Google Unnatural Links Penalty Strikes Again!

Written by | Date Updated: April 11, 2016

On Saturday, many webmasters received a stinging letter from Google that begins:  “Google has detected a pattern of links from your site to other sites that is either unnatural or irrelevant.”

It’s as if it’s 2010 again when many webmasters were receiving Google Webspam penalties and having their websites completed decimated.

6 years later…should this still be happening?  I just asked this question rhetorically on Twitter:

Seriously, how hard is it to simply de-value those bogus sites that are being linked to?  It’s usually fairly obvious who they are:

It’s important to note that this Google unnatural links penalty is not as extreme as those in the past.  Sites hit with this unnatural links penalty are not being de-listed!  

What is happening is that the links on those site are all being called into question.

So, for example, if you review a product for which you receive compensation and then link to that product, that link may be called into question.  Even worse, if you are part of what many call a PBN (private blog network), you’re doomed.

The days of manipulating search rankings in this way are over.  Where have you been?

But, let’s presume you’re innocent and now ask the question:  What should you do to get rid of unnatural links?  

Google recommends the following three actions:

  1. Identify unnatural links on your sites.
  2. Remove or use <nofollow> on these links.
  3. Submit a reconsideration request.

Most folks run into trouble with step #1 — identify unnatural links on your sites.

The reason for this is because those who received this message are usually the flagrant offenders, with a massive amount of outbound links.  The more outbound links you have — the more diagnosis you have to do.

On top of that, many webmasters have no idea what they are doing wrong.  As Sammi Penni says in this Unnatural outbound links violate Google Webmaster Guidelines post: “I don’t even know what an “unnatural link” is.”

So, where should Sammi start?

I would recommend that Sammi start by no-following all external links on her site.  This will allow her to immediately apply for reconsideration.  Then, she should selectively remove the no-follow tag where appropriate.

In the end though, it’s just a shame that Sammi has to go through all of this.  She seems to run an honest beauty blog and now Google is up-in-arms because she didn’t no-follow her outbound affiliate links.  She doesn’t even know what that means!

I understand and respect that Google needs to maintain the integrity of their search engine results because that is still (in spite of all their other cool stuff) the bread-and-butter of their business.

But I must repeat:  Can a company that can make a self-driving car not figure out how to do this automatically without scaring, confusing, and penalizing webmasters?

Richard Cummings

Director of SEO, Social Media, and Web Content Development at The SEO System
Richard Cummings has been practicing online marketing for many years and has setup and optimized hundreds of WordPress sites.He founded The SEO System to provide SEO, social media, and online marketing services and software to businesses.
Richard CummingsGoogle Unnatural Links Penalty Strikes Again!