Google Penalising Sites For Unnatural Outbound Links – Have You Been Affected?

Google has recently sent out a large number of notifications to Webmasters this past weekend. They have issued a number of manual penalties to websites that have specifically linked out to other sites that are not relevant, in an attempt to get better search rankings.


The links that may be penalised could be outbound directory links to untrustworthy sites. Basically, if Google doesn't trust the site you are linking out to or believes you are doing it to affect search engine rankings, you may well be penalised. Continue reading this article to learn what to look for and what you need to do...

How Do I Know If I Have Received A Penalty?

The best way you can check if you have received a manual penalty for unnatural outbound links is to check your Webmaster Tools Notifications. Simply login to your Webmaster Tools account and have a look at the messages section on the main dashboard. If you have received no messages regarding this then you are safe for now. Here is what the message will look like...


If you see this message inside of your Webmaster Tools account then you will have received a manual penalty from Google for unnatural outbound links.

What If I Don't Have Webmaster Tools Set Up?

If you don't have Webmaster Tools set up there is no real way to find out if you have been penalised or not. You could get an idea by checking your keyword rankings in Google. You can either do manual searches or use a free tool like RankTracker. If you monitor your keywords closely and notice a big drop off then you may well have received a manual penalty. However, there is no way to be certain so I would highly recommend getting Webmaster Tools set up to make sure. For help with setting up Webmaster Tools read this article here: Google Sends Messages To Webmasters For SSL/TLS Certificates Not Matching: What You Need To Do If You Have Received A Message. This article talks about the importance of SSL but part way through it I discuss how you can set up a Webmaster Tools account.

I Have Been Penalised. What Do I Do?

If you have been given a penalty for unnatural outbound links and received a message in Webmaster Tools the sooner you act the less your rankings and business will suffer! Even if you haven't received a penalty yet I highly recommend going through the steps below in detail to make sure you aren't vulnerable!

Follow the steps below to take action and help remove the penalty...

1) Identify The Pages On Your Site And The Unnatural Links

Have a thorough check of all of your website pages for outbound links. Don't leave any stone unturned, even check pages like your Privacy Policy as well as links that may go under the radar, like outbound image links. Once you have done this put together a document of the page URLs on your site that have outbound links on them. Analyse each of these individually to check what websites you are linking to and whether or not they may be considered unnatural by Google. Here are a few questions to ask when analysing your outbound links:

  • Does the website I am linking to look trustworthy?
  • Is the website I am linking to relevant to the page and content I am linking from?
  • Could the link have been added to my site in exchange for money, goods or compensation?
  • Could the link be a reciprocal link?

So to sum this up, the website you are linking to should be relevant to the content you are linking from and it should also be trustworthy. If it is potentially a reciprocal link or one that has been added to your site in exchange for something to boost the ranking of another web page then it could well be considered unnatural. Even if you aren't sure whether an outbound link will harm your rankings, make a note of it and don't take any chances. Only leave links that you know are 100% trustworthy.

2) Deal With These Links

Once you have looked at each individual link and analysed which are natural and which could be toxic, make a list of them. It is now time to deal with these links. Here you have two options. You can now either delete the links from your website for good or you can add the No Follow tag to these unnatural links. The No Follow tag basically tells Google not to crawl and follow any outgoing links on the page you add it to. Here is the tag...


You can add this before the tag on the specific page along with your other meta data.

3) Submit A Reconsideration Request

If you haven't been penalised you can stop at this stage. However if you have, then you need to carry out the final step. It is probably the simplest of all of them. Simply log into Webmaster Tools, go to the messages section and click on the message notification you received notifying you of the penalty. In that message there should be a blue button that says “Reconsideration Request” as can be seen in the below screenshot. When you click this, simply follow what they ask and they will then review your website.


Google, being Google, could either take a couple of weeks or a few months before they review it as they are sure to have a large number of requests to process!

Once they have processed your request they should then lift the manual spam action, as long as all unnatural links have been dealt with.

If you follow the steps in this article then you will either prevent a manual spam penalty against your site or you will be on your way to eliminating an existing penalty. If you have any questions about this then please comment below or call us on 01332 343281.

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