Link Echo: What Happens After You Remove A Backlink?

SEO pros have been talking about link echoes, phantom links, or ghost links for some time. The idea of link echoes is that the value of a backlink remains, long after the backlinks have been removed. Big thanks to Mike Chrest for requesting this test and for the use of a link from a strong PBN that he owns.

For this test, 3 identical pages were created and launched. Once the pages had indexed, a strong PBN link (TF26 CF17) was pointed to the page ranking #2.

The page immediately moved to the #1 position. After the PBN link had been crawled twice by Google, confirmed by the cache dates, the link was removed.


After two weeks, the link echo remains. The page that moved to the #1 spot is still ranking in #1.


In reading other people’s test with link echoes, they report similar results. The link seems to remain in the algorithm indefinitely, providing a long echo, if you will. We’ll continue to monitor this test. We’re sure that there is a point where it loses value, but we’re wondering if that requires a “large” penguin style update to the algorithm.

We think there are also implications here with toxic links. These finds might explain why some sites seem to stay under a link penalty long after the offending links have been removed an or disavowed. It’s entirely possible that the echo is holding the penalty in place.

Clint’s Feedback

In this video, Clint talks about this test and his insight on link echoes.

Test number 30 – Link Echos/Phantom Links/Ghost Links

What we’re looking at here is that the concept of if you have a link, and that link gets deleted, do you maintain the credit for it or does Google go back and pull that credit out as soon as the links are gone? And the actual concept is called link echo. I don’t know where Phantom links came from or ghost links. It doesn’t make any sense to me, but its link echo. The link was there, power for the link was given credit and then the link would disappear and that power remains because the algorithm remembers that the link was there versus crawling and checking to see if it was still there. So we wanted to see if it was done, it was done.

We set up three identical pages, each one of those pages had the exact same content and one of them we actually got a backlink from a PBN. 

That link, that page obviously went to number one. I know PBNs are no good, they’re evil and Google filters them out. Maybe sometimes, who knows, is that really true?

That’s another test to be had, right? 

The PBN goes to the number one position. It was crawled twice and the crawl judgment was based off of the cache date in the Google search. So if you don’t know I’m talking about you go to and we’ll look at wooden tobacco pipes for example and then there’s a cache date right here. Click on that and you see when the website was cached. 

That was changed twice before they removed the link on the pbn site and so then they removed the link from the PBN after they’d seen it had been crawled twice. 

I would imagine that if you look at Google or the server logs, it was probably crawled more than twice, but it was cached twice. It was important enough for Google to cache it twice. So that’s what they did and they waited for that link. 

Two weeks later, the page still remained number one, it was still getting the number one credit for that backlink. 

Here’s the thing we need to really look at and this is probably a six month test, at a minimum, my guess. 

How long does that link echo last? 

If you buy a PBN link from a provider that charges from the monthly, you get your link reports, you check, it goes back twice, and then you cancel, you’ll maintain the power that link gave you. But for how long?

I think that’s why this needs to be retested and this is definitely going to be a long term thing. It would have to be over 10 test sites, just to make sure that we’re getting accurate results and then we’ll see how long that echo remains before the pages disappear.

So I’m looking forward to setting that up once we get some new tools in place and it’d be cool for SIA members to check out. 

Hopefully that was helpful. Hopefully you understand what you can do with those now. Though after this test I never paid for a monthly PBN ever again, never paid a monthly price for like ever again. If you offer a monthly price and you have good sites, I’ll pay for one month. I’ll get my backlink. I’ll make sure it’s crawled twice and then I will cancel and you can delete my backlink if you want. Most people don’t, by the way, but you can delete mine if you want. Totally fine. I’ll keep the link echo, the phantom links, that ghost links, the power for as long as Google wants to give it to me, that stacks it up and I get some more natural links that are permanent as a result of the traffic and stuff that I gained by getting that position using the temporary paid link. Totally worth the effort for me. 

Curious how long the echo lasted? Check out the details in our test articles.

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