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notice of detected unnatural links, site still ranking well



3:25 am on Jul 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

One of our sites received an unnatural linking notice today. The thing is that this site has been ranking really well. We received the notice today but our traffic is better this week than ever. It has been on a constant increase in rankings and traffic.

The site has a lot of high quality editorial links, but it also has some old crappy spam blog posts and comments. The spam stuff was created by a bad SEO company hired for a few months in early 2011. When we realized how bad it was we shut it down.

What I'm wondering. Our site took a hit back in late March for a lot of the keywords we had ranked well for. Things we were number 1 for dropped to the bottom of page 1 or onto page 2. We lost about 30-40 percent of our G referrels. Some phrases even dropped to pages 3 and 4. After the drop we focused on building high quality links into these pages and our rankings improved over time. After about three months everything was back to normal. Then into the fourth month we received this notice. I have read that John Mu mentions the notices they send out can be delayed and actually reference things from the past that have affected you. I have a feeling that is the case since our pages dropped so significantly back in March. Has anyone ever waited this thing out? Or not had anything happen at all? This is a first for us and I guess I'm just curious what some of the different outcomes have been.

Thanks for any insight given.


5:35 am on Jul 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I just received this noticed too.. and my case is similar to yours.. my site took a hit on february and since then it recovered just a little.

I read a lot about it today and there are some reports of people receiving this notice but never lost traffic.


1:44 pm on Jul 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

It looks like there is no choice but to do the reconsideration request. We've already cleaned up a ton of the links, we'll have to go through again and submit the request in the coming weeks. Hopefully everything pans out for this site, it was doing well.

norton radstock

2:05 pm on Jul 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I too had this notice yesterday. I haven't even responded to a link exchange request for several years, and the only new links have been from setting up a Facebook Pages account and Twitter account connected to the site.


2:30 pm on Jul 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I took a hit in January and just got the info now. Confirmed with John that its the same thing. Bit messy on their side IMO..


6:24 pm on Jul 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

@SnowMan68 generally it takes from a few days to 2 weeks for the rankings and traffic drop to follow the message. I've rec'd the message for 2 sites, one of which has never done link building. Having said that Google doesn't care whether you've done any or not. 1000s of sites are getting hit with this.

Print out all your links, go through 1 by 1, look for anything Google might not like, do everything you can to get rid of the links and document it, ask for reinclusion sending Google a link to the documentation of all the work you have done. From what I have heard you may have to "rinse and repeat" the above a few times until Google decides you've served your punishment and you can be let out.


6:37 pm on Jul 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

@ robdwoods

Thank you for the reply. I appreciate any insight on this that I can get. We have already started to document anything we can dig up. This is going to be a long road ahead of us I'm sure.

Generaly speaking, how big of a drop did you notice? Percentage wise? Was it mainly on the tail or the head terms?


7:14 pm on Jul 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Some notice drops immediately (within two weeks) and others don't. It seems to me that the threshold is becoming more and more refined and customized based on the analysis of inbound links.

Severe examples of paid links and unnatural link schemes seem to suffer significant drops - much sooner, where as websites we have worked through this issue with that had one or two examples of links that might be construed as unnatural, but a host of other great branded links and brand signals, have been mostly fine for months and months.

In the end, they seem to be giving more benefit of doubt to the brand and site with a more natural link profile, and this only makes sense. I would recommend most sites consider the warning imminent and immediately start cleaning up...


7:31 pm on Jul 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

@cainIV thanks for the insight. @snowman68 I'm not sure yet on the impact as my first notices were yesterday. Industry folks have been telling me 5-14 days for drops or no drops...

Clean up anything that looks really bad - sponsored links, incoming sitewides, and over optimized internal anchors


8:55 pm on Jul 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member jimbeetle is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Looks like Google's gone and changed things up again.

Matt Cutts
If you received a message yesterday about unnatural links to your site, donít panic. In the past, these messages were sent when we took action on a site as a whole. Yesterday, we took another step towards more transparency and began sending messages when we distrust some individual links to a site.

More at:


9:29 pm on Jul 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

@ jimbeetle

That is crazy news! Thanks for the link.

I still think now is the time to clean up house if you can.


9:30 pm on Jul 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I wonder how many people got this email. We have never bought links and we got this. Looks like scraper sites linking to us. Not sure what to do. Did not sleep last night. We have ranked well in Google for 14 years. I wonder if this is our competitors trying to harm us. Matt Cutts said don't worry, so I guess for now, we wait it out.


9:31 pm on Jul 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

Ditto on the not sleeping.


11:14 pm on Jul 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

FYI, there's another round of emails going out now.


11:20 pm on Jul 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

Do you know what it says? Have you gotten one?


11:29 pm on Jul 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I didn't get any on the round this afternoon. My understanding is it's the same message, just another batch of sites is getting it.


11:34 pm on Jul 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

Okay, I thought maybe they were clarifying or updating webmasters.


6:05 pm on Jul 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

FYI, Matt just announced that Google will be resending messages to previous recipients detailing which situation they are in, either getting a notice that dodgy links are pointing at your site, or you've been a naughty link buyer and you are going to get slapped.


6:49 pm on Jul 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

Here is the new message....

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.


6:59 pm on Jul 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I'm still unclear as to whether "very targeted action on the unnatural links instead of your site as a whole" means the links are targeted, or that parts of the site, but not the whole domain are penalized. I'll watch my analytics to see if traffic for any specific page drops. It would be great if others could follow suit. I don't like the "entire site" loophole in the verbiage.


5:21 am on Jul 24, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I would say if I were to have to interpret this message, that G is trying to say that they would normally inflict the actions of those unnatural links across the entire domain - aka lowered domain trust score, resulting in lost rankings likely at many levels.

Instead they are simply discounting the links themselves and not the domain score...

just my 0.02


6:06 pm on Jul 31, 2012 (gmt 0)

It seems the first-round Penguin sufferers were penalized for their 'indiscretions' according to G.

The second round 'offenders' have more or less had the links de-valued, so some loss of link power would be expected, but no major harm. Fix the links if you can (contact the webmasters of those sites), but Google understands that not all webmasters will respond. Google says if they charge you to remove the links, let Google know and they will use their own special brand of justice on these sites (paraphrased slightly).


12:44 pm on Mar 17, 2013 (gmt 0)

Hi all,

I received this message on the 14th March much to my disarray!

I noticed an instant drop that day in rankings but nothing catastrophic:


4 > 7
7 > 12
18 > 24
8 > 10

The website is 10 months old and has what I would describe as a very clean post-penguin link profile:

- 61 linking domains, only three KW anchored links in total
- Good, relevant websites linking

I believe I have identified the cause for this message:

I sponsor two websites (same WM) that are great sites, relevant and good for branding by association.

The WM put a list of a few links in the sidebar under a headline: 'Sponsors'

Our links we dofollow and said:

"Thanks to OurName LTD"

I contacted the WM immediately after this message as I suspected this might be the problem and asked her to add 'nofollow' to the links, which she has done.

She also said another one of her sponsors got a WMT links message - so further indicates this was at the minimum part of the problem.

I am unsure whether I should inform Google of this action or just leave it and proceed as normal now.

Those who got this message back in July 2012 - Did you see drops? If so, how long after? What did you do?

Would really appreciate any thoughts! It's been a stressful weekend!



7:57 pm on May 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

@ jasonpoxxon

I would leave things be and see what happens. If you notice the site is continuing to drop, then you can reach out to see if there has been some manual penalty.

Considering the drops seem pretty minimal, and some of them kept you on the first page, I would assume it is something algorithmic. If you see things continuing to fall, I would pull a copy of my backlink profile and see if all your incoming links match up to what you would expect.. basically checking to see if someone is hammering you with spam links.

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