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How to deal with "unnatural inbound links" manual action (Examples? Documentation?) 0 Recommended Answers 4 Replies 3 Upvotes
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I got an email from Google Search Console today telling me about unnatural inbound links coming to my website. This is what the message said:
Google has detected a pattern of links from other sites to your site that is either unnatural or irrelevant. This pattern attempts to artificially boost your site’s ranking in search results. Such unnatural ranking would cause search results to show preference for results not relevant to the user’s actual query. It also violates Google Webmaster Guidelines. Therefore, when determining your site’s ranking, we will demote links to your site as a factor in our calculations. This manual spam action has been applied to URL. To fix this, remove a majority of unnatural links and file a reconsideration request. After we determine that you have complied with our guidelines, we will remove this manual action.
Obviously, this was an alarming message to receive first thing in the morning.

After spending a few hours trying to understand more about the issue, all the documentation and videos I could find seemed to imply that Google thinks I've somehow paid for links or intentionally set out the "game the system" with some kind of link scheme.

I've never paid for a link back to my site, nor have I gotten involved with any kind of link scheme, posted spam links in forums, blog comments, etc. I understand this is probably a common cause of unnatural links on the internet, but that's not what's happened here.

Something unique about my site (a blog about real estate investing) is that I give away a TON of valuable content for free. This kind of free, no-strings-attached value is very uncommon in this space online. Because of this, a lot of sites will link back to my site on their own, and some websites will blatantly copy and paste my blog posts onto their own sites (which is outright copyright infringement). I typically include a few relevant internal links within the body of my original blog posts, so when my content gets copied and pasted somewhere else, that copied content will likely include the embedded links that link back to my site (because they were supposed to be internal links).

This could be what's causing the problem (it's just a theory though, I'm not entirely sure). It's nothing I've done or told anyone to do - it's just what inevitably happens when content gets stolen and reproduced on the internet (which of course, I can't control).

The problem is - there are over 25,000+ websites out there linking to my site, and Google hasn't given me ANY specific examples of which of these links are causing the problem. Without any examples to go by, am I really supposed to go one-by-one through all 25,000+ links just guessing which ones need to be removed?

Even if I had a list of the exact links causing the problem - a lot of these websites (especially the spammy ones that are likely causing the issue) don't have the owners contact information listed anywhere. Even if I follow these instructions and contact the website's hosting company... then what? What am I supposed to tell the hosting company to do? No matter how I slice it, it will cost me A LOT of time, or money, or both to contact all of these website owners... just the idea seems insurmountable.

Question 1: Is there any way Google can give me just a few examples of specific links that are causing this problem? This would be MUCH more helpful than me making wild guesses about where the issues are coming from, and inevitably getting rid of good/helpful/relevant links back to my site in the process.

Question 2: When I'm done "fixing" this issue and/or before I disavow the bad links to my site that I can't get a response from the website owner (which I suspect will be the case for many of these links), I'm assuming Google will want to see some kind of documentation proving that I tried to contact these various website owners. What exactly do they need to see as evidence of my effort? What does Google consider "documented efforts to remove each and every spam link and have been unsuccessful"?

I take this issue very seriously... but there are a lot of information gaps here. I'm not sure how to address the issue without more guidance. Can anyone help?
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Hi Seth Williams,

Can you provide your URL?  If you do not want to post it use a shortener like bitly...

-Brian
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Here you go. This is a link to the site in question: http://bit.ly/2JNiQde
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The links that look suspicious to me are on pages such as:
These are all poorly created "splogs" or spam blogs which are created usually by a spammer to build links to their client's websites
 
The first site has already been deindexed. I'd start by investigating  any relationship you may have with anyone affiliated with these or any other similar sites.
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I agree, all of these websites do look very spammy and poorly created, but I have no relationship with any of them and I have no idea why they're linking back to me (I've never hired an SEO firm for my site either - so I'm pretty baffled as to why these sites would be linking back to me with no prompting that I'm aware of).

In this example you shared: http://coders4charities.org/a-few-tips-to-sell-home-fast - this website doesn't have any place for me to contact the website owner (no email address, no contact forms, no comment sections - nothing) and when I do a WHOIS lookup, the website owner's identity is hidden. What am I supposed to do in these instances when there's no way to communicate with them?

Another recurring question I have is - when a website has already been deindexed, or if my list of external links from GWT includes a URL from a site that doesn't actually link to my site (like this one: http://garagedoorserviceinlittlerock.info/2018/09/the-right-way-to-sell-a-house-fast - for example), what am I supposed to do about that? Since there isn't any link to be taken down... what am I supposed to ask this website owner to do (and more importantly, why is it showing up on the list of external links to my site in the first place)?
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