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 google-alerts1

Over the weekend, Google sent out a new wave of penalties, this time smacking down sites for “unnatural outbound links.” The majority of websites are safe from the latest round of manual penalties, but you may be in trouble if you’ve been attempting to manipulate the Google search results.

As Barry Schwartz has noted, this specific penalty appears to be taking the shape of Google deciding not to trust any links on the entire site.

Webmasters who received these penalties were sent emails which read:

If you see this message on the Manual Actions page, it means that Google has detected a pattern of unnatural artificial, deceptive, or manipulative outbound links. Buying links or participating in link schemes in order to manipulate PageRank is a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

As a result, Google has applied a manual spam action to the affected portions of your site. Actions that affect your whole site are listed under Site-wide matches. Actions that affect only part of your site and/or some incoming links to your site are listed under Partial matches.

Below, you can also see a copy of the message webmasters are receiving in Google Search Console about these penalties:

google-unnatural-links-outbound-1460374556

To make sure your site is safe, be sure to log into your Google Search Console account and check your all messages box. If you see this notification about an outbound link penalty, you can find out how to fix it and submit a reconsideration request here.

Google-Webmaster-Tools-LogoThere’s a new manual action showing up in Google Webmaster Tools, according to Jessica Lee from Search Engine Watch. Webmaster Tools was updated over the summer so that site owners could be notified when a specific type of manual action had been taken against the site, and since then the waters have been fairly quiet. This new type of manual action, referred to as “image mismatch” is the first change we’ve seen since then.

Google says:

If you see this message on the Manual Actions page, it means that some of your site’s images may be displaying differently on Google’s search results pages than they are when viewed on your site.

As a result, Google has applied a manual action to the affected portions of your site, which will affect how your site’s images are displayed in Google. Actions that affect your whole site are listed under Site-wide matches. Actions that affect only part of your site are listed under Partial matches.

If you end up receiving that message, it is up to you to ensure that your site is showing the same images to users both on your site and within Google image search results. It is possible “anti-hotlinking” tools can cause the issue, so you may have to look through your site’s code on the server.

As with all manual penalties, once the problem is fixed you have to submit your site for reconsideration and wait. And wait. And wait. Eventually, after you’ve waited for what seems like forever, you’ll get a message in your Webmaster Tools account informing whether the manual action will be revoked after review.

Manual actions are penalties at real, living Google employees have placed against your site after determining that you are violating Google’s guidelines. The majority of manual penalties have related to outright spammy practices such as user-generated spam, hidden text, and unnatural links.

Receiving an email from Google saying that they have noticed unnatural links associated with your website is never a good thing. The best outcome still involves losing organic search traffic from Google for at least some time, plus the email means you have work to do really quickly.

Search Engine Watch writer Chuck Price has seen webmasters respond to manual penalties and many of them actually make their problems worse, especially when they panic. Webmasters who panic when they receive a manual penalty website tend to fly into manic states running around doing the first thing they can think of to try to get the penalty fixed; thoughts like filing reconsideration requests before actually fixing the problem.

If you’ve received an email about unnatural links or manual penalties, take a minute to breath. There is no reason to panic. You have to do some work to identify the issues and fix your site’s linking problems, but panicking isn’t going to get that done any faster, and might blow your one chance to get your links reconsidered by Google in the near future.

Once you’re calm, it is time to get to work. Price has suggestions for how to get your page back in order no matter how many bad links you have. However, if you have been actively building thousands of unnatural links, you will have to make huge efforts to make up for the spamming.