Fixing Google Manual Action: Unnatural Links to Your Site

Yesterday, we covered unnatural links from your site. Spoiler alert: today we’re discussing unnatural links on someone else’s site that link to your site. Yep, you really can get jacked up by Google for that. 

As you should also know by now, there is a list of rules you’ve got to follow for Google to include your website’s pages on their search results page. If you fail to comply with their guidelines, then boom. Red flag for your page and you need to fix the problem before they allow it back on the results page. Crossing those lines are when Manual Actions happen.

While most of the time the algorithms pick up spammy behavior, there are occasions when a human reviewer is needed to determine if they should demote or remove the page. Thankfully, most of the time, you have the opportunity to fix the mistake, but sometimes they delete the page from search results. Depending on what type of manual action you receive, the ranking of your site could be affected. Yeowch. If that’s the case, you’ll get an email to let you know, though.

Unnatural links are any links that intend to manipulate your site’s rank. Not only can you put links in the content on your pages, but others can use unnatural link to link to you as well. Just because you didn’t make the link, doesn’t mean Google won’t penalize you. If you do receive a Manual Action for links to your site, there are certainly ways to fix the problem and get your page back online.

Unnatural Links to Your Site: How It Happens

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Those who practice spammy SEO tactics (which definitely includes unnatural links) will utilize sneaky methods to manipulate Google’s algorithm into ranking them higher.

Once Google determines that there are some spammy links connected to your site, they are going to issue you a manual action. As mentioned, this means a rank demotion or an entirely removed the page from search results.

You should be aware that it’s not only people who have a desire to create bad backlinks that can get caught with unnatural links. Some incredibly shady SEO engineers will might actually intentionally to a competitor’s site. They know that it could grab Google’s attention and they’ll slap the competitor’s site with a Manual Action. That means one less site for them to compete within the SERP’s. Pretty shitty, right?

Why, Google?

Man in black uses binoculars to look at laptop screen

You, searching for Google’s reasons why.

We can’t say this enough, but Google wants to provide best information for its users. That means no weird, unnatural backlinks. They take their user experience seriously because they understand that what searchers want is quality information.

When websites try to cheat the system and make the algorithm think that a site deserves authority when it doesn’t, it’s not fair to Google users and violates Google’s guidelines. Therefore, Google issues penalties to level the playing field again.

Unnatural Links To Your Site: How To Tell

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Discovering if your site has received a penalty is actually easy. All you have to do is have a Google Search Console account.

Log into your Google Search Console and select the site that you suspect/know is under Manual Review. Select the “Search Traffic” option, and beneath it, numerous new options will appear. Select “Manual Action” from those options.

The message you should see is “No manual webspam actions found.” What that means is that site is not under manual review.

If you see a message indicating the opposite, welp, then you’ve run into trouble, and your next step is to find out what Manual Action type you’re facing. There are different types of Manual Actions and a few of them pertain to links.

Fixing The Problem

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If the problem seems to be with links to your site that you have no control over, then Google doesn’t require any action on your part. However, if possible, try to remove as many of the unnatural links as possible and submit a reconsideration request. If Google determines that the links are no longer in violation of their guidelines, then the Manual Action will be removed. The process isn’t quite that easy though. Here’s a more in-depth version of the recovery process.

  • Gather: The first step is obtaining a list of all the links to your site from Google Search Console. You can use other tools for this as well such as Majestic SEO, SEMrush, and Open Site Explorer.
  • Evaluate: After you’ve got your list, run the links through Screaming Frog or Xenu’s Link Sleuth and look for pages that don’t have a “200 ok” HTTP status code. Those are the links you want to eliminate. You should only concern yourself with the pages that are live.
  • Determine: Now that you know which links are live, the next step is to find the ones that are bad. If you have less than a thousand links, then you can check them manually. Keep an eye out for:
    • Websites that have no reason to link to you
    • Sites that are off-topic
    • Websites that are in another language
    • Websites that have no rankings in SEMrush or a significant drop in rankings
    • Links that have commercial anchor text (e.g., “Engagement Rings”)
    • Relationships that were on any SEO company reports

Not all of these links are going to be spam, but they’re an excellent place to start looking. If you have more than a thousand links, using a tool to root out unnatural links is probably the quickest option.

  • Eliminate: Once you know which links are bad, the next step is to eliminate them. You can do that by:
    • Taking the links down yourself
    • Hiring someone to take action
    • Sending out takedown request

Manual Actions and Reactions

After the links have been removed or fixed, you can submit a request for review. Google wants to see that you worked diligently over the course of months to fix the problem before they are willing to review the issue. If you removed all the links, then repealing the Manual Action should be easy.

Recovering from a manual action is possible. Be aware that links going to your site can cause a negative impact on your ranking and you’ll be responsible for any trouble that occurs due to unnatural circumstances, including unnatural links. 

If you want to see an increase in your company’s online presence and profits then partner, remember we’re on your site. Dominate with SEO has your back and we’re ready to help you dominate your playing field, whether SEO guidance or clearing Manual Actions. We’re here. Contact us.

More in Our Google Manual Actions Series

Unnatural Links to Your Site

Unnatural Links from Your Site

Cloaking and Sneaky Redirects

Hacked Site

Pure Spam

Spammy Structured Markup

User-generated Spam

Spammy Freehosts

Hidden Text and/or Keyword Stuffing

And more coming soon!

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