In October 2007, The Washington Post came under scrutiny for engaging in the sale of links on their blog, a practice that ran afoul of Google’s guidelines regarding unnatural links.
This violation led to a notable decrease in the paper’s PageRank, plummeting from PR7 to PR5. The repercussions were likely linked to the presence of unnatural links, and although the specifics of the resolution aren’t detailed, the PageRank may have eventually been restored after a period of adjustment.
So, what are unnatural links?
Unnatural links are fake connections created to manipulate a website’s search engine ranking. Google updates its algorithm to penalize websites using unnatural links, as they don’t genuinely endorse a site, making it difficult for search engines to assess a site’s true value.
Unnatural links, even though disguised, are all flagged as manipulative by search engines. Some prominent types of such links include purchased links, participation in prohibited link exchanges, and strategically placed links. All these tactics are intended to deceive search algorithms.In addition, unnatural links may involve overly optimized anchor text or links lacking contextual relevance.
Let’s take a look at some of the best instances of unnatural links.
These are paid text links designed to boost search engine rankings. Without a “nofollow” or “sponsored” attribute, these links can be considered unnatural, leading to a penalty.
Mass-distributed articles or press releases containing links filled with exact match keywords, often for search engine manipulation are also unnatural link building tactics. In the past, some press releases on PRWeb have been criticized for containing spammy links. Even EzineArticles has faced issues with articles containing manipulative links.
Links from websites lacking topical relevance to the linked content, flagging them as unnatural. For instance, think of a website selling fruit juices. On the blog section of this website, if there’s a link to a site that sells, say perfumes and has no context at all, then that link will be considered unnatural.
Links from directories or bookmark sites focused on providing links rather than valuable content, often for SEO purposes. Link Farms, some article directories are examples of such platforms that promote unnatural link building.
In 2006, car maker BMW Germany faced a penalty from Google for using “doorway pages” as part of their SEO strategy. Doorway pages are often optimized for specific keywords and are designed to trick search engines into ranking them higher.
The company’s use of these manipulative pages involved creating multiple pages targeted at various specific car models and locations. These pages were crafted to rank highly in search engine results, but they offered little or no substantive content for users. When users clicked on these pages, they were often redirected to the main BMW Germany website.
Google responded to BMW’s use of doorway pages by taking manual action, which resulted in a temporary removal of BMW Germany’s website from Google’s index. The penalty served as a reminder to businesses that attempting to manipulate search engine rankings through deceptive practices like unnatural links can have severe consequences, including loss of visibility in search results.
A Google penalty for unnatural inbound links occurs when a website violates Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, specifically those pertaining to link schemes. These penalties, whether algorithmic or manual, result in consequences that range from a decrease in search rankings to the severe measure of being entirely removed from Google’s index.
The duration of these penalties varies, underscoring the critical need for strict adherence to SEO best practices. To avoid penalties, it is advisable to conduct regular backlink audits in line with white-hat SEO practices. In the event of a penalty, webmasters should promptly identify and remove unnatural links, followed by the submission of a reconsideration request to Google. This request should detail the corrective actions taken to address the issue and ensure compliance with guidelines.
Detecting unnatural links within a backlink profile is vital for SEO health. Here’s how to spot potentially harmful links:
Once you have identified such links, removing or disavowing these links is crucial for maintaining site credibility.
After identifying unnatural links, the next step is removal. Here are some of the best practices, which will help you remove unnatural links:
Maintaining a healthy backlink profile requires ongoing vigilance. Monitor for potential future unnatural links:
Unnatural links not only violate Google’s guidelines but also undermine the principles of organic search. Sustainable SEO success should always involve building genuine, high-quality connections through relevant, authoritative, and user-beneficial backlinks.