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Manual Action message received: What links should I remove?

 12:26 am on Apr 29, 2014 (gmt 0)

I got "manual action". Site has 13 years, always in first page results. I downloaded links list from Webmaster tools, I have 3193 links and I really don't have a clue of what to remove.

Should I concentrate on those domains showing a huge amount of links to my domain and delete those?
I see domains with 100, 50, 20 links.

Second: I have 2 sites heavily interlinked, of my own, since they have links in footer pointing each other, so there I have some 700 links.
Is that bad itself? (both are about same theme so I recommend one from the other).



 10:22 am on Apr 29, 2014 (gmt 0)

You have got Manual Action report just because you have done spammy work in the past or might be you are still doing. Having Manual penalty is not a big deal rather than Algorithmic penalties. Now it’s time to remove your spam links as soon as possible.


I prefer, use Toxic Link Removal Tool for finding bogus links for your site. Download all the links from your WMT or use Detox Link removal tool to find more than WMT. Export the links in excel sheet and open all the links one by one to verify which one is good and which one is bad.

You have to find genuine, natural and high authority links for your sites and need to keep aside those links. After doing this task, you had a list of bogus, spammy, unhealthy links only.


When you got the bogus, spammy, unhealthy links then after you need to contact their domain owners for link removal (removing link manually is always a better idea beside to put all the links in disavow tool directly).

Some Domain owners will definitely remove your links form the domain, some may be not, someone ask for money and someone even not reply your email. Do not worry! Keep aside that domains and url’s where your link has been removed by their domain owners and the rest domain & url’s should go for the disavow.


Now it’s time to create Disavow Text File using notepad editor. Put those links that links was not removed by their domain owners, they not replied your emails, they are asking for money and they directly deny for removing it.

Finally submit this Disavow file to Google Disavow Tool and wait for couple of week. I am very sure Google must revoke your Manual Action and your website will be spam free.

Note: I already had 3 websites where Google has taken Manual Action, I have done all stuffs which are mentioned above, and now all my 3 websites are Manual Action free even I got my website rankings.


[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 11:03 pm (utc) on Apr 29, 2014]
[edit reason] no promotional signatures, per TOS [/edit]


 12:39 pm on Apr 29, 2014 (gmt 0)

How do I detect the bad ones? Just mannualy?
What is a bad one?
Is it preferable to keep just 10 good links among the almost 4000 I have now?
Is heavily interlinking my own sites bad too (footer link on all pages)?


 3:45 pm on Apr 29, 2014 (gmt 0)

What is a bad one?

Unnatural links is what you are looking for. A perfectly natural link is a freely given endorsement of your site by another site (not yours) that links to content on your site that the other site wants to share with their visitors. A few good links are worth more than thousands of bad links. You can try to find sites with related content and ask them to share some specific related content, that is valid link building. Mass anonymous requests are not the same thing.

It isn't just backlinks to your site, but links from your site that might be unnatural or unhealthy. The links you have on your site to share content on other sites should be links that you feel good about recommending, that you are sure that visitors would be happy they clicked on and not run into directories of links and banner farms. Visit the site yourself before you endorse it with a link. Those are good links for you and for the target of your link.

A limited amount of interlinking of sites seems to be acceptable but you don't want site-wide footer links that all go to your own domains. Link in pages or articles so people want to click through for more information in a topic of interest. Footer links should be used to direct visitors to your site's pages that are not in the menu such as your privacy policy, About Us page and Contact forms.

Unnatural links are links you might have arranged or created or bought. It is certainly possible to arrange natural type links between sites, but large numbers of links on site "A" leading to site "B" aren't a good thing. Be careful of keyword driven link anchors from unrelated sites.

Another thing is to check whether any of your self created links has brought you any visitors with low bounce rate.

Is it preferable to keep just 10 good links among the almost 4000 I have now?

IMHO - Yes.


 7:41 pm on Apr 29, 2014 (gmt 0)

What about those sites that suggest simlilar pages when you enter a domain, I'm seeing a bunch of those.
Should I remove them all too?


 7:55 pm on Apr 29, 2014 (gmt 0)

Linking to them or from them has no value that would help your site. I'd remove them to clean up your link profile. Look for valid content on the sites where you link to and where you try to place links.

Robert Charlton

 8:40 pm on Apr 29, 2014 (gmt 0)

Get rid of all links that you placed yourself or had someone else place. This includes arranged guest blog posts, placed articles, as well as paid links, text link ads, etc. I'd say that at this point it even includes blogroll links among sites that aren't recognized high quality sites. It certainly includes blogrolls that give you optimized anchor text, etc.

When Google looks for artificial links, it looks for signs of special relationships between sites.

A large number links coming from the same site, or the same IP, are likely to be flagged as artificial.

A large number of reciprocal links between any two sites is also likely to be seen as artificial. While a limited amount of crosslinking your own sites for users might make sense, if you're crosslinking between your own sites for PageRank or keywords, and you don't have a lot of independent inbound links from other sources, this crosslinking between your own sites is likely to cause you trouble.

A large number of links with keyword anchor text are likely to be seen as artificial.

Links from irrelevant sites are likely to be seen as artificial.

Links from .ru or .cn tlds, etc, are most likely also artificial. They're not likely to help you in any case, so get rid of them.

If a site has given you some artificial links, consider that domain tainted, and disavow the entire domain. Don't try to hang onto a few. Get rid of them all.

Similarly, outbound links that you've given/sold/traded to others will be seen as spam.

You will need to do more than disavow, btw. You will need first to make attempts to get bad links taken down. If you don't try hard enough, Google will not accept the reconsideration request you submit.

For some more information, note that in the upper left hand corner of every page on WebmasterWorld, just next to our logo, is a free tools link [freetools.webmasterworld.com...]

The first tool listed is a backlink checker that I think will help...

Google Backlink Checker Tool for Penguin & Disavow Analysis
http://backlinks.webmasterworld.com/google-backlink-tool-penguin-disavow/ [backlinks.webmasterworld.com]

Before you do anything else, I suggest that you view the two videos about using the tool that are further down on the above page. Also, read the material linked to. Full disclosure... these tools and the videos have been posted by Jim Boykin, whose company owns WebmasterWorld. The tool is in beta, and is free.

The videos are among the most helpful presentations I've seen about the patterns to look for in analyzing backlinks for disavow. I trust their approach much more than I trust automated disavow tools.

It's going to take a lot of time and effort. If your site wasn't build on solid foundations, and didn't have content good enough to attract natural inbounds, you may find that you're not going to have anything left by the time you finished disavow. This is something you need to evaluate. There are sites that have disavowed, rebuilt content, and taken a long road to coming back... but this assumes that there was something there in the first place.


 12:18 am on Apr 30, 2014 (gmt 0)

I have some 4000 links pointing to just 1 of my domains. Let's say I find 2500 bad links Is it expected I send some 2500 emails manually to each site or directory that contains a link to my site?

By the way how do you obtain the webmaster address to send the email asking link removal?


 3:35 am on Apr 30, 2014 (gmt 0)


Your Question1:
Should I concentrate on those domains showing a huge amount of links to my domain and delete those?

My Answer:
If you are getting multiple links from same domain then you need to worry about it. According to me you must delete those links ASAP.

Your Question2:
I have 2 sites heavily interlinked, of my own, since they have links in footer pointing each other, so there I have some 700 links.
Is that bad itself? (both are about same theme so I recommend one from the other).

My Answer:
Interlinking is not bad specially when you have dedicated IP for both domains but if you do not have dedicated IP & your both websites are placed at same server having same IP then please remove your interlinks in between.

Your Question3:
How do I detect the bad ones? Just mannualy?

My Answer:
Well there has no specific tool to check bad and good links, though you have to find those links manually one by one. The criteria are – do not remove those links that comes from the domain like .gov, .edu and .org. Do not remove those links that having high authority sites, news sites, reputed business directories, high PR valued etc.

Your Question:
By the way how do you obtain the webmaster address to send the email asking link removal?

My Answer:
You can easily find the webmaster contact (email id) at top of the page, footer area; if they have not mentioned there then you must go to check contact us page (there might be contact form available). If none of the above then you need to check whois detail for the website.


 11:32 am on Apr 30, 2014 (gmt 0)

Kickedout, I hear you. Its a nasty feeling. I am giving you advise as someone who has got 4-5 sites manual penalty revoked.

As many here advocate, I don't take a puritanical and theoretical approach, rather a practical one that is quite essential for an everyday, small-to-medium site, that neither can't afford to be on a moral high ground and do SEO by the letter and spirit, nor can it afford to lose ranks being too puritanical in approach. Mind you, the puritanical approach is a safer bet, but may leave you back at ground zero. Reverting to a position from where your website started, if you relied too heavily on SEO for traffic.

I do it in iterations, not removing or disavowing most of the low quality links in one go. I tend to remove links in increments of their toxicity and see if penalty will be lifted, so you can spare the links you would have removed otherwise. It takes time, keep yourself a minimum of 2 months and 2-5 iterations.

1. Download the links from WMT. First look for RoS links and make sure they didn't come about naturally. Try to remove them.
2. Then look for links with exact match keywords. As before, make sure they are actively acquired and try and get rid of them

At this point, I will file my first disavow file and make a reconsideration request. In the request, mention you have referred to WMT to look for backlinks. To be on the safer side, use domain level disavow and include domains from where the links are removed.

3. Expect a negative reply, (which usually comes in 8 to 15 days) and keep up your backlink analysis. Next look for sites, where you have pursued links yourself, such as directories, bookmarks that haven't gone viral, article directories, link exchanges, paid links, etc, even if they aren't exact match anchor links. Now, make a separate list of these sites, which contains obviously low quality sites. One of the measures of quality I have to come to rely on is SEMRush value (Mods - Please nix it, if it shouldn't be mentioned). It is a guarantee of a site having Google referred traffic, thus in Google's good books.

After waiting for the reply from Google, and supposing it being negative, remove links from this sub-list and disavow. Send your next recon.

4. Wait until the next reply and it again being negative, remove/disavow the rest of links from the original list in 3rd step. File a recon.

5. While you wait for the reply, look for links you haven't acquired yourself, and run them through quality test. Besides indications of real traffic to the sites, healthy Google referred traffic, look for bad neighborhood. Unrelated sites listed in the page where you are listed. Remove/disavow the bottom half of these links and submit another recon when the negative reply comes.

In majority of the cases, penalty would have been revoked by now. If not, take help of other backlink tools, compare the list with WMT's and deal with links not found in WMT as mentioned above.

Best wishes. Please keep in mind that toolbar PR or alexa ranks are poor indicators of quality.


 1:17 pm on Apr 30, 2014 (gmt 0)

Thank you all. Something important to mention is the penalty didn't kill my domain completely.
Seems They are “partial site” penalties, not site wide.

My main concerns at this points are

1) I understand that having a "link" page (where you used to trade reciprocal links with websites in similar niche than you) must be now a bad idea

So I should be removing my "link directory" (by the way I have some 4 o 5 pages that kind with less than 8 links each) at first?

2) About interlinking my own sites: I do receive traffic from one site to another having

A) A 4 images banner (horizontal) where each image links to one site, in general links to a deep page, so user is directed not to another website homepage, but a page insiside the other website more specific.

B) I normally place a footer doing something similar

Is it expected I quit those completely (I asume my banner heavily interlinking is not good either?)

Or I should I add NOFOLLOW (in order to keep traffic in case I recover my rankings)


 3:00 pm on Apr 30, 2014 (gmt 0)

So I should be removing my "link directory" (by the way I have some 4 o 5 pages that kind with less than 8 links each) at first?

You can noindex the pages in the meta tag while you sort through valid and poor quality links. This lets your visitors have the links without it being seen as any SEO effort. There are visitors who appreciate the related sites information. Look at how it fits with the overall site.
A) A 4 images banner (horizontal) where each image links to one site, in general links to a deep page, so user is directed not to another website homepage, but a page insiside the other website more specific.

With something similar in the footer, I would drop this one and maybe use it only on specific pages where it adds to related information on that page and might be missed on the footer. Even better would be to do away with the banner and link related text to related content on your other site. That would help visitors and not look so over-promotional.

I would use nofollow very sparingly, it is basically saying something like, "go here, but I don't recommend it."


 7:17 pm on Apr 30, 2014 (gmt 0)

Is no index usefull? My understanding is that just makes the page not to be indexed, but what you want is to take away the value of links with nofollow instead... am I right?


 8:17 pm on Apr 30, 2014 (gmt 0)

The decision is yours, here is Google's advice:
From: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/96569?hl=en
What are Google's policies and some specific examples of nofollow usage?

Here are some cases in which you might want to consider using nofollow:

Untrusted content: If you can't or don't want to vouch for the content of pages you link to from your site — for example, untrusted user comments or guestbook entries — you should nofollow those links. This can discourage spammers from targeting your site, and will help keep your site from inadvertently passing PageRank to bad neighborhoods on the web. In particular, comment spammers may decide not to target a specific content management system or blog service if they can see that untrusted links in that service are nofollowed. If you want to recognize and reward trustworthy contributors, you could decide to automatically or manually remove the nofollow attribute on links posted by members or users who have consistently made high-quality contributions over time.
Paid links: A site's ranking in Google search results is partly based on analysis of those sites that link to it. In order to prevent paid links from influencing search results and negatively impacting users, we urge webmasters use nofollow on such links. Search engine guidelines require machine-readable disclosure of paid links in the same way that consumers online and offline appreciate disclosure of paid relationships (for example, a full-page newspaper ad may be headed by the word "Advertisement"). More information on Google's stance on paid links.
Crawl prioritization: Search engine robots can't sign in or register as a member on your forum, so there's no reason to invite Googlebot to follow "register here" or "sign in" links. Using nofollow on these links enables Googlebot to crawl other pages you'd prefer to see in Google's index. However, a solid information architecture — intuitive navigation, user- and search-engine-friendly URLs, and so on — is likely to be a far more productive use of resources than focusing on crawl prioritization via nofollowed links.

Another page they offer has more specific advice and instructions for Manual Penalty - at the bottom of the page: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/35769?hl=en&ref_topic=6002025


 8:29 pm on Apr 30, 2014 (gmt 0)


What about directories that have PR1, PR2, PR3 in homepage but PR0 in categories (where your link is). Should I discard all those too?

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