Unnatural Links – How to solve and Reconsideration Request

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Matt: Hey everybody. This is Matt Cutts.

Sandy: And I’m Sandy.
Matt: And today we wanted to talk to you a little bit about if you’ve gotten the message  that you have unnatural links from your site. So, this is something where because of the links that you are, the places that you are linking to, it’s affecting our trust in your site.And so let’s talk through it in a little more detail.Now, the good news is, this is something that is fixable. And it’s fixable by you relatively easily if you decide to commit to it. But first let’s give a little bit of an idea about like, what is a natural link? What’s an unnatural link? So, Sandy. What would you say, what’s a natural link in your opinion?
Sandy: Yeah, so a natural link is basically an editorial choice. It’s your ability to link to a site, from your site, based on the usefulness. The merit of the site. Because you wanna share this content with others. Your friends and all your visitors.
Matt: Yeah, absolutely. So a good example I like is, you know, I’m a fan of the FitBit. And so if I’m linking to FitBit or talking about it at a conference. That’s an editorial choice. It’s something where I’m choosing to do it. OK. So I can take what’s an unnatural link. Or an inorganic link. Usually it’s links selling. Let’s be honest.
Sandy: [laughs]
Matt: It can be excessive link exchanges where you’re doing a lot of weird links on your site. It can be all sorts of different things where you’re linking to low quality or spammy sites. Maybe you left a forum and it got spammed. And so there’s a ton of links on your site pointing to spammy sites. But the vast majority of the time, when you get this message, it’s because you are selling links that pass PageRank. And that violates our quality guidelines. We want everybody to compete on a level playing
field. We don’t want somebody who just has more money to automatically be able to rank better in the search engines. And so that’s why we think it’s important that if you do have a link that you’re selling, you make sure that it not pass PageRank.
You know. You can ask yourself, would I make this link if search engines didn’t exist? And if you were more likely to make it because you like something. Because you think it’s a great site. That’s more likely to be an editorial choice. If somebody’s giving you something like money. It can also be a gift. You know. Something that is akin to money or some sort of payment. Some sort of material compensation. A six-pack or whatever it is in order to link to a site, then that’s something that we might view as an unnatural link. OK, so now if you’ve gotten this message, what’s the best way to fix that, Sandy?
Sandy: Yeah, so you have a couple of different options.
Matt: You do.
Sandy: Once you’ve identified any unnatural links on your site. The first option that you have is to remove these links altogether. But we do understand that that sometimes is  not always the best option. You wanna retain some links on your site because they’re to advertisers or sponsors. And that’s perfectly OK. The only thing that we ask is that these links don’t pass PageRank. And you have a couple of different options to ensure that these sponsored links don’t pass PageRank. One option is to add the ‘REL equals nofollow’ attribute to the link tag. Another option is to redirect through an intermediate URL that’s blocked in your robots dot txt file. So, with either of those two options you can ensure that these links aren’t passing PageRank. Or you can, you know, remove the links altogether. So, either of those options is perfectly OK with us. 
Matt: Mm-hm. Makes sense. I have to say, personally, removing the links, if it’s a paid link that passes PageRank. I’m a big fan of that approach. It’s just very clear cut. So, let’s take a step back and look at the context. When you get this message from Google, it’s saying “We think that you are doing some sort of unnatural linking.” It’s normally selling links “Such that, we don’t have as much trust in your site. And so the easy way to fix that is to remove the links, make sure that they don’t pass PageRank.But fundamentally what Google is looking for is to know, number one, that the issue has been fixed. And that’s, removing the links, making sure that they don’t pass PageRank. The second thing that we’re looking for is to sort of know that this quality violation won’t be happening again. And so, if you remove those links, then I would recommend doing a reconsideration request. And documenting that pretty well.For example, I had a newspaper write in recently. Their PageRank had dropped. And it was because they were selling links that passed PageRank. And so what they did is, they pulled down those links. And they were nice enough in their reconsideration request to say “OK, we were using this link network, we’ve terminated the agreement. Here’s all the details about it. And here’s how you know that we’re not doing this anymore.” 
So not only could we look and see that those links had been taken off the web. We also got a little more context. We understood how they came to the table in terms of being in that situation. How they got out of that situation. And personally, if you’re willing to give a little more detail about what the situation was. Or what the SEO–. Or what the link network was, that can help quite a bit. As far as good faith to sort of assure us that you’re trying to make sure that you’re not going to be doing anything like that again. In terms of violations of our guidelines. So that’s, it is a little frustrating to get a message like this. Because you always wanna have a clean bill of health with Google. And we understand that. But the good news is, it is something that’s relatively easy to fix. If you get this message, you probably have some idea now, about why it might be. And it’s relatively simple. As long as you can get rid of those contracts or break those agreements. Or whatever it is you need to do to either take those links down or just make sure that they don’t pass PageRank. Hope that helps.

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