The term ‘link spikes’ has been around a long time, usually to describe unnatural link patterns that Google uses to put the smack down on overly aggressive link builders.
Using the term in this way is correct and yes, creating crazy link spikes in your link profile will put you in trouble.
What people don’t realise is that it isn’t just positive link spikes that can cause issues but also negative ones. Spikes from lost links can be as damaging as spikes from link growth.
Of course losing links can mean lost rankings, however in my experience lost links can also trip filters and mean a specific page on your site will just never rank, no matter what you do.
Negative Link Spike Case Study
I had the unfortunate opportunity of experiencing a filter on an affiliate site of mine. After renting a few links for 6 months I decided to pull them down, knowing I had plenty in reserve to keep my rankings.
These links were site wide and all had the same anchor text, when they were removed I lost 52,000 links from 3 domains. Technically this should have been a good thing as the links were completely unnatural and obviously paid.
Two days after the removal of these links my site dropped rankings, not just for the target keyword but for any other search terms containg the target term. Elsewhere organic traffic was growing, and growing well, but this keyword and variations weren’t even in the top 100, you can clearly see the effect on traffic below for the page where the links were pointing.
The first thing I did was try and replace the lost links, I didn’t think this would work but wanted to see what happened, the answer? Rankings dropped even further. Now I had created 2 unnatural link spikes in a row and new my rankings would never recover.
Sometimes when you begin working on a new site you may come across ugly site wide links that you think need cleaning up, however do this with extreme caution, negative link spikes are as dangerous as positive ones.