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Will Google penalize you if you remove links too fast?
smithaa02

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4462495 posted 3:12 pm on Jun 7, 2012 (gmt 0)

One of our sites was hit by Penguin and we did link-build for it.

Cutts is on record as inferring that removing links will help with penguin

[searchengineland.com...]

How do people pull themselves out of these link networks, if perhaps they dont have control over those links now?

It is possible to clean things up, Cutts said, and he suggested people review two videos hes done on this topic:


With this in mind I am very interested in removing our artificial backlinks. But our link builder is adamant that if we do this we will be flagged by google and penalized further.

Who is right?

 

Robert Charlton

WebmasterWorld Administrator robert_charlton us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4462495 posted 6:29 pm on Jun 7, 2012 (gmt 0)

With this in mind I am very interested in removing our artificial backlinks. But our link builder is adamant that if we do this we will be flagged by google and penalized further.

The link builder (or broker), IMO, is arguing more for his own interest than for yours.

You have already been flagged by Google and you have been penalized. As the penalty is algorithmic, only removing the links will remove the penalty... unless you truly believe that there's been a mistake and decide to appeal those errors. By removing links, you won't be penalized further, but you may also be removing links which Google hasn't identified as artificial, and the link builder's network might be further compromised.

Google is playing an interesting game of chess, here. By removing those links, you are indeed confirming for Google that those backlinks were purchased or at least under your control. IMO, if the links came through a broker's network, particularly a publicly advertised network, Google most likely already knows that the links were purchased, though they may not know with absolute certainty precisely who purchased them.

If you (or your link builder) bought the links without going to a broker, Google's ability to identify those links depends on your knowledge of natural patterns and your degree of restraint.

Also to be noted... sites that sell links to numerous people are easier to spot than sites that sell only one link. Sites that will sell a link and sell only one are probably fairly rare.

smithaa02

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4462495 posted 7:38 pm on Jun 7, 2012 (gmt 0)

Thx Robert for the feedback.

He is claiming he did this for another client...and that client got de-indexed completely. Part of his angle seems to be that removing links will get you human reviewed. He also guaranteed that we would drop in rankings if we dropped his links.

I suspect he is only looking after his own network, but this is a tough situation and I wish google would be more definitive on this matter.

Jez123

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4462495 posted 8:22 pm on Jun 7, 2012 (gmt 0)

I removed some links from one of my own sites and I dropped much further than the initial penalty. I maybe should have kept them but expect it's only a matter of time before google spots them and then I risk the whole process again. I just hope that the next penguin refresh will see me climbing a bit. New links that I am adding are having no effect so far either.

I don't have a chance in competing my SERP unless google penalises the dirty players that are dominating it. There is just no way to compete without doing something underhand to get there. This is not a level field.

smithaa02

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4462495 posted 8:32 pm on Jun 7, 2012 (gmt 0)

Jez...how many links? What percentage of your profile was affected? How fast did you do this?

Do you think you were getting an algorithmic penalty or do you think you just lost a bunch of juice? Pre-link building, our site ranked very well for our money phrase...so in my case I'm not worried about the lack of juice from these link networks...I'm just worried about a algorithmic penalty.

I hear you about competing on an uneven playing field. We used to be #1. Then our competition bought links and passed us. We got into an arms race to stay even and we got penalized and they are still sitting pretty...not affected one iota by Penguin even though they blatantly bought a LARGE quantity of links from two SEO companies. Filed a spammer complaint with overwhelming evidence implicating these guys...google didn't care.

Robert Charlton

WebmasterWorld Administrator robert_charlton us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4462495 posted 8:50 pm on Jun 7, 2012 (gmt 0)

He is claiming he did this for another client...and that client got de-indexed completely.

If that client relied 100% on paid links, I could see how that might happen.

You have to assess your own situation. Were these links the unfortunate byproduct of a hiring a bad link builder sometime in the history of an otherwise meritorious site, or was this your modus operandi? If all or most of your links are bought, your link builder could well be right.

crobb305

WebmasterWorld Senior Member crobb305 us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4462495 posted 12:32 am on Jun 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

I'd personally get rid of the links as quickly as possible. Consider the rapid recovery of WPMU. I've contacted dozens of webmasters, had over 100k links (mostly large-scale sitewides) removed, and I have not dropped further in ranking. Additionally, I still rank very well in Bing. The bad links were probably already discounted, and had also led to a more aggressive penalty (where I don't even rank for snippets of my own content and position 3 or higher for my domain name).

My gut feeling is the faster we distance ourselves from bad links (whether they were solicited or unsolicited), the faster Google will forgive. Google is also taking a considerable amount of time to discover removed backlinks, so it isn't an instant process. Over half of the links that I had removed 4+ weeks ago are still showing in WMT and cached. Follow your gut instinct. Don't rely too heavily on the advice of someone who is profiting from you.

Scotch



 
Msg#: 4462495 posted 1:18 am on Jun 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

I had a situation recently where a new client came to me after doing some of their own shoddy SEO. They had very few links to begin with... maybe a total of 20 or so unique referring domains. She had done some on page keyword stuffing (which was quickly and easily changed) but had some very obvious anchor text backlinks. Her site fell to past page 24 after Penguin. I had her contact the sites with spammy links and they were eventually removed. She now ranks on page 6 for her main phrase. This appears to be an algorithmic improvement as it happened around the 24th of May and there was never any notice from G indicating a manual penalty. Personally, I'm very encouraged by this... seems to indicate that removing enough crappy backlinks can automatically free you from penalty box.

tedster

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4462495 posted 4:11 am on Jun 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

I want to look at the obvious: no one has actually reported such a penalty and lots of people are cleaning up their backlinks as fast as they can. I wouldn't invent any trouble.

Jez123

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4462495 posted 8:27 am on Jun 8, 2012 (gmt 0)


Jez...how many links? What percentage of your profile was affected? How fast did you do this?

Do you think you were getting an algorithmic penalty or do you think you just lost a bunch of juice? Pre-link building, our site ranked very well for our money phrase...so in my case I'm not worried about the lack of juice from these link networks...I'm just worried about a algorithmic penalty.


I removed a sitewide link from a blog of mine that was about 250 pages and I removed about 20 - 30 links from various on topic sites that I own.

My main KW was at #3 before penguin and it dropped to #9 after then wavered between the bottom of page 1 and the top of page 2 for a week or so. I removed the links and it dropped to the bottom of page 2 and then continued to slide incrementally to the top of page 5 where it pretty much is now. I have added some links to replace the lost but they are having no effect at all so far.

I would be very surprised if the links I removed were artificially gaining me that much rank, so who knows? Perhaps I got further penalised for removing them I don't know. Maybe.

I personally would remove the links. If you don't, you are always going to worry that google will find them at a later date and you will be back where you started.

In one of my other SERPs which is a different niche (but same site), I went from #1 to about #7 where I have stayed.

In another where I don't think I have ever done any link building (the pages always ranked well just on the weight of the site I suppose) I am still #2 for singular kw but nowhere (literally) for the plural. It's just not possible for me to make any sense out of it at all.

spunkle



 
Msg#: 4462495 posted 9:23 am on Jun 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

you will not be penalized. Here is a good case study. They removed something like 500k links and recovered from penguin, you can decide if it was the links or not by reading the article :)

[seomoz.org...]

smithaa02

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4462495 posted 1:29 pm on Jun 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

Spunkle...some are speculating that WPMU bounced back perhaps in large part to the media attention it got which in turn got it be be manually reviewed and 'whitelisted' by Cutts.

If this is the case, then we can't say for certain that removing the links helped WPMU bounced back.

indyank

WebmasterWorld Senior Member



 
Msg#: 4462495 posted 4:28 pm on Jun 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

I am not sure what the FUD is all about...and this guy MC seem to be adding more confusion. The unnatural links notice that webmasters receive via Google's WMT leads to a manual spam action. Fine. But this guy MC now says removing links will help you recover from their Penguin algos.

1) Why the hell they want to have a manual spam action as well as an algorithmic penalty for unnatural links?
2) If removing links can help, it only helps in removing the penalty, if any, but the link value will be lost forever unless Google already ignored those links and the page/site was ranking without them. But if they had already ignored unnatural links, this new algorithmic penalty action for such links, through Penguin, is totally absurd. So you impose an automatic penalty without giving the webmaster any chance to explain his position through a reconsideration request and then plan for a tool to let them diavow links! What a mess MC...

These people seem to be obsessed with penalties. Until a couple of years ago penalties were imposed manually but it has now become algorithmic too with Panda and Penguin. This is one primary reason for so much hatred towards Google among the webmaster community. But they don't care about it. They are simply obsessed with imposing PENALTIES and that too algorithmically.

ps:

1) I can see only one reason for them to impose an algoritmic penalty and then give a tool as well to disavow links. Yes, they are playing a game to force webmasters use their Webmaster tools and are trying to gather all necessary info. they need.

2) It is a surprise for me as even people like Robert Charlton are now acknowledging "algorithmic penalties".

smithaa02

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4462495 posted 6:36 pm on Jun 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

It could be that google has lots of algorithms running at the same time...and that their right hand doesn't know what their left hand is doing.

Sure...Cutts may infer that cleaning up your webspam will help your rankings, but another algorithm probably monitors statistical anomalies in your link acquisition and/or attrition rates...and adjusts your rankings accordingly to compensate for what they deem is unnatural.

Has anybody else removed a lot of spam links and noticed any changes for positive or worse?

atlrus

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4462495 posted 8:58 pm on Jun 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

Has anybody else removed a lot of spam links and noticed any changes for positive or worse?


I removed an entire page of 2-way link exchanges (~70 links) from an old non-penalized website.

Site went from second page to 22nd page.

'Nuff said.

smithaa02

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4462495 posted 11:47 pm on Jun 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

Atirus...to be clear...this massive link page disappeared and did the sites that were linked from this page die off, or was it the site that did the linking that died off?

In our case...it is no skin off of our teeth if our link broker sites died...as we have no financial interest in them...nor are they really that important of sites.

atlrus

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4462495 posted 2:51 am on Jun 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

It was an experiment to see what would happen if I simply clear all the links on that page.

Robert Charlton

WebmasterWorld Administrator robert_charlton us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4462495 posted 8:43 am on Jun 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

...people like Robert Charlton are now acknowledging "algorithmic penalties".

indyank, thanks for catching that. Actually, that two-word combination was a slip of the tongue. Sort of like saying "canonical tag". It happens. ;)

There's been quite a bit of confusion about the Penguin algorithmic drops vs the "manual actions". They came close together, and both may have involved links. The best guide I've seen to which is which is that Penguin hit around April 24, and those affected by the "manual actions" (previously known as "penalties") received WMT messages. I'm assuming that the manual actions were more severe and included an extra punitive component.

My thoughts about the "chess game" still stand... anyone hit by either Penguin or by manual actions because of bad links may have to guess about which ones to remove. That's always one of the problems with paid links... you don't necessarily know which ones are helping... and Google is currently taking advantage of that situation for reasons that Shaddows eloquently describes here...

Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt - Why Google Penalises Paid Links
http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4462475.htm [webmasterworld.com]

IMO, smithaa02 isn't giving Google quite enough credit for right-hand/ left-hand coordination, but I think he correctly identifies what is likely to happen if you artificially try to build links to get out of the problem (my emphasis added below)...

Sure...Cutts may infer that cleaning up your webspam will help your rankings, but another algorithm probably monitors statistical anomalies in your link acquisition and/or attrition rates... and adjusts your rankings accordingly to compensate for what they deem is unnatural.

I doubt that there's a hit for fast attrition, assuming of course you're deleting only links that Google has already identified.

Robert Charlton

WebmasterWorld Administrator robert_charlton us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4462495 posted 9:23 am on Jun 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

So you impose an automatic penalty without giving the webmaster any chance to explain his position through a reconsideration request and then plan for a tool to let them disavow links!

Here's a link to Google's Penguin feedback form...

Feedback on our recent algorithm update ("Penguin")
[docs.google.com...]

If your site was affected by the "Penguin" webspam algorithm update on April 24th, 2012, and you don't think it should have been affected, please give us more details below


For further reference, in Danny Sullivan's interview with Matt Cutts on Penguin and the manual actions, Matt suggested two videos regarding manual actions. Here's a link to Danny's interview (which contains links to the videos)... and I'm also linking to the videos on YouTube....

Two Weeks In, Google Talks Penguin Update, Ways To Recover & Negative SEO
May 10, 2012, by Danny Sullivan
[searchengineland.com...]

"It is possible to clean things up," Cutts said, and he suggested people review two videos hes done on this topic:

When are penalties lifted?
trt 2:54
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ES01L4xjSXE [youtube.com]

Does Google take manual action on webspam?
trt 4:03
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ES01L4xjSXE [youtube.com]

Jez123

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4462495 posted 9:32 am on Jun 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

So, do we still think that once the cancerous links are removed that we would still need to wait for penguin to be refreshed or would the site recover without the refresh? That is, if we haven't all removed all or too many links.

Robert Charlton

WebmasterWorld Administrator robert_charlton us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4462495 posted 7:51 pm on Jun 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

So, do we still think that once the cancerous links are removed that we would still need to wait for penguin to be refreshed or would the site recover without the refresh?

All this is conjecture... but I think that Penguin needs to be refreshed periodically, not in real time, in part because it's evaluating not just a page or a site, but (inter)linking signals over the entire network.

I assume that it's also looking at things like hidden redirects and historical signals... and all those extra signals require not only extra computation, but also some accumulation and comparison of data that can't be done on a realtime basis.

The premise of the original question on this thread, in fact, assumed an historical perspective... ie, "if you remove links too fast?" Calculating a rate of removal would require observing link removal over a period of time.

Quicker link removal probably would suggest to Google a greater degree of coordination and control, but that would only be confirming their original spam assessment, so I feel there's little risk involved in that... if you can distinguish your own good links from your bad ones. ;)

To address another point raised by indyank while I'm posting...

But if they had already ignored unnatural links, this new algorithmic penalty action for such links, through Penguin, is totally absurd.

As I remember Matt Cutts saying somewhere, indexing and monitoring those discounted links is a drain on Google resources, and they'd like to get rid of them.

Also, as noted, Google is now capitalizing on the fear and uncertainty created by this situation. Google has made its position on paid links that transmit PageRank clear for quite some time, but until now hasn't done much about it. If I were to fault Google on anything here... it's that they kept saying "no" but only took what appeared to be half-hearted steps to indicate that they really meant "no". (I should also say, though, that there probably are some good reasons why Google did take its time.)

Now, though, Google apparently does means "no"... and they've demonstrated teeth to back that up. I'd say that it's up to every link buyer to assess how well Google can actually spot what types of links. Note also that throwaway domains may be able to tolerate a different level of risk than branded domains you or your clients would like to keep.

fabulousyarn



 
Msg#: 4462495 posted 6:39 pm on Jul 28, 2012 (gmt 0)

I know this is an old post - but I am one of those who received the notice, and then engaged GOOGLE as I tried to ascertain what was going on, and what links they were referring to. The links were part of a link network that I had experimented with - I set it and forgot all about it - till the notification. The links were REALLY bad, I would never even have tested it had I known how bad they were going to be (like content that was totally irrelevant to my content!) so GOOGLE did me a favor, but it was sort of like taking your medicine - it hurt going down let me tell you.

It took me 4-6 weeks to find and get the sites that were bad removed. They were removed. My rankings for the specific terms that were used in those links are still hosed. Overall, my site took a hit, and some of my work I hope has resulted in some recovery - but it's very hard to tell.

I do think that removing all the bad links did hurt my site as badly as the google manual action.

To answer the questions - yes, the google team worked with me, yes, they answered my questions and emails and yes, the acknowledged that the manual action was removed.

It's been bad for me, this panda thing, and I've had to really work at other stuff to keep my revenue stream up - I'm down about 20% but it's also hard to tell because we are sort of seasonal as well and this is our slow period. But I'm pretty sure our fuzzy butts were kicked by panda/penquin, whatever.

diberry

WebmasterWorld Senior Member



 
Msg#: 4462495 posted 9:02 pm on Jul 28, 2012 (gmt 0)

This brings up an interesting question:

If you're penalized for spammy backlinks, Google can't know whether you or a competitor arranged those links to your site. If you ask for reinclusion on the claim that a competitor set up those links to sabotage you and you can't do anything about it, Google wouldn't know any better. But if you remove the links, Google knows for sure you were link building.

This is part of the FUD. If you remove the backlinks, you out yourself as a spammer. Google MAY choose to respect that and give you another chance... or they may put a black mark by your site/known webmaster account/IP forever.

Unfortunately, we can't know if Google's going to play fair or serve their own interests. Legally, I'm not sure they'd be doing anything wrong by penalizing you for cleaning up your backlinks.

aristotle

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4462495 posted 2:45 pm on Jul 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

some are speculating that WPMU bounced back perhaps in large part to the media attention it got which in turn got it be be manually reviewed and 'whitelisted' by Cutts.


If this is true, then doesn't it imply that the algorithm made a mistake, since Matt Cutts had to override it manually? And if the algorithm made a mistake in this case, then it could have made mistakes in other cases too.

fabulousyarn



 
Msg#: 4462495 posted 6:58 pm on Jul 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

diberry - yes, I agree, there is some 'outing' thing that may be happenning, but I don't think that was the motive. I think the motive was to destroy the link network itself. Which they did, because by giving me the specific links, whether or not I was the builder (in this case, I wasn't) I could contact the network (that wasn't hard to figure out) and get the links removed. I do think removing the links, as bad as they were, penalized me - but I don't need links to a knitting site from a Kayaking blog! :)

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