How To Recover Unnatural Links Penalty For Your Website

How To Recover Unnatural Links Penalty For Your Website


Every search engine optimization (SEO) expert wants backlinks because they help improve a website’s search engine rankings. However, not all backlinks are good. Some might get you in trouble with Google. When that happens, you will need a recovery plan.

In this article, we’ll look at the bad backlinks and how you can recover from the Google Penguin algorithm penalty so your site doesn’t sink deeply into rankings. This article specifically looks at a manual action called unnatural links to your website.

What Are Unnatural Links?

Unnatural links are links that are primarily intended to manipulate page rankings. These can include links or purchased links created by vandals, and spammers who attach themselves to your site and potentially link your site to another site in the underworld of the internet (negative SEO).

But first, let’s give a little more background information for those who are new to the topic.

Bad backlinks

SEO spammers will often use sneaky methods to build backlinks in an attempt to trick the Google algorithm into thinking that a website deserves a high position in the SERPs. Alas, the good guys at Google are not fooled so easily.

When Google determines that your website has spammy backlinks on it, it will be placed under manual action. That means that the site is no longer popular with the search engine giant and it will be demoted or removed entirely from search results pages.

However, it’s not just people who want to rank a website for generating bad backlinks. Some insidious SEOs intentionally create bad backlinks to a competitor’s website.

They know well that if they create spammy links pointing at their competitors, then Google can take notice and potentially take manual action on the website. When that happens, they’ll have one less website to compete in the SERPs.

Dr. Pete Meyers has discussed several factors that can lead to a manual penalty for unnatural links featured in his recent post on SEOmoz:

  • Excessive match anchor text
  • Overuse of exact-match domains
  • Marketing low-quality articles and blog spam
  • Keyword stuffing in internal/external links

User Experience (UX)

There’s a method for Google’s madness when it comes to penalizing sites with unnatural backlinks. The company is concerned with protecting the user experience on the network.

What this means is that Google wants to make sure that only the sites that deserve to appear at the top of the SERPs end there because that’s what searchers want to see – the best and most relevant results.

If people try to manipulate Google’s search algorithm to give a website authority appearance when it is not worth it, then it is not fair to those who are using Google to find information. That’s why everyone plays by the same rules.

The problem, of course, is when Google interprets negative SEO as an attempt by website owners to get their website ranked and give it a penalty. We’ll save this hot topic for another post and focus on unnatural links to your site that impact the manual action.

How Do I Know If Your Site Has Been Penalized Manually?

It’s easy to see if your site has been penalized by Google. All you need is an account with Google Search Console.

Simply log into Google Search Console and select a site that you think might be subject to manual review. Click the Internet Search Traffic option in the left navigation, and you’ll see several new options appear below it. One of those options is Manual Action. Click on it.

Ideally, the message you see on this screen reads. No manual webspam action found. If you see that, you’re fine. However, if you see a message stating that your site suffered a manual action, then you have a problem.

Three types of manual actions are involved in unnatural links. I’ll just talk about one – unnatural links to your site – that impact the links in this post. The link to the Google page is highlighted below.

  • Unnatural links from your website
  • Unnatural links to your website
  • Unnatural links to your site impact links (this one)

When it comes to unnatural links to your website – impact links, Google says this:


As we can see, Google says this action is against links, not web pages. However, they still suggest that you might want to clean up your backlink profile to remove the manual action.

While Google gives you the steps to take to get rid of the manual action, I regret to say that this can often be much more complicated than their recommended solution makes it sound plausible.

This is especially true if you are dealing with a large number of links if the webmasters are unresponsive or perhaps if they try to blackmail you.

In the rest of the post, I give you some specific information on how to resolve this issue. If you do this correctly, you will get rid of Unnatural Links to Your Website – Manual Actions.

Gather All The Links

The first thing you need to do is get a list of all the links to your website. In general, I want to export all the links from Google Search Console, Majestic SEO, Open Site Explorer, SEMrush, and Ahrefs.

When you do this, you will have a fairly complete list of links pointing to your site, including potentially bad ones.

Also, if you’re already using an SEO firm, make sure you ask them for their link-building reports. That can save time and possibly uncover other links out there that simply aren’t archived.

Rate All Links

Now, grab all of those links and run them through Screaming Frog or Xenu’s Link Sleuth. Find all pages that do not return 200 HTTP status codes and remove them. We are only interested in live pages.

Also, remove all URLs that have 0 outbound links on them, as that means there are no more direct links on the page. This can save you time when you’re dealing with a lot of URLs.

Identify Bad Links

So now you know all the links are live. The next step is to find out which is bad. Now, if you only have about 500 to 1,000 links, you can view them manually and usually tell which one is bad. Search:

  • The site has no reason to link to you.
  • Off-topic website (unrelated).
  • Website in another language.
  • Websites that don’t rank in SEMrush or drop in big rankings.
  • Links with commercial anchor text.

These links aren’t necessarily all bad links, but they serve as a good starting point for further investigation.

If you have more than 1,000 links, I recommend a tool like Link Detox. This will allow you to upload all your links and categorize those bad ones.

Now, the kicker is that about 10 percent of links marked Link Detox may be Bad links as good links, so you’ll still need to go through those links manually, but at least the tool will clear your list before you need to do that.

Research The Properties Of Your Link

Use to analyze the distribution of links pointing to your website (the tool has a free version that allows you to access almost all the important details you need from site link profiles mine).


The tool will allow you to see the amount of text-based text, images, frames, and nofollow, as well as links redirected to your website. This review will strengthen your link development precautions, such as:

  • Balance or increase the number of inbound nofollow links on your website.
  • Reduce the number of links that redirect to your website (as some may be fetched by search engines as a manipulation scheme to pass PageRank to the site).

The pro version of the account provides more access to your website’s linked data, which you can also download in CSV format and easily track links that redirect to your website.

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