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Fix Google penalty by breaking links

November 26, 2020

At a Google punishment Link removal may be necessary, but only if the measure relates to unnaturally incoming links. The Link removal can have a significant impact on the visibility of the domain. If helpful and important backlinks are broken down, that would be fatal. Now learn the basics for targeted link removal in the event of a Google penalty (manual measure).

Table of Contents

What does link removal mean?

Link removal describes the manual removal or modification of backlinks and is often used to reduce the number of inferior external links. A distinction is made between the removal of backlinks, which is done by the operator of the linking domain and which is often difficult to achieve in practice, and the devaluation of backlinks with the Google Disavow Tool. However, the latter measure only has an impact on Google search and not on other search engines such as bing, Yandex or Baidu.

When is link removal necessary?

Since Google has consistently taken action against link spam, there have been thousands Manual action been enforced. In addition, automated Penguin algorithm updates partly to noticeable losses, as the following example shows: Due to unnaturally incoming links, the domain was recorded by Google Penguin Update # 1 and lost 99 percent of its visibility under Google.de, but this is only one example of many affected domains.

As another Google Penguin example, I would like to mention the domain dslweb.de. It was hit hard by Penguin 2.0 in May 2013, but was able to make a noticeable leap in October 2016 with Penguin 4.0 and has been continuously increasing its visibility since then:

Unnatural backlinks - cause of the Google Penalty?

Backlinks are one of the most important Google ranking factors. The more often a domain is linked externally, the stronger this can have a positive effect on its ranking potential in Google search. Provided that the backlinks come from trustworthy sources and thematically relevant pages.

The Penguin Updates saw a noticeable rethink in link building. The tightening of the quality guidelines enables Google to act more aggressively against unnatural link profiles - especially when participating in link exchange programs.

History of Google Penguin updates

  • April 24th, 2012: Penguin 1.0
  • May 24th, 2012: Penguin 1.1
  • 05.10.2012: Penguin 1.2
  • May 22, 2013: Penguin 2.0
  • October 4th, 2013: Penguin 2.1
  • 10/17/2014: Penguin 3.0
  • 09/23/2016: Penguin 4.0

Causes of a Penguin Penalty

All Penguin updates prior to Update # 4 added the core Hummingbird search algorithm. These should automatically recognize unnatural link profiles and invalidate any conspicuous incoming links. Common causes of a penguin punishment:

  • Buying and renting dofollow links
  • Noticeably many money keyword links ("insurance comparison", "mobile phone tariffs", etc.)
  • Backlinks from inferior sources
  • Unnatural link profiles in an industry comparison

If the causes were eliminated by the website operator, the domain could only recover with the next Penguin update. Until then stepped no Change a. Because the interval between the incremental Penguin updates was often several months, many website operators were annoyed - the cause was eliminated but no improvement was possible.

With Penguin 4.0, the webspam algorithm was implemented in the core Hummingbird search algorithm in September 2016 and has been running in real time since then. An important change is that domains are no longer penalized, but conspicuous backlinks are automatically invalidated. This implies that you only have to take action in the event of a manual measure or security problem.

How you can tell if there is a manual measure

A manual measure is triggered by Google and checked by a Google Quality Rater. You will be informed about this in the Search Console profile of your website. Open the profile and select the link "Manual action" in the navigation under "Search queries":

What types of manual actions are there?

A Manual measure is triggered when Google detects problems on a website or individual page because the search index is about to be manipulated. Google is ranking these attempts not necessarily dangerous for users a. The consequence for the website operator is a downgrade of the website or page in question, so that only low rankings are achieved in the search results or a complete exclusion from the search results takes place.

On Security issues informs Google in the Search Console profile if your website has been hacked or behaves in a way that could be dangerous for visitors and their devices. Common causes for this are phishing attacks or the installation of malware and other malicious software on the user's system. If a user accesses such a page with the Chrome browser, a warning is displayed to inform the user of the danger.

Frequently carried out measures are:

  • Hacked website
  • User generated spam
  • Free spam hosts
  • Markup with spam structures
  • Incoming unnatural links to the website
  • Inferior quality content with little or no added value
  • Cloaking or misleading redirects
  • Outgoing unnatural links from your own website
  • Pure spam website
  • Images cloaking
  • Hidden text or unnecessary keywords

Options for action in the case of a manual measure due to unnatural links

Should be a Manual measure due to unnatural links for your website, you have two options:

  1. Develop a new domain and start from scratch with relevant content, withoutSet up redirects from the penalized domain to the new domain.
  2. Analyze the causes and remove links with subsequent link establishment.

Whereas the first option is promising but time-consuming and expensive, the second option can lead to the desired success more quickly or fail. This post shows how I was able to avert a manual measure within 3 days.

SEO tips for breaking links

Despite the fact that there are now very good SEO tools for targeted link removal, this measure is sensitive. You can imagine the removal of links as follows: Assume a domain has 100,000 backlinks from 1,000 domains.

Your first challenge is to generate a large link database. The more backlinks you can analyze, the higher your chance of success in fixing the cause. The backlinks must now be assessed whether they are potentially harmful or not. Various tools can help you with this. On the basis of complex algorithmic calculations of the link sources, they make suggestions as to which links are potentially dangerous. Now each of these links should be rated by hand. This measure requires experience, because if helpful backlinks are devalued, this can noticeably weaken your domain. So you haven't gained anything, the cause has been averted by the link removal or the devaluation, but the domain has been unnecessarily weakened.

After viewing and evaluating, you now get in touch with the website operator of the unwanted link sources and ask for the backlinks to be removed. It can also be expedient not to remove the backlink, but to change the link text, for example to add money keyword links ("insurance comparison") with neutral brand links ("www.meine-webseite.de"), compound links (" There you can get helpful information about insurance comparisons. ”) Or other links (“ more ”) to replace.


Experience has shown that this measure is time-consuming and, unfortunately, often unsuccessful because the website operator does not react or takes a lot of time until the desired change is made. Therefore, many of those affected tend to bypass the link removal and to declare harmful links to be invalid via the disavow tool. From a Google perspective, that is Not the ideal way. For many website operators, however, appropriate because it is less time-consuming and cheaper.

When creating a disavow list, you have to decide whether only the linking page or the domain should be declared invalid. You then submit this list to the Disavow Tool. You can find out how to create a disavow list here.

Helpful tools for breaking links

Link Research Tools // Link Detox

I use the Link Research Tools a lot. They offer a wide range of options for enriching the internal database, such as with link data from the SISTRIX Toolbox or the Google Search Console. However, the Link Research Tools are now outrageously expensive, so that I also access other tools, such as ahrefs or Xovi.

Risk of punishment before breaking the link

Risk of punishment after breaking the link

moz Spam Score

The moz Spam Score provides interesting information about the risk of a domain being penalized. It can be collected by using the free moz toolbar for Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox (download), but you need a free account in which you have to log in.

Open Site Explorer

However, it is more convenient to evaluate the external link profile of a domain, a host or a link-providing site with the "Spam Analysis" report of the Open Site Explorer. A moz Pro account is required to use the full range of functions. The tool offers a variety of filter and export options.


My favorite and my recommendation for a link audit is this ahrefs. I think that ahrefs currently offers the largest and most up-to-date link database. You cannot perform a detox analysis with ahrefs, which is why the software is geared more towards experienced users. Nevertheless, it offers a large amount of data for quick and in-depth link analyzes.

Link building after link removal

If the harmful links have been removed or devalued, it can be expedient to build new links in order to prevent ranking losses - because the domain was weakened by the link removal. Targeted analyzes and evaluations are the basis of a serious link building. The top competitors play a decisive role in this. A look at their link profiles is worthwhile and often leads to interesting link sources. Will the link breaking and link building process turn into a sustainable one Seo concept poured, the prognosis is good to get a domain back on the road to success.

Recurring link audits are important

In my opinion, the constant monitoring of the external link profile of your domain is an elementary strategy for avoiding manual measures. It is often sufficient to carry out a link audit every quarter, in which you assess the risk of penalties (link detox), new / lost backlinks, the link texts, etc.

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Fix Google penalty by breaking links

Author: Jens Fröhlich

Jens Fröhlich has been active in search engine optimization since 2009. In 2013 he founded the SEO agency Indexlift and publishes news, tips and interesting facts about SEO in this SEO blog. Follow Jens now on Twitter or learn more about his philosophy.
November 26th, 2020 Jens Fröhlich Posted in: OffPage SEO Tags: punishment, backlinks, disavow, link building, penguin