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Unnatural Linking Notice and then told no manual spam action?

 7:47 pm on Nov 7, 2012 (gmt 0)

I received a notice from Google that I had an unnatural linking penalty.

This was about two months ago.

I immediately went to work on removing any links that seemed fishy or low grade. I have 12,000+ backlinks from over 900 domains. I have removed around 100 links (domains) - because most links were site wide type links.

I then sent a reconsideration request late this past Sunday the 4th. Just three days later... today - I receive the:

"We reviewed your site and found no manual actions by the webspam team that might affect your site's ranking in Google. There's no need to file a reconsideration request for your site, because any ranking issues you may be experiencing are not related to a manual action taken by the webspam team."

I'm confused. I was told I have a penalty. And YES, I know there are algorithmic penalties and manual penalties. But the way their initial notice sounded it was indeed a manual penalty.

So now I have spent all this time cleaning up my backlink profile and it was never really an issue?

I'm so confused.
I was hit by Panda in April 2011 and then again in September 2012. I've seen no recovery and my traffic halved by each of the Panda updates mentioned.

I've done an incredible amount of work/improvements due to my first Panda hit.

And then when I got the backlink notice - I thought.... that's weird? I thought the issue was content (Panda).

But before I got the backlink issue tackled - I am hit by Panda 20.

Now I don't know which way to go? My site was a ranking star for 10+ years and it's just steadily fallen since April 2011. I have removed my forum for fear of thin content, I removed the article directory for fear of duplicate content, I removed boilerplate content, removed anything that could be considered "bad" on so many measures. Basically went at my site with a hatchet. Now... I don't know what to do?

I thought for sure tackling that backlink notice was going to free my site of some horrible penalty - only to find out there was never a penalty? And since when does a reconsideration request not take 2-3 weeks?



 8:07 pm on Nov 7, 2012 (gmt 0)

You recieved notice from Google that you had an unnatural linking penalty?

Google Guy posted that these notices were sent even if you did not have a penalty.
See https://plus.google.com/+MattCutts/posts/gik49G9c5LU

 8:31 pm on Nov 7, 2012 (gmt 0)

JohnRoy -

I remember when everyone got those notices.... and I got one too.
But then I got one after that - and assumed it was a real one.


 12:21 am on Nov 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

Weird were these penalty notices in WMT?

If sent by email could they be fake?

Something screwey about the whole thing......


 8:37 pm on Nov 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

Yes - the notice was in my Webmaster Tools and I received it AFTER the "goof" one was sent out by Google that everyone was talking about. So I assumed it was real. But now... after working on removing all these links - I feel like a fool because within two days Google comes back and says - "no web spam penalty".
I feel like a total idiot.


 9:05 pm on Nov 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

I feel like a total idiot.

I think you did what anyone would do in that position. The whole thing is very strange. Your told there's a manual penalty and there isn't one.

Difficult to know where you should go from here. I guess disavow remaining bad links because of <(") and start rebuilding the content


 10:47 pm on Nov 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

This was about two months ago.
I immediately went to work on removing any links...

Just a shot in the dark here but do you think that while you were removing links you eliminated enough that any manual action was removed prior to your reconsideration request?


 8:26 pm on Nov 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

I refuse to remove links because Google doesn't officially tell me which are good and bad and I don't care to try to manage what is not directly on my domain. Shooting in the dark is a futile effort in the long run and a major time sink.

I have removed my forum for fear of thin content

Are forums really that bad to have nowadays? You said you didn't see any improvement so have you considered restoring the forum? Do others with forums suspect the same(thin content downgrades)?


 8:44 pm on Nov 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

I've thought about bringing the forum back. Because I still have it. Database is in tact etc.... but it wasn't a super active forum - and now I have commenting open on my blog - which to me is just like a forum in many ways.
I feel like I am damned if I do and damned if I don't regarding the forum.
In my niche... I am seeing one site dominate the first 10 results - or more.
And it's just stupid, thin, visitor posted pages -- just seems weird to me. Seems sucky, fishy.... and impossible to rank.
I don't know what's going on with all this Panda, Penguin, ATF and all these other updates.... I just know that is seems sites with BIG money and deep marketing pockets rank and even if you ranked well for years before.... if you don't have the cash to burn - forget it.


 8:48 pm on Nov 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

I don't get it, why do people that think that 'artificial link creation' can't help, believe that 'artificial link destruction' can?


 8:55 pm on Nov 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

That's not all that I did to try and recover from Panda. I have done so much more than remove bad links. And BTW - I wouldn't have removed any links if I hadn't gotten that stupid notice from Google, that turns out was just a "mistake". So I don't believe links can "save" your site or make it recover - I was following the notice from Google.
I wouldn't touch the disavow tool. I think it's dumb and might hurt your site.
My feeling is... organic results are being pushed down and "money" is what is ranking.


 9:31 pm on Nov 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

You could be right about disavow, and about the "money" ranking.

I suggested disavow purely because of penguin and that will penalise backlinks without manual penalty. The whole thing with you proves how downright stupid these penalties have become now.


 11:15 pm on Nov 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

I never received a notice ever in WMT.


 11:55 pm on Nov 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

I never got any WMT "goof" notice either, for whatever that's worth.

This is strange. It would seem to imply that unnatural linking does not necessarily mean you're penalized. Or maybe they send the email out but give you a few months to clean up before penalizing? That way, you would never actually have been penalized, and maybe the clean up you did was the right thing to do.

And yet your rankings aren't getting any better. Sadly, though, I think it's getting impossible to tell when that actually *means* something and when it's just how things are working at Google these days. It's just a lot less clear how they rank us since Penguin/Panda.


 1:36 am on Nov 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

The typical notice reads as follows:

We've detected that some of the links pointing to your site are using techniques outside Google's Webmaster Guidelines.

We don't want to put any trust in links that are artificial or unnatural. We recommend removing any unnatural links to your site. However, we do realize that some links are outside of your control. As a result, for this specific incident we are taking very targeted action on the unnatural links instead of your site as a whole. If you are able to remove any of the links, please submit a reconsideration request, including the actions that you took.

If you have any questions, please visit our Webmaster Help Forum.

The sentence that I've bolded/italicized tells you that your site is not being filtered or penalized as a result. I read it as saying, essentially, that they have flagged the links they believe to be "artificial or unnatural" to be ignored by their algorithm.

Of course, they would love for you to also get those links taken down so that it reduces the workload on their end. Thus the subsequent comment, "If you are able to remove any of the links..."

I'm thankful...

a) they actually send out messages about such issues now and
b) they actually respond after they have processed a reconsideration request.

Not so long ago, you never received ANY information/response from them.


 2:06 am on Nov 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

To me - even with the notices - it's all very vague. Why not just say....

1. Hey... this link: www.crappysite.com/bigpoop.html needs to go - it's hurting your site and we've devalued it.


 7:24 am on Nov 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

To me - even with the notices - it's all very vague. Why not just say....

1. Hey... this link: www.crappysite.com/bigpoop.html needs to go - it's hurting your site and we've devalued it.

It is very vague and that's why all the 3rd party SEO link crawling tools are trying to reverse engineer Google's logic so they can attempt to tell you which links are in bad hoods.

Unfortunately, I sampled some of these sites and a couple that claim to be providing this service are simply telling you any page with a link not indexed in Google should probably be removed and it claimed I should get rid of 3500+ links. Mind you I didn't buy any links, these all came the natural way, or from scraper sites, and I wouldn't even know where to start with 3500 bad links so it's a non-starter.

No, I'm not going to disavow 3500 sites randomly either because if there are innocent sites in that list who knows what kinds of repercussions it will have to their sites?

I think we're just screwed.


 10:55 am on Nov 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

If I were Google, I'd

1. Consider everyone who uses Webmaster Tools a SEO spammer. Maybe establish a list of manual exclusions, vith reviews triggered based on daily traffic.

2. Randomly apply and remove penalties to their sites (small number of sites actually).

3. Maybe randomly send "unnatural link" or whatever other notices (about something which webmaster have no way of verification).

4. Have Matt Cutts or whoever the PR person of the spam team is, to tell about 30..50% truth and the rest weapon-grade drivel. Maybe even including some verifiable facts.

This would have resulted in a utter and complete chaos in SEO world.


 11:26 am on Nov 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

This would have resulted in a utter and complete chaos in SEO world.

Some would argue that this is exactly what they've done and complete chaos in the SEO world is exactly what they have caused.

The score now stands at 1-0 in Google's favour.


 12:53 pm on Nov 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

Instead of Google killing us - they've given us the tools and just enough noose to hang ourselves. That way - it makes it easier to let their own properties and big dogs to claim the top three pages of the SERPS. It's not their fault.... they just made us paranoid enough to tinker with our sites to the point of site-death. No blood on their hands technically. Must help them sleep better at night. LOL


 5:22 pm on Nov 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

Remember too that Google has to consider legal implications in how they word these things. It's possible that naming the "bad websites" linking to you could constitute defamation or something like that.

But getting back to the OP, what ZydoSEO says seems to back up the possibility that manual link issues do not equal penalties, at least not immediately or not all by themselves. If so, Frost_Angel, then maybe that issue is all taken care of.

But maybe you still haven't hit on whatever post-Panda improvements Google is looking for. I hate to tell you that, but there are just so many theories about Panda that it's really more guesswork than previous updates have been.


 6:09 pm on Nov 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

I agree diberry. I really do.
I can say that I am done messing with my backlinks. I don't think there was ever an issue. I just took their mistake email blast as a real notice and wanted to make it right.
Panda hit my 11 year old, top ranking site VERY Hard. Cut my traffic in half. Then it hit my site again recently on 11-28 (Panda 20, I believe?) So even after 18 months of improvements, changes.... looking, researching....removing huge portions of my site (like I said the forum, article directory) - I am down to a quarter of the traffic I had prior to April 2011. Barely enough to notice. My mind says - dump the site, let it go. My heart says.... 13 years of hard work, everything created by me - no funny stuff, just a passion for the topic -- keep fighting.
It's hard to know what to do.


 9:22 pm on Nov 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

Its obvious what Google wants you to do - build a business that supports the "adwords" spend... Brands can afford such things.. Show me the money.


 9:40 pm on Nov 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

That's exactly what I see - plain as day. Those that say otherwise are probably working for Google in some way.


 9:50 pm on Nov 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

If that's the case, then it's time to work on building other traffic sources than Google. If that's not the case, it's still a good idea.


 10:07 pm on Nov 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

That's what I am doing. I've begun to ignore the BIG GOO completely. Actually I am really ignoring all search engines. LOL

From 1999 to 2009 I didn't even know what SEO was.... I just wrote my articles. In 2010 I fell for the big SEO blah blah. That was the beginning of the end for me.

Never again.


 11:04 pm on Nov 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

I nearly started laughing while reading this thread. It's become so utterly ridiculous.

Smoke and mirrors and conspiracy for such a public company?

I honestly wonder if more legal action should be taken against Google.


 1:08 am on Nov 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

Google Guy posted that these notices were sent even if you did not have a penalty. See https://plus.google.com/+MattCutts/posts/gik49G9c5LU

FireFox Says
Unable to connect
Firefox can't establish a connection to the server at plus.google.com.

...then remembered that plus.google.com points to in HOSTS file on local machine. almost had me there...

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