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Have You Received A Gwmt Notice: Artificial Or Unnatural Links Pointin

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#1 Jill


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Posted 02 April 2012 - 11:41 AM

Curious if anyone has received the latest dreaded message in their Google Webmaster Tools account regarding having artificial or unnatural links pointing to their website.

SEL has an overview of it here.

"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."

Unsurprisingly, none of the sites in my GWMT account have any messages :glad:

#2 Michael Martinez

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 12:18 PM

I haven't seen it for any of my own sites but a few people have privately shared some incidents with me. It's hard to pin down which links are causing the warnings. They don't all participate in blog networks and, of course, today Search Engine Land published an article where they pass on a message from Google saying that these warnings are not directly tied to the massive link blog deindexing process.

#3 arfff


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Posted 13 April 2012 - 02:47 PM

I was just coming on here to ask about this. One of my clients was removed from Google Serps today and this message was in their webmaster tools:

"Dear site owner or webmaster of xxxxxx,
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.
If you find unnatural links to your site that you are unable to control or remove, please provide the details in your reconsideration request."

Background on this is I came aboard in January after they got suspicious of previous SEO. I did a work-up and informed them that they were put into a link farming/purchased links scheme and in addition had approx 50 doorway pages. We cleaned up the doorway pages and I wasn't sure what you do with external purchased links that no one really controls.
Has anyone inherited a client or had a situation similar to this where they are banned from a previous SEO's link scheming? I'd appreciate any help anyone could give me on getting them cleaned up and resubmitted. I've never had a client banned so this is outside my experience as to what the process is to get them back in....

#4 arfff


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Posted 13 April 2012 - 07:05 PM

As I've had more time to look at this it appears Google gave the site a -50 to -70 penalty with the above notification and did not totally remove the site from the index.

We have contacted the offending SEO firm and demanded they correct the issue and remove all the link farms they put the site in and we're getting assurances as of the moment that they will do it.
"He claims he will remedy it and get the leading 5% least relevant links removed (3 step communication effort to those sites) to hopefully remove us, and will craft a letter to Google (that we approve) and then also create a webpage to list the corrections made for google and others to see, including addressing that XXXX is a school and not an SEO company and not responsible for this linking effort.

He believes this will work and will result in us regaining positioning in 2-3 weeks."

#5 clandestino


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Posted 14 April 2012 - 05:01 AM


Did your rankings drop 50 or 70 places? If they stayed the same, it's not a -50 or -70. If your rankings haven't been affected, the problem is your SEO is participating in Blog Networks. Ranking won't drop in this case, yet.

Check your links in Webmaster Tools, you will probably see a large number of links coming from the same domain on many of the links. Sometimes as many as 30,000 links from one domain. Go to that site and see if it's a blog. Is it a members only site? -- another danger sign.

Google -- BMR Blog Network -- and you'll see that Google busted BMR and is de-indexing their blogs (some 22,000 of them). The same is happening to other Blog Networks. BMR has shut down and is issuing pro-prated refunds to its customers. The jig is up -- blog networks are a link scheme and/or paid link in Google's opinion and Google will penalize you for participating. In this case, Google is right, people paid to get listed on the network blogs.

If the source of the problem is Blog Networks, my recommendation is that you demand the SEO remove all links that are from blogs or membership sites. There's no easy way to tell which ones came from blog networks so take them all down -- only the link builder knows for sure and they may not be able to tell since many of these networks are so large. John Mu at Google said -- if you were participating for 2 years, then you should go back 2 years and remove all related links.

I wouldn't have the same SEO file the Request for Reconsideration.

I recommend the following --

1) Put up a spreadsheet on Google docs and provide a link to the spreadsheet at the very top of your Request for Reconsideration. They have a lot of these to do -- at last count I believe that over 1 million notices have gone out. By putting it at the top, they won't miss it as they may not read the full explanation because of the volume of these requests.
2) Show the links the SEO took down or are pending on the spreadsheet.
2) I would tell Google who the SEO is and what they did or did not do to remove links.
3) I would send an e-mail to each webmaster and ask them to remove the links and show this on the spreadsheet.
4) Remember, a real person is going to look at your site when you file the Request for Reconsideration so make sure to clean up any other problems.
5) I would remove footer links, especially if they are to another site you own. Do the same on the other site.
6) Remove cross links to/from other sites -- no point in putting up a big red flag begging Google to go there too (although, Webmaster Tools is going to give them a road map too).
7) Check canonicals and 301's and list these corrections on the spreadsheet if there are any -- we're trying to let Google know that we're really working hard on making sure there's nothing wrong with our site.
8) Make sure your content is looking good and there aren't duplicate content issues -- note cleanup on the spreadsheet -- you want to show Google you're serious and not evasive. Don't tell them a story, they're not dumb.
9) Keyword stuffing, awkward content designed to add keywords? -- fix it and note it on the spreadsheet.

Make sure the Request for Reconsideration explains that this was not your idea. I would tell them that I had fired the SEO and moved to another advisor that told me that we needed a Marketing Centric/Content Driven SEO Program that would result in links editorially given. Note: Only say this if it's true, it could come back to haunt you.

The point is to get Google to believe you're serious when you say you will always follow the Quality Guidelines in the future. That means coming up with a system of control that insures that you are involved in review of the work done to your site.

You must give them a believable reason as to why you are sure this will never happen again. For example -- "We have taken SEO in-house which will give us an ability to directly control the work product of our Marketing/SEO personnel. We give you our word this will never happen again."

If you fail to do this and/or take too long, your rankings will ultimately drop.

I know of one case where the above was done. The company's rankings never dropped and the penalty was removed within 30 days.

It will take much longer today since there are many more notices out there. We don't know when Google will impose the ranking penalty. It might be after 30 days, even if it takes 120 days to get to your Request for Reconsideration. Also, it may be that if your rankings drop, they will never come back to that same level again.

Anyone else have any info?

In your case, time is of the essence because of the the things I mentioned in the second preceding paragraph. You need to get your Request for Reconsideration in as soon as possible.

Hope this helps.

#6 Jill


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Posted 14 April 2012 - 11:50 AM

He believes this will work and will result in us regaining positioning in 2-3 weeks."

And you're going to trust the opinion of someone who got you into the mess to begin with? I'd break ties with them ASAP. You might even want to consider suing them.

#7 clandestino


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Posted 14 April 2012 - 09:03 PM

@Jill I couldn't agree more whole heartedly.

I'm dealing with a client that had the same thing happen to them. We fired the SEO. My client is a small family business just trying to make an honest living and apparently are too quick to trust. I'm a little testy on the subject of Google as a result -- I see Google as the bigger villain.

If Google wants to do this kind of thing (mass penalties), they should publish their intent to take action for, say, 6 months in advance. They should explain what their rules are and how they apply during that 6 month period. Then if people don't change, at least they went a long way to help them. It wouldn't take more than .00000000000001% of their earnings to do it. It would take planning an patience though -- I may have found the drawback, Google may not be capable of that.

They act almost like they enjoy getting even with people. If everyone was a software engineer, it would be different, but they're not. Many mom and pop businesses are trying the best they can and rely on so called professionals for advice. Those mom and pop businesses attract a lot of business to the internet for Google. Google should appreciate that and help to develop it.

I also have to file my taxes this weekend, which I really hate to do. Can we please have a flat tax or fair tax and get rid of the IRS and all those lobbyists on K Street in Washington DC?

As a result, I don't know who I hate more -- Google or the IRS. Today I think it's Google -- the IRS is more ethical.

#8 Jill


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Posted 16 April 2012 - 09:46 AM

Here's a great post by Patrick Altoft explaining Google's linking penalty.

Some snippets from the article:

The Unnatural Link update works in direct contrast to previous updates because it penalises websites purely based on the link strategy they have chosen to adopt and it has caused huge problems for the sites that are affected.

By conducting analysis across the sites that have contacted us we have a unique insight into what Google has been identifying and we have summarised this into a the list below.

  • Commercial Link Networks – if you use a link-building product with a name then it’s likely that this product has already been wiped out or is a target for Google in the near future. They have already de-indexed tens of thousands of websites on networks such as Build My Rank and most of the other well-known tools and systems.
  • Agency Link Networks – we have spoken to several well-known SEO agencies who use their own blog networks to build links exclusively for clients and some are reporting mass de-indexing by Google across thousands of sites. This shows that Google has the technology to identify the networks without relying on creating accounts and using the products like some suspected they were doing with services such as Build My Rank. This hasn’t been widely reported but it’s clear that Google knows about these networks and they are a target for elimination.
  • Sidebar Links – if you have lots of sidebar links these are a big red flag to Google. Take them down.
  • Anchor Text – Tim Grice, Head of Search at Branded3, posted about this recently and then Google confirmed things early in April. The way that Google evaluates anchor text has changed and sites with lots of keyword anchor text are more at risk of a penalty and/or link devaluation.
  • Sites That Have Become Toxic – sometimes a link can be placed on an average site and 12 months later the site owner has decided to sell dozens of links and paid posts every month to unrelated sites. The site has turned from a good link source into a toxic site and the link needs to be removed.

Honestly, for Google to be doing this FINALLY is just too awesome for words.


#9 arfff


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Posted 16 April 2012 - 11:49 AM

Thanks so much for all the quick responses and good advice. Jill, on my way to read Patrick's article now. I did suggest their attorney fire an across the bow letter to this "seo expert" and set up the process, but I think he is failing and there are no pockets there. He apparently got them for some big fees over 2011 and what was the saddest was the site tags were never even done and all duplicates. All he did was link schemes.

I really appreciate the time and detail in your post Chuck.
Currently, it looks like a -50 penalty and I will make it clear to the client again that I'll need to handle the resubmit not the fella that got them into this.

Appreciate the guidance and I'll update as we walk through the process.

#10 clandestino


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Posted 16 April 2012 - 05:05 PM

Hi @arfff,

You're welcome. Hopefully my info helped.

Please do post here and tell us how this comes out. There are other people that have been victimized by SEO's or are wrongly accused. Info on how to address these issues is very important to them and their employees.

#11 gmartfin


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Posted 18 April 2012 - 01:10 PM

I'm going to take a contrary position here.

Although none of our sites have received such a message this will be our position should this happen.

Dear Mr. Google:

We purchased advertising on another site. Apparently you intend to use your virtual monopoly to
force us to end this advertising or suffer the consequences. As this advertising competes directly
with your adword monopoly we believe your actions violate the law.

We'll see you in court.


CC Your states attorney general, consumer affairs, (your relevant gov't agency)

Now seriously before you give a knee jerk reaction please think about what I'm saying. Google is a virtual monopoly. These links represent PAID ADVERTISEMENTS on other sites.
For Google to go after a competing source of advertising and threaten to punish in the event they find you doing that is a huge violation of existing laws.

More to the point is that Google has gone from a search engine to dictating the type of business you can have (or get banned) how many ads you can have (or get banned) and on and on.

Directory sites ....banned
Article Sites....banned
Affiliate Sites....banned
MFA sites....banned
Too much advertising....banned

The real question in my mind is when do we as webmasters and SEO people start saying no more?

And not to get all gushy and gooey here but the internet started as a huge conglomeration of human interest sites. Lots of them were terrible but represented the best efforts or technology at the time.
It was hugely interesting and you could spend hours just surfing to see the next inspiration.

What Google is trying to do is build the internet into one huge encyclopedia. I realize that information represents value to a lot of people but so do the other efforts they are now banning or disparaging.

Google is now in the process of dictating what the internet is going to look like in the future. Regardless of what you think or like. Are you prepared to allow that?

#12 dabblingmum


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Posted 18 April 2012 - 01:45 PM

I have not received such a notice, but I worry I might because some idiot(s) have hijacked my homepage code (I have no virus on my computer or my webhost and my password is changed constantly) and is plugging it into sites as spam.

I was told by one web host "The problem is solved, but I suspect you have a larger problem. The problem was caused by a hacker getting into (the client's website) and inserting redirects into the htaccess, and adding the plumber folder, which the contents included the ripped copy of your website. I would continue to check to see what sites are trying to load content from yours because if the hackers used it on this site they probably used it on many others. We have seen this hack rear its ugly head a lot recently and the website owners are unaware of it until its brought to their attention."

I have tried contacting the owners and the web host of 4 sites left to have these pages removed, but no luck.

I've blocked them from being able to access my css code and the images on the site so they can't be used off site.
I have also put a deny access code into the .htaccess page for the domain name, and the ip address.

Sadly, this started about a year ago, and I've been fighting it ever since.

Frustrated that I can't get the web hosts of the last few to help, I asked Google to help but they said this was not their problem as it's not officially a copyright issue.

But, of course, when I go into Google's webmaster central area, it shows things like this:

Pages linked from url.com Total links 23096 Total linked pages 33

or this

Pages linked from url.com Total links 43506 Total linked pages 23

So I get a little concerned.

Is this something I should be worried about from a Google penalization standpoint?

Edited by dabblingmum, 18 April 2012 - 02:22 PM.
Please don't link to spam sites!

#13 Jill


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Posted 18 April 2012 - 01:58 PM

Now seriously before you give a knee jerk reaction please think about what I'm saying. Google is a virtual monopoly. These links represent PAID ADVERTISEMENTS on other sites.
For Google to go after a competing source of advertising and threaten to punish in the event they find you doing that is a huge violation of existing laws.

I agree with you completely if they are in fact penalizing sites that have purchased ads/links on other sites. It used to be that they'd simply not count the links, which is their right.

But if they're banning sites from their search results because they are buying ads on other sites, it's totally a violation of laws.

#14 Jill


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Posted 18 April 2012 - 02:02 PM

dabblingmum, it's a separate issue from the notes Google is sending about links.

But yeah, you should be worried. Have you tried filing a DMCA complaint?

#15 dabblingmum


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Posted 18 April 2012 - 02:21 PM

Yes, I have filed a DMCA complaint.

The other DMCA complaints, resulted in the sites fixing the hijack ASAP.

But these last four are giving me some difficulty.

One web host, it took a month of contacting three times a week, just to get them to respond before they'd even comply.

I just wish I knew who did this. I can't believe people have so much time on their hands. This really doesn't seem to serve much of a purpose at all.

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