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Jun 18, 2014

How To Remove An Unnatural Outbound Link Penalty

Joel, a blogger, was witnessing a sharp fall in organic search traffic for the past few days. He apprehended that the cause might have been a manual action imposed upon his blog by Google. His apprehensions were finally confirmed when he received the following notification (read: Dear John letter of SEO) in his Google Webmasters Tool account:
Unnatural outbound links
Google has detected a pattern of artificial or unnatural links on this site. Selling links or participating in link schemes in order to manipulate PageRank is a violation of Google's Webmaster Guidelines.
As a result of unnatural links from your site, Google has applied a manual spam action to xyz.com. There may be other actions on your site or parts of your site.
Joel is now at a total loss and wants to know how he can remove the unnatural outbound link penalty and recover his site's lost traffic and rankings.

If you are a blogger or a webmaster sharing the same plight as Joel, its time to cheer up for its easier to revoke a manual unnatural outbound link action applied to your site than you think.

Why a manual unnatural outbound link action?

Before I proceed to tell you how you can remove a manual (outbound link) spam action from your blog/website, its important for you to understand what led to the manual action in the first place.

A manual (outbound link) spam action is taken against your site, when the outbound links from your site violate the Google's Webmaster Guidelines.

Outbound links are in violation of the Google's Webmaster Guidelines when these links are either paid for or are considered a part of a link scheme that pass PageRank and hence unnaturally influence search engine rankings.

Google terms all links that goes against its guidelines as "unnatural" or "un-organic"

Therefore a unnatural outbound link penalty may be imposed against your site in the following circumstances:

1. When you have accepted payment in exchange of links (this includes paid reviews).

2. Excessive participation in link exchanges (You link to me and I'll link back to you).

3. Accepted a large number of guest posts without caring too much about the 'anchor texts' or the 'quality' or the 'relevance' of the sites you are linking to.

The meaning of a manual action

A lot of people might be confused with the use of the term 'manual'. A manual action does not mean that a Google representative has manually visited your site and finding it to have 'unnatural outbound links', has imposed a penalty on the same. 

It simple means that the sophisticated Google algorithms have triggered a spam alert which has led to a penalty being imposed upon your site.

What might trigger an outbound link spam alert?

An outbound link spam alert might be triggered in the following circumstances.

1. You link to a large number of sites that have no relevance to the content theme of your blog/website. This might be largely through indiscriminate acceptance of a large number of guest posts or paid link building.

Eg: Your's is a technology themed blog and you have a link pointing towards a 'pest control website'

2. The use of keyword-rich anchor text links. 

Eg: Your outbound anchor texts looks somewhat like this : CarRentalsIndia, IndiaCarRental or RentCarIndia

3. User generated spam links in your comments section.

4. You are a part of a network that participates in 'paid linkbuilding'

How to revoke an Unnatural Outbound Link action?

Now we come to the part of the discussion you've been waiting so long for. The Action plan is simple: 

1. Remove non-complaint links as far as possible or make them nofollow.

2. Submit a reconsideration request with Google by logging into your Webmaster's Tool Account.

I will deal with each section in some detail.

1. Removing links or making them no-follow.

Since a penalty has been imposed on account of unnatural links, you will manually have to search for and either remove such non-compliant links or make them nofollow so that they do not pass PageRank.

Start by looking for links that you might have sold. I would recommend that you completely remove such links for Google has a very strict policy as far as paid link-building is concerned. Also delete your account with any so-called link-building networks you might have signed-up with.

Next progress unto the guest posts that you have accepted and similarly scan each and every one of them for non-compliant links (even where such links appear in the author bio section). Refer to the section of the post on 'outbound link spam' trigger for guidance in identifying such non-compliant links. Manually remove all non-compliant links or turn them no-follow. 

Finally revisit the other posts in your blog/website to consider the links that can be made nofollow. This is to be on the safe side.

Note: It is also important to turn comment links to no-follow to keep user generated spam out. In case you do not moderate your comments, kindly ensure that you moderate all comments on your blog/website henceforth.

Tip: If you have had accepted a large number of guests posts, then the entire process detailed about is going to be both laborious and time consuming. Do not attempt to complete the entire process in a day. Set yourself a realistic time-frame of completing the review and try to achieve the same within the deadline set.

2. Placing a reconsideration request 

The next and the final part of the process consists of placing a reconsideration request with Google though the Webmaster's Tool platform.

The steps are detailed as follows:

1. Log in to your Google Webmaster's Tool account.
2. On the left hand side-bar, clink on "Search Traffic". From the menu that opens, click on "Manual Actions"
3. Click Request a Review to ask Google to reconsider your site.

Note that it may be several weeks before you receive a reply to your reconsideration request.

Once the manual action has been revoked, you will find your rankings and search traffic return to normalcy.

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