How to Fix Unnatural Link Warnings

Written by: Jason Bayless | April 22, 2015

With Google’s recent algorithm updates, many people are signing into their Webmaster accounts only to find an unnatural link warning. If this has happened to you, don’t be afraid! There are a few ways to fix this situation before your website gets dinged and buried on page 8000 of search engine results.

Manual vs. Algorithmic Link Penalties

Not all link warnings are created equal. Manual warnings come from an actual Google employee who has reviewed your website and feels you may be engaging in some black hat tactics. Algorithmic link issues stem from your website having a feature that Penguin perceives as being illegitimate. You can easily tell the difference, as manual link warnings will be found in the Manual Actions part of your Webmaster Tools account. Unnatural links caught by web crawlers will not come with a warning, but rather a sudden drop in rank.

If you receive a written warning about an unnatural link, then the problem is not with Penguin or Panda. An actual human being is involved.

Fixing Unnatural Incoming Links

If your warning says that there are unnatural links “pointing to your site,” this is the issue. The employee issuing the warning will generally give a few examples, but there are usually more than what you are told about. The sites linking to yours in an unnatural manner will also be penalized.

It can be very hard to remove these links since they aren’t on your site. The first thing to do is to figure out which links are unnatural. Download a list of links to your website using Webmaster Tools. There are several third party tools that can automatically find unnatural links; alternately, you can find detailed lists of what constitutes an unnatural link by Google algorithmic standards and hand-comb through them. Begin your combing with websites that have the most links to your own site; these are most likely to catch an employee’s attention.

Next, contact the owners or webmasters of these sites to ask them to remove the link. Because their website also is being penalized for the link, they will likely be cooperative. Alternately, you can use the “Disavow Links” webmaster tool. However, Google has stated repeatedly that it wishes for webmasters to try and manually remove unnatural links before resorting to this tool. After all or most unnatural links have been removed, contact Google and ask them to reconsider the penalty. You may have to ask several times.

Fixing Unnatural Outbound Links

This type of link warning is easier because you can control your own website and quickly make the necessary changes. The first step in dealing with this issue is to find out which links are the problem. Unfortunately, Google will not tell you this. Once you have identified them, take them out or use a rel=”nofollow” tag. You can even use robots.txt to block the page from crawlers. Once this is dealt with, ask Google to reconsider.

Failed Reconsideration Request: Now What?

It is not unusual to fail the first reconsideration request. If this occurs, the notification will give examples of the links that are still problematic. Remember that these are not the only unnatural links in most cases. However, they can provide clues as to what you have been missing. Repeat the process of removing links with the examples as well as any similar links, and then ask for yet another reconsideration.

Unnatural link warnings don’t have to be the end of your search engine ranking. If you remove the problem links and diligently remind Google to reconsider their warning, you can gain back any lost ground quickly. To avoid these problems in the future, stay up to date with algorithm changes and make sure you are always on the right side of the rules.