How To Recover from An Unnatural Link Penalty

In my last post I talked about how to React to Penguin 2.0, keep calm and don’t chase the algorithm. I mentioned Search Engine Journal’s post about how to recover from an unnatural link penalty.  I will now explain in more detail how to do this.

Please note that an unnatural link penalty is different to Penguin and Panda, it is not indication that you have been affected by Panda.  Marie Haynes goes into detail about this on SEOmoz blog.

In short, Penguin was released on April 24, 2012 and was designed to fight webspam which involved keyword stuffing and buying links.. Panda was released in February 2011 (worldwide April 2011)  and then on September 18, 2012, a Penda refresh was rolled out. It targeted sites with duplicate and thin content and aimed to lower the rank of these lower quality sites. The change affected rankings of almost 12% of search results.

Once Bitten Twice Shy


Now, back to “how to recover from an unnatural link penalty”:

1) Locate unnatural links in your Google Webmaster Tools

First of all, you need to know what you are looking for.  An unnatural link is one that does not look like it belongs at that page.  For example links in the following places:

  • Site wide
  • Footer
  • Not relevant to the content on the page (link on pay day loans when the site is about travel)
  • More than 1 link within the content on exact match anchor text
  • Low quality directory site

Some linking root domains may have more than a 100,000 links pointing to your site. This  should send alarm bells ringing especially if this is a low PR directory).

A manual unnatural link penalty can affect the entire site, just a page or a keyword.  Sometimes if you are really unlucky, the site can be completely removed from Google. This is a great video by Matt Cutts on how to remove the links. 

2) Remove them by contacting site owners

It is important to reach out to the site owners and ask for the link to be removed.  It is not enough to just submit a disavow file highlighting the bad links.  Google want to see that you tried to get as many of these bad links removed as possible.  One way to help improve your chances of being reconsidered is if you have been able to remove them. For those links that you are unable to remove, (the webmaster has not replied or because they wanted a lot of money), then you can disavow the links. It does take a lot of time to remove the unnatural links, but you need to remove them in order to remove the unnatural links.

3) Submit a reconsideration request to Google

Once you have removed as many as the bad links as possible that were hurting your site, then you will need to submit a reconsideration request.  It can take up to 2 weeks to hear back from Google.  If you have been successful, you will get the  “manual spam action revoked” message.  For some sites, the recovery can take place in a couple of days or up to several months (depending on the severity of the penalty).

However, some sites may not see an increase in rankings once they have the “manual spam action revoked” as the site may not have had any good links.  Therefore you will need to get the good quality links to your site in order to rank well.  You cannot rank well on poor quality links.

It is important to remove the bad links, be allowed back into Google even if the rankings drop.  If you continued to have these bad links pointing to your site, you may continue to be affected by the Google updates.

Some sites can still appear to be penalized after the manual penalty is lifted as they may be affected from Penguin.  A Penguin refresh is needed to help you rank again.

4) Engage in good quality white hat SEO techniques

Content is King,  yes everyone has heard as it has been used a thousand times, but it should not be underestimated.Do not be focused on “link building” but instead focus on greating creat content. It is not necessarily the number of links you have built week on week, it is the content that you have created which has been shared with others.  If lots of people have liked your content, they will not only be sharing it, but visting your site as well.

There is no quick fix in recovering from an unnatural link warning.  It may have been quick to buy those links or then to see rankings increase, but these quick wins in terms of the speed at which the rankings increase no longer takes place.  It is important to try and remove as many as the bad links as possible before submitting a disavow file and the reconsideration request. It is important to go through this process to safeguard your site against any future Google updates.

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