling the Penguin update would mean increasing the standard of your content. It would mean getting providing high quality posts. Removing backlinks might help initially as then you can revamp your blog and present it with high quality and innovative content.

  8. Thanks for the post Ann. I am always wondering what is a penalty and what is an update. Either ways most of us do get affected. I agree that with penalties it is easier to rectify and get rankings recovery. However, the thing that worries me most is the algorithm updates. How do we small-time niche based sites overcome the wrath of the penguin?

  9. Hi Ann, firstly I see that there has been a change in your layout. Congratulations for that. Secondly, I think if you get caught up with penalties or algorithm updates, the problem basically lies in the site not producing high quality content. In such cases removal of backlinks seldom helps. What you must work on is increasing the standard of your site.

  10. Thanks for sharing this Ann. It is indeed difficult to keep up with the different updates that Google churns out. I hope we can find a way for recovery soon enough. Thanks a ton.

  11. Hi Ann, Thanks for sharing this with us. I don’t see what we can do when an algorithm update does target our website. Like you said, there is no definite recovery method. I just hope Google stops dishing out such updates too often.

  12. This is new to us again.. We don’t really have the exact point how this work but this is a good tool for those who we’re affected by it..

  13. Hi Ann, I think it is essential that we find a recovery to algorithm updates, and we need to find it soon. Removing backlinks may help short term but in the long run, we definitely need a more foolproof method.

  14. Would be nice if in the long run this means people will stop posting comments on other peoples blogs just to take advantage of the backlink the post creates.

  15. Hi..i have created a lot of backlinks for my website. But in Alexa Widget my ranking is getting better…But total Links in is showing as 2 from last so many months. please help me out..

  16. In my opinion there is no way to get out of Penguin by removing links. Great Content an new links help!

  17. When it hit use, we lost 1 out of 10 sites to the update. The remainder either remained stable or grew. Since then, I’ve been working on one particular site and it’s grown 10 percent (not bad given that it already holds 50 percent of search traffic for that particular niche. The problem with a lot of sites it that they don’t think “Deep” and just think “Home page”

  18. I think Penguin is more like a step forward to get rid of over-night SEO’s. I see a lot of people doing SEO who don’t even know what does it stand for! So in my opinion Panda/Penguin both are kind of a step to distinguish the good ones and the poor ones.

    As far as the recovery is concerned, it isn’t guaranteed. People have been trying different methods to regain the rankings; some of them have even 301 the effected domains to new domains. But I personally think finding out backlinks and then trying to remove the poor ones is a good step to get out of it. Only God knows what the next updates are gonna do with us!

  19. There are no perfect ways to discern the cause of ranking drop of your website.There may be two reasons as this article explains.The first reason is due to the penalty and the second maybe due to an algorithm update.The algorithm update may lead to ranking drop of many people together but if penalty is caused then it is due to some prohibited action taken.Also removing back links can be helpful to increase your ranking but this is not always true.

  20. I’ve read a post on Search Engine Land with their interview of one of Google’s ex-employee and he said “If you want to succeed in SEO, forget about SEO”. In my opinion, you just really have to create content mainly for the users, then build links through those content. There is no way Google would think that this is some kind of a method to manipulate and deceive the search engines, as long as people find your content useful.

  21. Taking into account the speed Google changes it search algorithms, focusing on content rather than SEO seems definitely the good strategy to me! However, when you have to deal with existing strategies, tips like that can be life savers, thanks!!

  22. I’m new to the world of SEO and blogging, so it came as quite a shock when I heard of “link removing” as opposed to “link building”. Yours was the only article which I could find which actually explained why a person would want to “remove” his/her links from a website. So essentially, the penguin update is more effective in detective spammy links, so if you have posted spam, your PR would be lowered.

  23. I don’t think it’s good advice to suggest companies shouldn’t clean up their links if they’ve been affected after a Penguin update, especially if that was the reason that they dropped in the first place. Removing links obviously isn’t going to improve your rankings, however, removing obviously low quality links alongside implementing a high quality link building strategy is the only possible solution to recovering. If you don’t remove harmful links then the next time there’s a Penguin refresh (or regular algorithm refresh now that it’s being incorporated into that), you’ll most likely drop again, even if you’ve spent a lot of time and effort on building good links. For the amount of time spent on improving rankings, it’s not worth the risk not to clean up the bad links.

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Jim Boykin
Jim Boykin

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Ann Smarty
Ann Smarty

Community & Branding Manager