In my last article I introduced you to the concept that may or may not have been coined ‘link pruning’ by SEO specialist Bruce Clay. I also predicted it would be a major trend that gets going with the intention of sorting out the rubble left in the wake of the penguin update. So now I give you the condensed step-by-step on how to undertake this gardening endeavour for yourself. It is important to note that unlike link building, link pruning is all about removing links that may be harmful to the ranking of your site.
The first of four important considerations to set you on your merry way is dissecting the backlink profile your site currently has. This being the natural origin of your link pruning, you should use an up-to-date system or program to chart your backlinks in order to build an inventory. Don’t rely too much on Google Webmaster Tools since it has been known to be inaccurate at times. Also avoid wasting your time chasing down dead inbound links that are no longer live because they thankfully won’t play a role.
The next step is where you’ll likely be spending a lot of your time; keep that in mind on the morning side of midnight when you’d rather be sleeping than meticulously pruning away. Take the catalogue of links you’ve built in the previous step and assign a value to each based on how natural or relevant those links are. The key to this is to understand what Penguin considers to be worth penalising. You may be tempted to use an automated process for this and, although they do exist, there will come a stage when a human decision will have to made as to what is considered a low quality link.
Another document should be created that tracks your efforts thus far or you may find yourself retreading over tasks you’ve already completed. As a suggestion you might want to sort this document by target and source URLs, source ranks, anchor text, image links, source crawl date, alt text, no follow and frame information. You should keep track of this document so that a lot of work isn’t repeated.
Finally it comes time to do the pruning; now is the time to start sending out requests to site owners to remove backlinks they may have to your site. This is an incredibly political sort of step, so try to remain reasonable and tactful in your communications but at the same time you should definitely be adamant that you require that link gone. With your documents on hand you should have more than enough information to adequately explain the ‘where’ and the ‘why’ of the link and make the job easier for the site owner to remove the offending link.
With your link pruning process underway, the knock that the penguin update dished out should be on the mend. Be aware that it will take time to climb up the ranks and as you undertake this process keep track of the rise or fall to see if you’re on the right page with which links you are targeting to remove. In time the penguin update will become a distant, not-so-fond memory but it will remain squarely behind you; good luck.