Google Penalty – Unnatural Links

Are you one those site owners who has received an unnatural links Google penalty message in the Google Webmaster tool? Don’t worry – you aren’t the only one.

Why the penalty

With the Penguin and Panda updates, Google is trying very hard to eliminate spammy backlinks that were passing link juice to nominal sites. Using site directories and such were common practice in the past, and many SEO vendors built businesses around these services. But now Google has figured out a way to flag sites that have disproportionately high number of “unnatural links”.

What is an unnatural link

This is when Google thinks that the backlink is a paid or a fake back link to the site. Examples of such backlinks can be:

  • Guest blog posts 
  • Links in comments sections
  • Sponsored links
  • “Powered by” footer links

How to remove the penalty

The best option is to log into Google webmaster and download a complete list of backlinks coming to your site. This can be found in Google Webmaster > Site Traffic > Links to Your Site > Download more sample links.

Using this CSV file you can view exactly what backlinks Google knows off and you’ve to meticulously comb through the list to find what can constitute as unnatural.

This is a time consuming process, but is worth the effort – divide your links into categories based on how unnatural they are. You can keep this as a 3 part category: Unnatural, Maybe, Safe. Then contact the webmasters of those unnatural link sites and ask them to remove the link completely. For the Maybe links, you can ask site owners to do a <no follow> instead… or if you want to be on the safe side, ask for a complete removal as well.

Document what you do

Its very important to keep records of all your efforts, this will be useful when you reach out to Google for a reconsideration request. So at the very least, keep a record of when you reached out to the webmaster and their email in your excel sheet of backlinks. If site owners ask for money, then don’t bother paying them. Just record that in your excel sheet – and later you can use the disvow tool in Google webmaster to remove that link instead.

Google Reconsideration Request

Once you feel you’ve cleaned up spammy backlinks you should ask Google for a reconsideration. Its best to include your clean up efforts in this email. Just upload it to Google docs and submit that link to the Google team. If you’ve done a good clean up effort your penalty would be removed.

With the penalty removed, don’t expect your traffic to bounce back to previous levels. Remember all those anchor text links that were rating your site well are not removed. So in some ways you are starting back from square one. But this time around try to use more natural and safer ways of back link building.

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Zaki Usman

Hello, I'm the founder and CEO at ShoutEx. I like to blog about marketing, mobile and web topics. Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn.

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