What is a Google Unnatural Links Penalty?

The most common unnatural links warning is for inbound links. The less common one is the unnatural outbound links warning. We first started seeing unnatural inbound links warnings back in 2012. April 2012 was when the Google Penguin update was rolled out. Many webmasters saw this as the silent, but deadly, algorithmic penalty. Others saw a manual action in Google Webmaster Tools, now known as Google Search Console.

This type of manual action caused mass devastation in 2012. At the time the Google search engine counted for around 80% of organic web traffic. More often than not rankings in Bing and Yahoo were unaffected, but of course, all webmasters have a preference for results in Google.

At this time Matt Cutts was a Google Engineer working with the Google Webspam team. He did make the whole Google Penguin update all sound rather casual. He pointed out that most webmasters had nothing to worry about. But then went on to say that webmasters who had been participating in link schemes could be having a ‘rather interesting summer’. The reality is that most webmasters were actively link building, so they had everything to worry about.

Since 2012 things haven’t really got any easier. Google is still sending messages saying they have detected a pattern of unnatural inbound links.

Luckily in late 2012, Matt Cutts announced the rollout of the disavow tool. If you cannot remove the unnatural links pointing to your site we can now disavow them instead. Of course, Google would prefer you to try and get links to your site taken down. Unfortunately, this is not always possible. This is when we use a disavow file with the disavow tool.

How to find unnatural links to your site

To begin, you need as much backlink data as you can get. A link audit should include looking at the trust in links, link velocity, whether Google has the page indexed or not and much more. Although some SEOs consider the ‘rel nofollow’ link attribute to be safe, it isn’t. When your link profile has hundreds of nofollow links, the intention to spam is still there. For this reason may see some nofollow links as bad links.

Unnaturally placed anchor text is the most common cause of unnatural link penalties in the opinion of Link Detective.