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.

Written by Mark Rushworth

With over 14 years experience in online design and marketing I, like many others, began my professional life as a web designer before realising my talent for digital marketing. This I have pursued as my primary career focus since 2007. Since then Ive worked across all sectors for clients big and small delivering the best bang for your buck.


  1. When you say “With suitable page titles” do you just mean if the page is about KEYWORD 1 then the page title has KEYWORD 1 in it? Just making sure…

    • Hi Andrea, I mean make sure your titles are on topic, not canibalised by other content, make use of synonyms and related phrases… think of one set of keywords per page that you don’t repeat (except for maybe on the home page). HTH, M.

  2. Perfect!. Google updated its algorithm against spam techniques. Site which have unnatural looking back link profile and aggressive exact match anchor text has been penalized by Google. Google is on the process of adding, all of site back links on Google webmasters tool, if you find any non theme back links to your site, you can be removed by just click a button on Webmaster toots, associated with your account.

  3. On polish Internet some big company sites went down like 40 google result page.

    They were very popular and common, and after that change users couldnt get the page!

    I guess 1 week after penguin they’ve lost like hundreds of thousands of dollars!

  4. Agree, the post penguin era left many devastated sites in anguish. Great point for contextual links. May I add that links coming from authority sites with pr not less than 3 is also a good idea, quality links it is.

  5. Markla! Nice read and a good post – some good points raised!

    I would add – that at least some are trying to clean up the footprints, but alas, i agree in part that its in vain considering… “we have no control over the sites that link to us”

    What are links Big G? Im just trying to get referrals and people to buy things from my site and feed my kids!

    Although i would raise, the link builders have access to the links that they have built – thus ones that aren’t seen in tools start being removed… odd.

    Still, nice read Mark, sites this end unaffected in any updates, alas, the Link Mix ideal lives strong! Spread your nets wide fisherman, let the others hang out with the sharks and forget them there glory terms for a while – the olde stable in SEO… KEYWORD Research and variety is always a spice of life.

    Power on Mark!

    • Hi Jim,

      i just dont get the point of link removals. logically Google cant penalise a business for historic links… if youve done them recently then fine do your cleaning for hat its worth but it makes more sense for them to just discount these links which basically wipes them from your backlink profile. The issues are more to do with OSE and Majestic which has no way of differentiating valid links from discounted links

  6. No one seems to have considered the fact that link juice flows from multiple sites into their website.
    So let’s say you’ve got links from 100 sites.
    20 of those websites are dramatically reduced in value, because the links going to them from other sources have been devalued during the update.
    Because your website is further ‘down stream’ you’ve suddenly list 20% of the total link juice going to your domain.
    It’s not your fault, but as you say, the obvious answer is to throw more quality links at the problem.

    Just thought I’d present a different angle that seems to have been overlooked so far. That could be what’s causing people with best practice sites to take a tumble in the rankings.

    – Adam

    • Hi Adam,

      I totally agree, i call this the ‘wash’ as PR gets washed through countless link networks to have an affect on the web as a whole.

      My stance is to not freak out when these things happen and wait for a period of stability when you can take a reading/measurement and make your strategic decisions.

      it freaks people out why im so calm when Google does an update like this lol.

      ‘it will all come out in the wash’

  7. I just read the latest news about Penguin 1.0, the refresher. It’s giving me headache and puzzles on how to cope up but these changes will surely give a challenge to develop cleaner and valuable content.

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