If you have ever received a manual penalty from Google, then you most likely have received this message in Google Webmaster Tools that could be an unnatural link warning, similar to this one that my client received:
The message reads something like this:
Dear site owner or webmaster of http://www.XXXXXXXXXX.com/,
We’ve detected that some of your site’s pages may be using techniques that are outside Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
Specifically, look for possibly artificial or unnatural links pointing to your site that could be intended to manipulate PageRank. Examples of unnatural linking could include buying links to pass PageRank or participating in link schemes.
We encourage you to make changes to your site so that it meets our quality guidelines. Once you’ve made these changes, please submit your site for reconsideration in Google’s search results.
If you find unnatural links to your site that you are unable to control or remove, please provide the details in your reconsideration request.
If you have any questions about how to resolve this issue, please see our Webmaster Help Forum for support.
Google Search Quality Team
If you receive a warning like this, then you need to take it very seriously. Specifically, you need to look at ALL of the links pointing to your website, over the entire history of your site. I recommend MajesticSEO‘s historical links in order to see all the links that your site has, and combine that with the list of links from Google Webmaster Tools. Put that data into a spreadsheet.
Then, you need to go through the painstakingly time-consuming task of going through each and every link. Make a record of everything that you’re doing, so you can give this information to Google. Again, record it in a spreadsheet.
Depending on the number of links that your site has, it could take days, weeks, or months to go through this process.
Whatever you do, though, you need to be very open and honest with Google. You need to tell them everything that you’ve done to get the unnatural links to your site removed. If there are links that you simply cannot get removed, then you’ll need to disavow those links. Make notes in the disavow file, as well.
Upload a copy of the spreadsheet that contains all of your notes to Google Drive (formerly Google Docs). Notate the URL of the spreadsheet and include that in your Google reconsideration request. I won’t go into the exact details of what you should include in a reconsideration request–because it needs to be customized for every website. But you need to tell Google what you did, the links that you think are unnatural, what you did to remove those specific links, when you contacted the site owners, and that you’ve changed your policies: you won’t engage in unnatural linking again.
Right now, depending on the amount of links you have and some other circumstances, once you file a reconsideration request with Google it is taking anywhere from 5 days to 15 days or so before you hear back from Google. My experience has been that it will take 5 days if you still have unnatural links pointing to your website: Google can spot those pretty quickly and tell you that you’re still in violation of their Google Webmaster Guidelines.
Once you’re manual penalty is listed or “revoked” by Google, you’ll receive a message in Google Webmaster Tools notifying you of their action. It will look something like this:
Reconsideration request for http://www.XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX.com/: Manual spam action revoked
September 23, 2013
We received a reconsideration request from a site owner for http://www.XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX.com/.
Previously the webspam team had taken action on your site because we believed it violated our quality guidelines. After reviewing your reconsideration request, we have revoked this action.
You can use the Manual Actions page in Webmaster Tools to view actions currently applied to your site. It may take some time before recent updates to your site’s status are reflected on this page and in our search results.
Of course, there may be other issues with your site that could affect its ranking. Google determines the order of search results using a series of computer programs known as algorithms. We make hundreds of changes to our search algorithms each year, and we employ more than 200 different signals when ranking pages. As our algorithms change and as the web (including your site) changes, some fluctuation in ranking will happen from time to time as we make updates to present the best results to our users.
If your site continues to have trouble in our search results, please see our Help Center for help with diagnosing the issue.
Thank you for helping us to maintain the quality of search results for our users.
You see, if you do everything right, and you truly identify all of the links pointing to your website and you get those links removed and disavowed, your manual penalty from Google will get revoked. But it takes time, a lot of hard work, and someone who knows that they’re doing. And remember, having a manual penalty from Google (one where you got a message like the one above) is completely different than having a Google Panda or Penguin Penalty. There are different ways to deal with a manual penalty (which can be much worse) than how you would deal with Google Panda or Google Penguin issues.
Does your site have a manual penalty from Google? Contact me and let’s discuss getting that manual penalty removed.