We discovered this after auditing the links on one of our sites – a completely legitimate website promoting our Facebook Apps – shortly after receiving a manual penalty from Google. Likeitpages is a Facebook application which people can install on their Facebook business pages in order to run competitions, increase their newsletter subscribers, list their products etc.
Outbound links? That mainly refers to blog networks and link farm sites, which as you will see in a bit, have nothing to do with likeitpages.com. But if that is the case then why has our site been singled out to be penalised and what is the impact of such a penalty on our site?
In short, unnatural outbound links mean that your blog now has a PR 0, thus every single link you send to another site has minimal link juice value. It also means that you might be losing rankings – for example in our case the official Facebook page climbed to position one, bypassing the web site’s name, despite the fact that page and domain authority remains the same (which opens an interesting case on the importance vs Page Rank when it comes to link building value). The same happened with myblogguest.com a blog network that was targeted directly by Google. This is now nowhere to be seen on page one; but is still indexed on Google’s domain.
How to remove a manual penalty with and “outbound link” warning
The good news is that this is a fairly easy process to fix and nothing close to the painful “Inbound link – impact link” penalty one might get from unnattural link building and excessive use of anchor texts. All you have to do is either nofollow or remove the links entirely from your web site, in order to make sure that you do not pass page rank. To do that, you need a tool that can extract all the link that point from your web site to an external source and of course access to the web sites CMS.
We immediately took action and started auditing all outbound links from our site to other web sites. We used Screaming Frog SEO and in few minutes ended up with a list of 126 links. Yup, our web site sent 126 links all together to other web sites, so all we had to do is to find those links and nofollow and remove them from the web. So let us have a look at the domains I send links to with an explanation next to each link. We will split these into two categories:
These are the domains we link to, that based on our judgement can not be considered “paid” links:
The domains that might have caused this action are:
Anchor texts used for those links were: “Read here” and “read the full story” for commentary and naked web site urls for the three guest posts. In total there are four articles on the web site, with naked URLs that can be considered “unnatural”.
So is it possible to get a manual penalty for four outbound links?
The asnwer is YES – Google can do anything they like! It took us no time to realise that our blog was listed on a member’s profile on myblogguest.com. We realised that this was not the only web site listed there, thus re-opened our webmaster account and ta-da every single site listed on our profile received the exact same penalty.
While we understand that when Google hits a network that means the whole network and not just the site, it’s unacceptable to penalise web sites in bulk just because they are listed on a membership profile without even checking the actual sites.
Manual penalty is all about a human checking the web site “manually” and deciding there and then if it violate guidelines or not. At least that’s what we think.
We filed a detailed reconsideration request to Google, stating all the above. A day after we received a response that the request was declined. Google said that there were still links violating the quality guidelines. This was a surprise to us as we added the rel=nofolow tag to every single link so how is it even possible to violate the rules? As a test, we decided to remove 3 links completely: http://eqaofficefurniture.com, http://www.comms-plus.co.uk/ and http://www.writeaboutnow.co.uk/
We filled a new reconsideration request and 4 days later the ban was lifted.
It seems that it is not enough to just nofollow links from your blog in order to remove the penalty. Google wants to see a bit more effort from you so make sure that you completely remove any links that may be classes as ‘irrelevant’ with your web site.
While many will be in agreement that the internet should be spam free and that sites shouldn’t take part in link building schemes or any paid links, we believe that this was a very lousy and rushed PR stunt from Google.
Thanks to Yiannis Gedeon, one of our digital marketing experts here are Art Division.
Tags: Content Marketing, Social Media Marketing