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New Round of Google Sending out Bad Linking Notices

     
8:08 pm on Apr 11, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Some people have been saying they received a notice from Google about "unnatural outbound links". Did anyone here get impacted?
8:20 pm on Apr 11, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Not seeing anything here, across a number of Webmaster Tools accounts (some sites are probably quite high risk), but appreciate the heads-up.
5:58 am on Apr 12, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Unnatural outbounds?

Why would they provide notice about that? If it appeared to be hacked/injected outbounds, then I could see it being a beneficial "heads up", but suggestive assistance has never seemed to be their strong point.
9:40 am on Apr 12, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Barry reported this in Search Engine Roundtable earlier on Monday morning. This is all about manual penalties for not using the nofollow tag on certain kinds of posts...

Google Issues Mass Unnatural Outbound Links Penalties Over Weekend
Apr 11, 2016 - by Barry Schwartz
[seroundtable.com...]

There are screen captures of the warnings, identified as "Unnatural outbound links from {domaingoes here} violate Google Webmaster Guidelines", and Barry's post links to some of the Google Product forum discussions. The chief issue of these targeted links seems to be product reviews.

John Mueller elaborates on this thread...

Another "Unnatural outbound links" email
April 9, 2016
https://productforums.google.com/forum/#!topic/webmasters/6kcg1BgXkhE

(Link is delinked here because the #! breaks in our redirect script. Paste link in your address bar to navigate to the thread)
...In general, when you're getting a free product (or service, etc) in exchange for a post, you need to make sure that the links there are nofollowed -- be it to the original product page, a sales page or affiliate link on a site like Amazon, or to their social media profiles. You don't need to nofollow everything on your blog, just the links that are involved in an exchange like this. Obviously, it's also good to disclose this kind of relationship to your readers too -- on the page I was looking at, you did that already, but others might not be doing that.

Once you've cleaned up these kinds of outbound links by adding a nofollow where appropriate, feel free to submit a reconsideration request ( https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/35843 [support.google.com] ) so that it can be reviewed by our webspam folks & so that they can remove this manual action on your site.
Interesting that Amazon affiliate links are explicitly mentioned here.

John also refers readers to the Google Webmaster Central Blog on this issue, which says much of what he also noted, with some potentially important additional details....

Best practices for bloggers reviewing free products they receive from companies
Friday, March 11, 2016
[webmasters.googleblog.com...]

As a form of online marketing, some companies today will send bloggers free products to review or give away in return for a mention in a blogpost. Whether you’re the company supplying the product or the blogger writing the post, below are a few best practices to ensure that this content is both useful to users and compliant with Google Webmaster Guidelines.

As I read it, this is where you should be using nofollow...
Links that pass PageRank in exchange for goods or services are against Google guidelines on link schemes. Companies sometimes urge bloggers to link back to:
- the company’s site
- the company’s social media accounts
- an online merchant's page that sells the product
- a review service’s page featuring reviews of the product
- the company’s mobile app on an app store

The two most relevant additional guidelines pages appear to be...

Unnatural links from your site [support.google.com...]
Webmaster Guidelines [support.google.com...]

There's some question about whether this is for all links in blog posts, including links back to authors, etc, or just for the product source links as identified above. If anyone tries out the possibilities and finds out, feedback here would be helpful.
3:30 pm on Apr 12, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Any credible reports of collateral damage yet?
7:42 pm on Apr 12, 2016 (gmt 0)

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If they're unnatural outbound links from one site, then they must also be unnatural inbound links to the site that the links point to.

In other words, the companies that provide these products and services to be reviewed are essentially trying to buy links, and are therefore just as "guilty" as the people who do the reviews.
9:23 pm on Apr 12, 2016 (gmt 0)

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when you're getting a free product (or service, etc) in exchange for a post, you need to make sure that the links there are nofollowed

If they can tell that a particular link is "supposed to be" nofollowed, why don't they ### well just ignore the link?
9:40 pm on Apr 12, 2016 (gmt 0)

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If they can tell that a particular link is "supposed to be" nofollowed, why don't they ### well just ignore the link?


To be blunt, a solution to algorithmic weaknesses is manual action + PR. This makes it high risk and high profile.
5:59 am on Apr 13, 2016 (gmt 0)

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It wasn't too long ago that it was stated (by Matt Cutts, possibly) that Google automatically nofollows links to popular affiliate programs like Amazon. This seems to contradict that?!
7:03 am on Apr 13, 2016 (gmt 0)

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...why don't they ### well just ignore the link?
I think that a lot of sites are in the difficulties they're in now because, for several years, Google did just that... they ignored the spammy links unless they were egregious, and mostly there were no negative consequences.

Forum discussions kept speculating about when the hammer would fall, and no one believed that Google really meant it. I think in part that Google may have waited until it was relatively sure there wouldn't be many false positives, but by that point many businesses had come to depend on sites built on very precarious foundations, and the consequences haven't been pretty.

John Mueller has stated explicitly that one of the reasons for Penguin was to make sure that spammers don't do it again. Many webmasters I encounter are still in denial about certain kinds of linking and manipulative behavior related to Penguin.

At least with these particular manual penalties you know more or less what the problem is and what you can do to fix it.
7:28 am on Apr 13, 2016 (gmt 0)

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The more I see of this kind of thing, the more I think of this quote from the movie "All The President's Men": " Forget the myths the media's created about the White House. The truth is, these are not very bright guys, and things got out of hand. "

To be blunt, a solution to algorithmic weaknesses is manual action + PR.
No. That's wrong. If there are algorithmic weaknesses, it is because the people creating the algorithm just weren't good enough to design the algorithm to cope with the error condition.

The answer to the problem is, unsurprisingly within the link graph and link network of the site.

Regards...jmcc
7:55 am on Apr 13, 2016 (gmt 0)

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If there are algorithmic weaknesses, it is because the people creating the algorithm just weren't good enough to design the algorithm to cope with the error condition.


Well, quite, but I wasn't suggesting why the weakness occurred, rather a potential solution to it from Google's perspective. Google continue to have problems identifying 'manipulative' links and (quite understandably) want to deter people from undertaking these activities. High profile penalties and press coverage undoubtedly deter people from behaviours that Google dislikes.
7:55 pm on Apr 13, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Totally confused. If the major search engine tells you that your site has a link problem, you correct it,

If you don't then you know the consequences and that's your choice.
6:55 am on Apr 14, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Totally confused. If the major search engine tells you that your site has a link problem, you correct it,

Indeed - self evident.
11:05 am on Apr 14, 2016 (gmt 0)

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So what we SEO have to do, to avoid these bad link in future?
 

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