Yep, I got an unnatural links warning in Google Webmaster Tools. In fact, I actually got this warning a couple of months ago, and haven't done anything about it…I'll explain why below.
I have been meaning to write about this, because I got the unnatural links warning for my public niche site project site: BestSurvivalKnifeGuide.com. However, the timing was never quite right to bring it up (or I'm lazy); but the time is right now!
Yesterday, Google launched something called the Manual Spam Actions viewer in Google webmaster tools. As a result, I want to dig into what happened to my site, why I got an unnatural links warning, and what is showing up in my Google Webmaster tools.
I hope you don't have to deal with this, but either way, I hope you find this post informative and helpful.
Why Did My Site Get an Unnatural Inbound Links Warning?
This one is easy. I got an unnatural links warning because there are TONS of unnatural links pointing to my site! Ha!
I joke about it, but I've written about this for a long time. One of my readers (I assume) launched a Negative SEO campaign against my site to try and get my site penalized. Here is the post where I wrote about the Negative SEO several months ago.
As a reminder, someone has linked to my site thousands of times using my exact anchor text “best survival knife” from lots of spammy sites in an effort to hurt my site. I did not ask for these links, and DO NOT want these links. If you are reading this, and know who built these links, please get them taken down!
So, because of this, I was not surprised at all to see an Unnatural links warning in my webmaster tools. These were spammy links that I didn't want or build. Here's is what the original unnatural links message in my Google webmaster tools looked like:
Here's what the message says, along with the links:
We've detected that some of the links pointing to your site are using techniques outside Google's Webmaster Guidelines.
We don't want to put any trust in links that are unnatural or artificial, and we recommend removing any unnatural links to your site. However, we do realize that some links may be outside of your control. As a result, for this specific incident we are taking very targeted action to reduce trust in the unnatural links. If you are able to remove any of the links, you can submit a reconsideration request, including the actions that you took.
If you have any questions, please visit our Webmaster Help Forum.
New Manual Spam Actions Viewer
Yesterday, Google announced that you could view the Manual Actions taken against your site in Webmaster Tools. I immediately went over to my Webmaster Tools when I heard about this yesterday, and sure enough, my BestSurvivalKnifeGuide.com site had received a “Partial Match” Manual Action. The other option would be a “Site-wide” match, which I'm sure is devastating.
When I went back to get screenshots today to share on my blog, the Actions Viewer was not in my account anymore. Upon investigating, I saw that Matt Cutts posted an update on the official announcement, saying that they've hit a “snag” on the feature deployment, and it could be a couple of days before its up for everyone. Here is his message:
Because of the “snag”, I'm unable to share screenshots of what I saw…wished I would have taken screenshots yesterday! However, I can show you where you would see it in webmaster tools, thanks to this screenshot:
In addition, I do remember the exact warning I got. I received a “Partial Match Manual Action”. And the message I received was exactly the same as the one I posted above about “Unnatural Links”.
However, what WAS helpful with the new manual spam actions message was that they linked to a video explaining what the message meant. This video is from Matt Cutts is called, “Unnatural Links to Site – Impacts Links”. Just the title explains alot. Here is the video that came along with my message:
Google has also released other videos that explain the 9 different types of manual actions that can be taken against your site. You can watch those videos here.
Update 8/12/2013: The Manual Actions viewer is back up in Google Webmaster Tools. So, I was able to go back in and get a screenshot of the exact message showing:
Here is a link to the “Learn More” hyperlink from the image above: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/2604772?ctx=MAC. This link is very helpful and gives a few more details, along with the video I embedded above.
What Does a Unnatural Links to Site – Impacts Links Mean?
So, in a nutshell, this message means that Google detected some unnatural links pointing to my site. And instead of penalizing all links or even my entire site; they have taken action against just the unnatural links.
In other words, they did what I was hoping they would do all along, they have discounted these Negative SEO links that I didn't want in the first place! So, yes, its a penalty of sorts…they've taken away any “juice” that these links might have been providing and negated that. (But I never really thought they were helping anyway…which is proven by the fact that I'm still at the top of Google).
I had to read the message a few times, but that is essentially what they are saying. They've taken action against the LINKS POINTING TO MY SITE…not my site. So, the links provide no value anymore.
And they did this BECAUSE they could see that whatever was happening to my site was not natural, and was likely out of my control. I don't know how Google is able to detect when someone is getting targeted my Negative SEO…but somehow they got it figured out.
All I can say is, “Google…I'm Impressed!”
The message does state that I should try and take action to get all unnatural links removed. And to be honest, I have taken quite a bit of action. I was only able to get 1 link taken down…for everyone else I emailed, I received no response. With thousands of links pointing to my site (that I didn't want), its nearly impossible for me to contact each webmaster and be successful.
Luckily, Google appears to be hinting that they know its out of control from the message I received. So, even though they say I CAN submit a reconsideration request, I really see no point. I'm not going to be able to get these links taken down; and the fact remains that Google has already reduced the “trust” in these links.
So, as stated previously, I'm actually not going to do much with this message. I will just continue to focus on making my site better and better and hope that any continued unnatural links will not impact my sites rankings or earnings.
What Impact Has This Message Had on My Site?
Since receiving this message for “Unnatural Links”, I have seen no negative impact on my site. As I've shown here, my site has continued to grow in earnings and rank well. In fact, my site currently sites at either #1 or #2 in Google for its primary keyword, “Best Survival Knife”.
In addition, I had a record earning month last month (the site is less than 6 months old), for a total of $649.78. You can see the full income report for July right here.
My only concern is that these negative SEO links that I don't want will continue. Will Google keep recognizing these as links that are out of my control? I sure hope so.
If I continue to see more bad links pointing to my site, I will likely go in and start disavowing all these links. Google does have a Disavow links tool, that essentially would allow me to tell Google to stop trusting these links.
Manual Action vs. Algorithmic Action
I also want to clear up what a “Manual” action is. This is actually extremely rare to get any sort of “Manual” penalty. So, I guess I should feel lucky to have received a message :).
A “manual” action means that a real live person from Google actually took a look at your site, links, or both and decided that something “Unnatural” was going on. In my case, it appears that someone looked at my site and decided it was a keeper. So, they only took action against the spammy links…which I totally welcome.
In my mind, they must have seen my site and seen that its a real site; really trying to provide value…so they left it in their index.
However, this is totally different from an Algorithmic Action. If your site was penalized by Google Panda, Penguin, or other Google updates…that was NOT a manual action. That was just the Google formula that was updated, and this Google robot determined that your site wasn't ranking where it should be.
So, you were automatically penalized by the Google formula…not any sort of “manual” action.
In other words, if your site gets hit by Google Penguin or other Google update, you will likely NOT see any messages in your Google webmaster tools.
Overall and Your Thoughts
I really wanted to share this information, as its all about my niche site from my public project. In addition, I think it provides some interesting insight into how manual actions work for unnatural links.
Overall, Google appears to be smart enough to know that the Negative SEO links pointing towards my site, were not from me, and deserved to be removed. I'm very grateful for this.
What are your thoughts on the subject? I would love to hear what you have to say in the comments below. As always, I'm more than happy to answer any questions or points of discussion that you might have.