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25 facts about unnatural links penalty

  • Post published on 15 May 2013 by Marta Gryszko

Unnatural links penalties were known long time ago, even though Google oficially said it’s hard to harm any website with backlinks. In my opinion backlinks are the last thing that should have a negative impact on our rankings… but since Google has different approach to this subject, and unnatural links penalties have been quite common for the last year, I wanted to sum up the most important information about it.

Here’s the summary of what we already know about Google penalties. More detailed information are availalble in my ebook.

  1. filter should not be mistaken with ban – filter is when your site remains in Google index, but its ranking drops significantly, for example as the result of detecting unnatural links to your site;
  2. for the long time Google’s been saying it’s hard to harm competitive website with backlinks. Lots of people thought that Google assurred it’s not possible at all to do that;
  3. before April 2012, only from time to time Google oficially confirmed penalties for backlinks;
  4. after Penguin Update was announced (in April 2012), lots of websites were penaltised both as the result of an algorithmic change, and manual penaties;
  5. there are two kins of penalties – algorithmic and manual filter. The first one is when Google updates its algorithm and in fact I shouldn’t call it a filter or penalty (although such nomenclature seems more comfortable while writing such articles). Manual penalty is given by SQT, mostly after reviewing spam raports;
  6. majority of algorithmic filters happen during popular updates. Hovever, since Google updates its algorithm hundreds of times in a year, you can see huge drops in rankings also between oficially confirmed updates;
  7. Penguin Update 1.0 resultet in lots of drops in rankings, but it was also a time when webmasters got notifications in WMT about unnatural links. As far as I know, such information (if it’s about backlinks) is always a confirmation for manual spam action, not an algoritmic one;
  8. unnatural links notifications are sent in 2 cases – as an information about manual penalty (as I’ve already mentioned), or only as an information that webmaster should check for unnatural backlinks;
  9. in order to know what kind of penalty you deal with, you can use reinclusion request form. It should take only a few days to get the response, although in case of manual actions it can take up to 3 weeks;
  10. algorithmic penalties can ease off after the next update but it’s rather risky to wait only for that;
  11. algorithmic penalties can be taken off after getting new quality links and making your backlinks profile more natural;
  12. algorithmic penalties can be taken off after removing suspicious links and submitting those you could not delete with disavow links tool;
  13. manual penalties are given for specific time (even more than a year) and this time depends on the degree to what a website violates Google guidelines;
  14. manual penalties, after its expiration, can be extended if you haven’t tried to remove the penalty before;
  15. manual penalties can be taken off after deleting the suspicious links, submitting those you could not delete with disavow links tool and submitting reconsideration request (the request should link to the file with links you want to ignore);
  16. the first effects of taking the penalty off, should be visible after 1-1,5 week from the moment you use disavow links tool (in case of algorithmic update), and after a week from the moment you get a reply for reinclusion request (in case of manual action);
  17. after taking the penalty off, website may not restore old rankings right away. The links you remove or want to be ignored (by using disavow links tool) will stop influence your ranking so it’s natural that rankings may be a bit worse than before;
  18. if you think your website suffered from one of Google updates, you should check the data of drops in rankings and then compare it to the data of the most popular updates (you can find the list here and here). If you suspect it’s the Penguin Update, it’s possible the problem are unnatural backlinks;
  19. unnatural backlinks are not the only goal of Penguin Update. The problem can also be keyword stuffing and in the future (according to Matt Cutts talking about next generation of Penguin), also paid links;
  20. since April 2012 there have been 3 Penguin Updates – 1.0 in April, 1.1 in May, 1.2 in October 2012. For the next weeks we should expect a new generation of Penguin (2.0);
  21. detecting unnatural links may result in the penalty for the whole website, as well as for some parts of it, even if it’s only one page;
  22. the most risky link building tactic is when you get links to your website automatically, or use overoptimised anchor texts – it can be very easy to detect by Google;
  23. some webmasters think you can harm other websites by listing them in the disavow links file, if lots of people submit the same addresses;
  24. because of the previous point, you should not put in the file the websites that belong to you or your partners. The best thing is to submit the file only with the links you were not able to delete and are not related with you in any way;
  25. links submitted with the disavow links tool, should be ignored after its reindexation.

What are your thoughts about this information? How do you deal with the client that asks you for help with removing the penalty?

Marta Gryszko

I've been working on SEO since 2005, focusing on long-tail SEO. I'm a partner at Wake App - the owner of SEO tools such as SEO Station and Brandle. I also own a SEO company: INFEO Marta Gryszko. Follow me on Google+ and Twitter.

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