Spring Cleaning Links: Assessment and Link Removal for Every Season

When Penguin hit, a lot of site owners really started digging into what types of links they had and what kind they were getting. And soon after, a spree of link removal requests were sent out. And ever since then, it seems like when link building is brought up, anyone that has read anything on SEO has questions about the process. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

But assessing and removing links should be done strategically. You want to be sure you know how to identify bad links and the course of action for dealing with them before doing anything. In this post, I’ll give some tips on how to spring clean your links and ready yourself for search engine algorithm updates like Google’s Penguin.

A New Penguin is Around the Corner

Image courtesy of Flickr. CC by 2.0.

A new Penguin update was announced last week at search marketing conference SMX West, which really shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Google is always rolling out “updates” to notorious updates.

Be it new data they’ve gathered to remove penalties from those they handed out, or even to correct any “innocent sites hit” (cue maniacal laughter).

No matter the reason that you fear or look forward to an update, it may be time to do some spring cleaning on your link profiles.

What You Want to Do

Take stock of what you have. If you’ve never done a link audit, here’s a quick list to get started. I’d also check out this interview with Tom Critchlow.


  • Did you gain any links?
  • Did you lose any you need to reach out to?
  • When Google goes looking for skeletons what are they going to find?


  • Go read what case studies have been done since Penguin, check out what worked and what didn’t.
  • If any outrageously spammy links pop up, do what you can to get links removed.
  • Keep a note of the amount of links you take down, so you can set a goal to replenish that amount.
  • Go grab any links you can from places that mentioned your site’s name but didn’t give you a link.
  • Make a plan to promote the site over the next three months in accordance with the overall marketing strategy for the business (you should be doing this anyway).
  • Plan for any upcoming seasonal keywords your company may need to target.
  • If you see opportunities for good links, do what it takes to go get them.

Not sure where to begin? Point Blank SEO has a really good course with tons of resources to get started.

What You Don’t Want to Do

Don’t remove a ton of links in mass if you don’t have a penalty (not sure if you have a penalty? This should help). If you find links that you know are spam and will hurt your site, take them down a few at a time. Don’t remove any links you “think” could hurt your site. If you take any links down you want to be as certain as you can they need to be removed:

  • You can run a quick link detox report using The Link Detox tool. If you don’t want to use this tool you can use OSE via this guide by Glenn Gabe.
  • Check any paid links you have (if you know you have them, you should know) to see if they’re still indexed by Google.
  • When you’re checking for bad links to remove or sending out emails to have them taken down, document EVERYTHING.

And also don’t use the disavow tool freely (SEOmoz has a great article on this, too). You’re giving Google more data than they might have had had before, and anything you send over, you want to make sure you have documented what you did to attempt to get the link removed, and why you wanted to get it taken down.

If you find a bunch of links you think are spammy, investigate and question before pulling the trigger to take them all down. If the recent changes and upcoming changes to Penguin have taught us anything, it should be that Google is paying attention to links and so should we.

So, What Now?

To quote the movie, “Finding Nemo”:

Just keep swimming.

Just Keep Swimming
“Finding Nemo”

You know where your website is at, and you have a plan, execute it. If you need help removing links or earning links, go look for it. And if you do go looking for help, do the research on who’s offering to provide help. There’s nothing wrong with looking for references and testimonials to find someone to help you with your backlink spring cleaning. As with anything in SEO, you’ll get out of it what you put into it.

When it comes to prepping a site for the next season and your “spring cleaning,” what are some things you like to keep in mind or pay attention to?

Joshua Titsworth is an SEO Analyst with Vizion Interactive, Inc..

See Joshua's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (7)
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7 Replies to “Spring Cleaning Links: Assessment and Link Removal for Every Season”

I was looking for such technical information since a long time, thanks for sharing valuable information about removing links in this article.
Keep coming up with posts like this

Penguin Update has changed the scenario of link building in SEO. Bad and spamming links should be avoided and if your website gets penalized, you need to remove these links. Otherwise, don’t remove at all but create good links over these bad links.

Actually Matt Cutt said that most websites do not need it. So unless you have done smth really against the guidelines and you have fallen right after the algorithm updates, you should dig in and have a look. for the rest, pls keep going with good SEO practices….

If you find a bunch of links you think are spammy, investigate and question before pulling the trigger to take them all down. If the recent changes and upcoming changes to Penguin have taught us anything, it should be that Google is paying attention to links and so should we.

Tim Johnson

Hey Josh –

Great Post! I guess this gives us a little more faith as we revoked our manual penalty back in Nov. 2012 but still no rankings or traffic :( – we have also been told to wait for the much needed Penguin refresh as we removed many links and cleaned on-site content. Going on a year of penalties this process has truly been overwhelming, I certainly hope for good things with this next refresh but at this point I am expecting the worst, no recovery…

Hey Anupam,

None of this was meant to convey that getting over a penalty or even bad SEO would be easy. I had a friend who sent in four reconsideration requests over a 7 month period to finally get back in the “good graces” of Google. He had to document EVERYTHING they did with each request. And even after getting an approval they were told the change would be reflected in the next algorithm update. So even then they still have to wait for the next update.

Well I have done a lot of research on latest Google updations and all the recovery suggestions from Google and various other blogs. I just think the truth is that it won’t be easy to get back your rankings and reputation in front of Google if you have suffered from any penalty or even bad SEO.


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