Ever since the Google Penguin algorithm update of 2012, link pruning has become a more ubiquitous term, as well as an important step to take towards improved rankings.

Link pruning involved the evaluation of links and removing any spam materials from said links.

Lots of website took a hit after the Penguin update thanks to weak or spammy link building. Link pruning, or the removal of backlinks, has become a necessary measure for many websites in order to increase their rankings.

Before you can begin link pruning, you must of course find the links, as well as which sites are linking back to you. There are several third-party tools you can use to find links, including Google Webmaster tools, Backlinkwatch and Ahrefs. Without third-party tools, you may only be able to find a few links manually.

In your analysis of the backlinks you find, there are several criteria to determine whether a link needs to be removed:

  • Originated from bad sites. One criterion is if the link comes from a decidedly bad or irrelevant site, such as a content farm, an X-rated site or a “black hat” site. Your SEO professional will be able to spot these sites to determine link removal. Other red flags are if it comes from link farms, keyword-stuffed low-quality content, or banned domains. Some SEOs go about link pruning in different ways. While some will just remove link that are from “bad influences,” others may want to eliminate any links that aren’t relevant to their own site or helpful.
  • Keyword stuffing. Link pruning also become a necessary measure when over-optimization had previous occurred. Pre-Penguin, some webmasters had built tons of backlinks based on their “money keyword.”

The process of removing backlinks is likely the most difficult part of the link pruning process. This is because your SEO professional will need to contact the webmaster of the undesired website, another human being, and request to remove them. This can be a very time-consuming process. Removing a link can take anywhere from two days to two weeks.

One method of link pruning is to lay out all the suspected backlinks in a spreadsheet and examine each site, one by one. You’ll have to find the contact information for the webmaster on the site or through their site hosting program. After you’ve found the webmaster’s email, use a template for requesting link removals and always be courteous and professional. Be sure also attach the culprit link in the email.

If you haven’t gotten a response from the webmaster, the best thing you can do is send a follow-up email. Inform them that you contacted them and haven’t heard back yet. State that if you don’t hear back from them again, you’ll have to contact the site hosting provider. This can be found via a lookup in a domain whois.

Although link pruning is usually a long, tedious process no matter how you spin it, the result of removing any negative SEO from your site will be well worth the time. If yor site has fallen victim to the Penguin updates, Sticky Web Media can launch an aggressive link pruning campaign.