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Got a message about unnatural links to my website

9:30 am on Mar 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

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joined:Dec 21, 2012
posts: 5
votes: 0

We just recived (March 8 2013) a message from Google saying.

We've detected that some of your site's pages may be using techniques that are outside Google's Webmaster Guidelines. Specifically, look for possibly artificial or unnatural links pointing to your site that could be intended to manipulate PageRank. Examples of unnatural linking could include buying links to pass PageRank or participating in link schemes. We encourage you to make changes to your site so that it meets our quality guidelines. Once you've made these changes, please submit your site for reconsideration in Google's search results.

Our site is a big well respected site and we have never ever bought any links, exchanged links or anything like that. We receive natural links from places like BBC, Reddit, Lifehacker, CNET and of course loads of small blogs and so on as well.

Anyway we do however have some sites that is using our API and are sending 100.000+ links back to us from their domains and i also see some other rather dodgy looking sites with low page rank linking to us. Nothing that i can clearly say are spam but well they look bad and have lots of ads on them.

How the heck would i know what links to remove? I mean we have hundred thousands backlinks from all over the web to our site. Where to start?

I found Matt Cutts suggestions about downloading recent links and so on but there are still hundreds of new links discovered by google each day ..

Anyone have any suggestions about this? I have read some articles and so on about this but it's hard because most seems to have some sort of history around link buildning and so on and we do not :/

[edited by: Andy_Langton at 9:32 am (utc) on Mar 11, 2013]
[edit reason] No specific sites please - see charter and ToS [/edit]

9:41 am on Mar 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

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WebmasterWorld Senior Member andy_langton is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Jan 27, 2003
votes: 37

By far the most common "unnatural" linking patters are where specific anchor text is repeated often in external links. I would use one of the many backlink databases to focus on links that use the same anchor text - particularly if it looks like it targets specific keywords.

Incidentally, the message itself may or may not be accompanied by a drop in traffic from Google. That depends on the severity of the activity. In many cases, you might find the perceived keyword target of the links would take a hit (either the URL or its target keywords). In itself that may or may not be significant to your particular site.
9:54 am on Mar 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

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joined:Nov 18, 2012
votes: 0

Use tools to check your backlinks (not only GWT) and prepare a list to contact all the spammy looking links and ask for removal, document your work and fill in a reconsideration request and explain your situation (exist on its not your fault). If you do not get a positive feedback (manual action removed) what is most likely, than you can use the disavow tool where you can add all spammy URLs and fill in again a reconsideration request. (This process will take about 5 weeks or so, cuz you need to wait after the first reconsideration request till the disavowed links will take affect)

From my experience (fighting manual action already 1 year, there is little chance on getting it lifted) .

I know its very depressive that webmasters need to give care these day who is linking to their site. Especially by big sites what are established, it is very hard as you prolly got tons of links. However the manual penalty doesn’t necessary mean that your ranking will suffer (my experience). We doing well even with the manual penalty, tho it is only applied on 4 subsides including the homepage.

G will prolly assign new keywords to the sites in question (that’s also my experience). To me it seems the manual penalty is connected with assigned keywords (what would explain the anchor text paranoia). So per example I noticed xxx keyword didn’t perform any more well after the penalty but G assigned 1 month later other keywords. Overall I can only say that the manual penalty doesn’t do much damage to us and prolly not to sites that are well respected, authority and provide good user experience.

We filled in 7 reconsideration request, documented our efforts used the disavow tool, but no luck so far. We will just ignore it tho as its not worth the time spend. G should fix it I suggest. We showed our good will invested time so on, nothing more we can do. Maybe its also a luck factor and depends who will read your requests...

As long you do not see a drop in traffic and ranking I wouldn’t worry much about it as it is not your fault. (you said so :-) )

What could also help is to gather new strong, respective and relevant backlinks to balance the drop caused by the penalty, if any.
10:22 am on Mar 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

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joined:Nov 18, 2012
votes: 0

"there are still hundreds of new links discovered by google each day .. "

You sure this are links and not MENTIONS? Do you check it in GWT? If so, you might be under attack.. Seems not NORMAL to get daily so many links... Did you compare your link growth whit the last couple of month or year? If it spikes only in last period of time something is going on.. don’t want to create panic, tho..

We all know for 5 bugs you can load 100.000´s of bad links on a competitors domain... I hope there is a normal explanation for your rapid back link growth...

Sitewide links can be very harmful, watch out if some links to you site wide and instant contact them...
1:29 pm on Mar 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

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joined:June 19, 2006
votes: 0

We have exactly the same issue. Got a message about unnatural links on the 11th. The page they mention only has internal links, and all external links are natural, we never bought one of them and all are from major media in our country and also smaller sites/blogs etc, all natural links because of our news.

We also filled in a reconsideration request, we'll see what happens..