How to avoid Unnatural Links and Google Penalty?

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What is Unnatural Link?

Unnatural links in SEO are artificial, deceptive, or manipulative outbound and inbound links. They are typically used to manipulate a site’s ranking in Google search results, often leading to penalties due to non-compliance with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

You can describe Unnatural Links as bad due to their deceptive and manipulative nature, which makes them prone to triggering a Google penalty. These links are also commonly referred to as harmful or spammy links.

The main objective of generating unnatural links is manipulating how a website ranks on search engines like Google. Such links are frequently produced by spammers or acquired through link schemes.

Compared to unnatural backlinks, natural backlinks are obtained organically over time when individuals discover and link to your content. When there is no apparent or logical basis for a piece of content to be linked to a particular website, it is considered an unnatural link.

When engaging in link-building or marketing activities, you must refrain entirely from incorporating certain unnatural link types in your strategy. Google may identify toxic links as a sign of spammy link-building practices aimed at gaming search engine rankings. As a responsible marketer or link builder, it is essential to steer clear of these detrimental links.

Understanding the Impact of Unnatural Links on SEO

When it comes to toxic links, unnatural links are a prime example, devoid of contextual significance and user value. These links are primarily utilized as spammy tactics to manipulate a website’s SEO rankings.

Unnatural links encompass two variations: first, links within your website leading users to irrelevant destinations, and second, links placed on external websites that direct traffic to your site.

Unnatural links pose a significant problem as Google could penalize your website if such links are detected, whether they are present on your site or originate from external sources pointing to your site.

Key Takeaways:

  • Unnatural links represent a harmful backlink that may originate from within your website or be present on an external site linking to yours.
  • Google has the authority to penalize websites that engage in the practice of using unnatural links to manipulate their PageRank (PR).
  • When hit with an unnatural links penalty, your website may experience a substantial decline in organic search traffic.
  • If your website has been penalized by Google due to unnatural links, there are prescribed measures you can follow to request the penalty’s removal.

In what ways can unnatural links harm a website’s SEO and online reputation?

The Damaging Effects of Unnatural Links

Unnatural links can wreak havoc on your website by:

  • Disrupting the reliability of Google’s Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) leads to manual penalties for your site.
  • Serving as a tool for spammers who purchase or create them, thus skewing accurate SEO performance measurements.
  • Misleading Google into overestimating your website’s Domain Authority (DA).
  • Providing your website with an unjust edge over competitors who refrain from using disapproved SEO practices like link buying.

What does the term “Google Penalty” mean?

Google penalties, commonly termed manual actions, can be enforced anytime, especially when your website is linked to or employs unnatural links. It is crucial to avoid such practices to maintain a healthy online presence.

In what manner do unnatural link penalties come into effect?

These penalties result from violating Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, wherein websites are penalized for having unnatural and harmful links in their backlink profile. Google’s spam team is responsible for implementing manual restrictive measures as part of these penalties.

Websites can face manual actions or penalties from Google if they exhibit a recurring pattern of having unnatural, artificial, deceptive, or manipulative backlinks directed towards their pages.

The Webmaster Guidelines provided by Google make it explicit that any efforts to artificially influence PageRank or a site’s position in Google’s search results are unacceptable. If any links are found to be created to manipulate rankings, either inbound or outbound, they will be deemed part of a link scheme and in violation of their guidelines.

violation of their guidelines

What are the consequences of receiving a penalty for unnatural links?

Websites that receive a Google penalty will witness a significant and immediate reduction in their organic search traffic.

The positive aspect is that your website can bounce back from Google penalties and regain its former ranking positions. We will explore the strategies to accomplish this in just a moment.

How do unnatural links come about?

The occurrence of unnatural links is commonly attributed to the involvement of inexperienced SEO specialists in your link building approach or the use of low-quality businesses to establish your backlinks. One common scenario exemplifies this issue when individuals buy backlinks from platforms like Fiverr. Nonetheless, it is crucial to refrain from participating in such practices!

You may have acquired the links in question through purchases generated by scrapers and spammers or could be attributed to a negative SEO attack executed by a rival.

Examples of Unnatural Links

The subsequent examples outline some standard unnatural links, although this list needs to be completed and may lead to Google penalties.

1. PBN Links

The term “link schemes” encompasses practices like link farms or private blog networks (PBNs), which involve setting up websites with the primary intention of building links. The primary purpose of PBNs is to create a network of interconnected sites for SEO benefits through reciprocal linking. Nevertheless, since these links typically lack user relevance, they may incur penalties from Google.

  • The provided example triggers concerns due to multiple evident indicators.
  • The extensive array of categories, covering almost every possible topic, raises suspicions of a potential motive to sell links to a broad and indiscriminate audience.
  • The content titles must be more original and have substance, presenting themselves as generic placeholders rather than captivating headlines.
  • The heavy reliance on ordinary stock images further reinforces the perception of a lackluster and unimpressive website.
  • A thorough examination of its keyword rankings highlights a need for more valuable keywords, hinting at the website’s potential lack of authentic importance and relevance in the online sphere.

Witnessing this site’s regular stream of posts is deeply unsettling, as it implies a substantial audience willing to pay for what can only be described as utter rubbish.

Since the advent of SEO, Google has targeted one of the initial forms of unnatural links. The reason being these links are devoid of contextual relevance and fail to contribute any significant value. Additionally, they skew the ranking of websites, granting an unfair edge in search results.

2. Poor-Quality Web Directories and Bookmarking Sites

Integrating your backlink within bookmarking sites and web directories offers notable advantages as part of your link building tactics. Though an older practice, web directory link building still precedes search rankings. However, if your backlinks are on low-quality and spam-ridden websites that do not benefit users, they can accumulate unnatural links.

3. Footer Links

Website developers or designers often include links in the footer of a site. While naturally placed footer links are not an issue for Google, the problem arises when companies pay for sitewide links on other websites, a practice strongly discouraged by search engines.

4. Press Releases and Syndicated Content

It is generally acceptable to use press releases and syndicated content, provided you include branded anchor texts. While it is advised to avoid keyword stuffing, people still misuse this strategy in press releases and syndicated content to boost their search rankings. This practice involves overusing specific keywords to the point where the content becomes awkward and difficult to comprehend. Nevertheless, the best course of action is to write press releases that serve the target audience’s needs, emphasizing valuable and relevant information rather than solely aiming for search engine benefits.

5. Blog Comments

Previously, leaving comments with links on blogs was a popular way to build links. However, this method has become a problem because spammers misuse it. They add too many keywords and links to trick search engines, which makes these links less helpful and valuable to real users. As a result, Google now ignores most of these links when ranking websites.

6. Injected Links

One of the fastest methods to trigger a Google penalty is by employing injected links. These automated links, akin to XSS scripts, are placed on websites without any oversight or editorial approval, which can lead to severe consequences from search engines.

7. Forums

While forums offer an excellent opportunity to promote your brand, the backlinks acquired from them are commonly spam-ridden. People frequently abuse forums by stuffing their bios, profiles, and signatures with too many keywords, leading to backlinks that are considered low-quality and less effective.

User-generated spam occurs when individuals create profiles but don’t use them for genuine participation. Instead, they focus on manipulating the system by adding backlinks and excessively optimizing the bio with keywords.

8. Redirected domains

You could trigger a manual action penalty for unnatural links if you have an old domain set up to redirect traffic to a new domain.

An increasingly common method of creating unnatural links revolves around purchasing expired domains with high-quality link profiles, which are then redirected to the owner’s present domains. Nowadays, Google displays a keen awareness of this technique and rarely attributes any value to such links, leaving little room for website owners to benefit.

Google’s policy on dealing with unnatural backlinks

Understanding Google’s approach to unnatural links is crucial for safeguarding your website from penalties. By gaining insights into their treatment of these links, you’ll be better equipped to build links that comply with Google’s guidelines and avoid any negative impact on your site’s search ranking.

  • One isolated unnatural link usually does not result in a Google penalty. Manual actions are commonly enacted only when Google identifies multiple manipulative links pointing to a website, often around two to three or more.
  • Google does not discriminate based on the age of a link when it comes to manual actions. Whether you created your unnatural link recently or several years ago, Google’s approach remains consistent, treating all such links without distinction.
  • Having authority doesn’t offer immunity from Google’s penalties for using manipulative and unnatural links. The search engine treats all sources equally and without bias. Should Google detect any link manipulation, it will lead to penalization, regardless of the source’s perceived authority.
  • When it comes to penalizing unnatural links, Google takes a comprehensive approach, affecting the entirety of your website. This means that the consequences of such penalties will result in a decline in traffic across your entire site, not just a single page.

The given example showcases a manual intervention, highlighting Google’s decision to omit to showcase specific instances of the inorganic links they’ve come across.

Web admins are faced with a formidable challenge in this scenario. They must detect and take action against all unnatural external and internal links which carry significant weight.

What happens to your site if it faces punitive actions from Google?

Once Google implements a manual action, the first noticeable result will probably negatively influence your site’s search engine rankings.

However, identifying a penalty’s presence might take a lot of work.

Here are the signs to be attentive to.

  • You could improve your ability to rank prominently for keywords you were previously successful.
  • Month by month, you notice a reduced volume of visitors to your website.
  • Keywords that are crucial to your content could see your website abruptly disappearing from search rankings.
  • Getting your new content added to Google’s index might prove to be a challenging endeavour.

What actions can you take if your site is hit with a penalty due to unnatural links?

When faced with a manual penalty on your website because of unnatural links, there are specific steps you should contemplate before initiating a reconsideration request with Google.

1. Backlink Audit

As a first step, you can consider using tools like SEMrush, Ahrefs, or Majestic to locate any unnatural incoming or outgoing links.

Here is a sample of what the SEMrush dashboard looks like when you perform a backlink audit using the platform.

Next, proceed by exporting a catalogue of backlinks to an Excel or Google Sheets document. Afterwards, arrange your backlinks based on their toxic score, focusing on links that have a score of 60 or higher.

You can then examine each website your data identifies as a potential location for unnatural links. Engage in a hands-on review of the website, keeping an eye out for any of the instances of unnatural links outlined earlier. Aim to uncover any recurring URL patterns during this process.

If you identify any recurring structure in the URLs, there’s a strong possibility that you are facing an influx of link spam.

Divide your list into sections now, organized according to the actions you wish to implement for each link. These actions might entail adding the link to your disavow list, earmarking it for a more thorough review, or maintaining it.

Once you’ve compiled your disavow list, the next step involves crafting a disavow file and uploading it via Google Search Console. Concurrently, consider annotating your Google Analytics to observe potential shifts in your site’s traffic patterns.

It’s important to acknowledge that this process requires substantial time. Nevertheless, it remains vital for web admins and link builders to diligently complete these phases before seeking Google’s assessment of the manual action.

You should ensure that links are designated as “nofollow” in the following cases:

  • For links that have been paid for.
  • In the instance of links originating from press releases.
  • When dealing with user-generated spam links.
  • In the case of links originating from third-party widgets.
  • When encountering sitewide links.

If you’ve reached out to the website’s administrator to request a nofollow attribute for the link but haven’t received a positive response, the advisable step would be to disavow the link.

Efforts should be made to remove links on web directories or bookmarking sites.

If no feasible options exist to remove these links, you should add them to your disavow list.

What are some strategies to prevent Google’s unnatural link penalty?

If your website has not undergone manual action, you might be curious about preemptive measures to avoid penalties. Here are the prime recommendations we offer to prevent penalties from occurring at all.

1. Examine your website’s backlink portfolio.

Whether implementing a link-building strategy or focusing on general website maintenance, your primary objective is to assess your backlink profile regularly, you can achieve this through the execution of audits similar to the one demonstrated earlier, using resources such as the SEMrush backlink audit tool.

Conduct this quarterly audit, and scrutinize your backlink profile for questionable inbound links.

2. Diversify your anchor text.

Devote time to evaluating your anchor text and making revisions whenever necessary. The most effective approach is to vary your anchor texts and utilize keywords that are either similar or related.

If you’re ever uncertain how to address an unnatural link in your backlink profile, opting for the nofollow option is advisable.

3. Reject spammy content.

Above all, consistently steer clear of any type of spam. If you identify any spam during your backlink profile audit, take prompt steps to eliminate or disavow them.

As outlined above, navigating a Google penalty is intricate and demands extensive effort. The ramifications can also extend to substantial revenue loss if your website and marketing strategy heavily hinge on organic search traffic. In this light, prioritizing prevention becomes paramount in unnatural backlinks. Maintaining a regimen of consistent audits and ensuring the cleanliness of your profile is the key to avoiding penalties tied to unnatural links.

Bringing Closure to Unnatural Links.

For link builders, the last thing anyone wishes to confront is a Google penalty triggered by unnatural links. Such a predicament can potentially dismantle the carefully crafted link-building strategy that has demanded your diligent implementation. Additionally, it may entail investing substantial time persuading Google to rescind a manual action enforced upon your website.

One of the most reliable strategies for preventing unnatural links from infiltrating your website’s backlink profile is to enlist a respected and skilled agency to handle your link-building endeavours. By adopting this approach, you gain access to an experienced link-building expert who comprehends the art of cultivating valuable and contextually fitting links, avoiding using detrimental or toxic links commonly employed as SEO techniques.

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