Google Penguin & Pointless Link Removals for SEO

Many businesses have seen their rankings drop due to Google’s latest update called Penguin. This is due to Google deciding to devalue lots of types of back-links that were typically used in low quality link building. The net result is that not only does your back-link loss affect your search rankings but all of the websites you link to and you are affected by all of the sites that link to the sites that link to you (phew!).

My experience of this is that the issue is mainly with older websites that have relied heavily on old-fashioned SEO spanning almost a decade. These techniques include things like blog comments, generic directory submission, social bookmarking, social media profiles, forum profiles and signatures. Website owners are no doubt screaming at their SEO teams to rectify the problem without fully realising that these issues have been caused by older techniques that at the time worked and were widely recognised as good sources for SEO.
To fix the Google Penguin issue you’ve probably read a lot about going through your back-link profiles and removing the offending websites to see a return in your rank. This activity sounds great but is fraught with lots of issues that I’ve yet to hear anyone talk about.

One. Recent activity by Google in the form of the ‘love letter’ was an attempt to notify webmasters of bad quality links in their backlink profiles. Stated in these documents was a statement that said if no action was taken, the links would be ignored. Does this mean you don’t have to go through the arduous task of removing back-links (citation being sourced – it was a few weeks ago which is an eternity for me).

Two. In order to get a list of all of your backlinks many SEO’s resort to tools such as SEOMoz’s excellent Open Site Explorer, Majestic SEO, Link Diagnosis or Google Webmaster Tools. None of these tools can provide a complete list of the offending websites. This is because they’re all limited to the data available to them and in Google’s case, only show you a sample. This means that you will never be able to find 100% of the offending websites.

Three. As some of these links are from really old links and probably created by the original owner, 2, 3 or 4th generation SEO’s and even automated tools, it will be difficult to taken down the links that you find. Again this means that lots of links will be left lying around.

This all sounds pretty defeatist but considering point one, I wouldn’t even bother with it.

What I think has happened is that these links and the no doubt masses anchor text and individual links on unique domains has been wiped out. This has affected sites that have previously scaled back on their SEO due to already having and maintaining high positions for their terms. In short, they’re lagging behind in the quality link stakes due to apathy or maintaining old school style volume based link building. The problem is the afore mentioned tools still show these now defunct links as being live meaning things are very messy right now.

My solution is to consider these links as lost and change your strategy to make up the historic shortfall with good quality links. For me ‘good quality’ is a simple concept:

  • Contextual links
  • On pages that are relevant to your topic
  • With suitable page titles
  • On sites that are related to your topic

Try it… I’ve yet to be proved wrong.