The Solution To Google’s Manual Penalties Over Unnatural Links

One thing you never want to see in Google’s Search Console on a Monday morning after a relaxing weekend is a warning for an unnatural link. But that’s exactly what happened this past weekend. Google have been hard at work issuing several Manual Action Warnings (the worst type of them all) for any unnatural links, whether it’s from your website or to your website.

These penalties are not to be confused with Google’s Algorithm Penalties. As the name suggests Manual Action Warnings refer to actions manually taken by Google employees who personally review your website and link profile and believe you have deployed some devious techniques in order to rank better.

Manual Actions Warnings vs. Algorithm Penalties

The biggest difference between Manual Action Warnings and Algorithm Penalties is that the latter will give you no warning and you’ll just receive a sudden drop in rankings. However, once you’ve identified the issue and resolved it then all is well, whilst with Manual Action Warnings you have to identify the problem yourself (with little guidance from Google), ensure it’s fixed as best as it can be, then ask Google to reconsider your site and just wait.

Now that you have some understanding of manual and algorithmic penalties as well as some of the differences between them. Here are some of the manual warnings you might see and how to resolve them and get you ranking back on top…

Warning 1: Unnatural Links From Your Site

The first type of warning you may see on Search Console is of an unnatural outbound link on your link profile Google has seen and doesn’t approve of. This will usually mean that you are using techniques which are seen as a violation of Google’s guidelines.


Source: SearchEngineJournal

After you’ve acknowledged the violation you must attend to the problem by identifying the links which are unnatural – as Google don’t specify this – then work to remove them or apply a rel=”nofollow” tag. After you’ve identified and dealt with all the unnatural links, you should then submit your site for reconsideration.

Warning 2: Unnatural Links To Your Site

The second type of message you might see on Search Console is when Google has identified and exposed unnatural links that are pointing to your website. With this kind of warning, Google provides a few links as examples of bad links.


This will be considered a devious scheme in order to influence the search results and therefore, a violation of Google’s guidelines which you will be penalised for. In order to get rid of the penalty, you must get rid of the links.

So, here’s a step by step guide to just one of the ways you can remove unnatural links pointing to your site.

  1. Download the list of the links that point to your site using Webmaster Tools, Majestic SEO and Moz’s Open Site Explorer or Kerboo which combines the data from all three to make sure you capture as much of your link profile as possible.
  2. Check every link to see whether it’s natural or not. To ease the process check the domains which have the most links directed to you first. This can be done using tools such as Majestic SEO.
  3. After you’ve identified the links harming your ranking, you can either choose to contact their webmasters domain and ask them to remove the link or if that doesn’t work you can use Google’s Disavow Tool (only as a last resort*), which asks Google to not take those links into account.

*Google wants you to make a real attempt at removing links on your own before using their Disavow Tool, meaning you should make an effort to email a handful of webmasters before anything else.


Essentially, we just need to understand how to deal with these warnings and the limited amount of information Google hand out in regards to them, react accordingly and resolve the issue as quickly and swiftly as possible to reduce the impact.

Warning 1 requires much less effort and is completely under your control. However, although Warning 2 requires much more effort, with the information provided to you on this blog you should be able to resolve these manual penalties relatively quickly and swiftly.


14/04/2016 UPDATE: Turns out the manual action penalties Google sent out over the past weekend for outbound links, were related to a warning they issued a few weeks back, regarding bloggers giving away links in exchange for free products or services.

Google told bloggers if they decide to link the company’s site, to “nofollow” the link.

Written byTony Conte

Founder and Owner of Brave Agency, an Integrated Agency transforming businesses through design, digital and marketing, helping you, our clients to get results by applying the right strategy.

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