Google penalizes sites for unnatural outbound linking

By Barry Schwartz and first published on Search Engine Land.


Check your Google Search Console message center. Google sent out outbound link penalties over the weekend.

Over the weekend (April 9-10, 2016), Google issued many manual actions for “unnatural outbound links.” This is a penalty issued by the Google manual actions team, specifically over sites linking out to other sites in an effort to manipulate the Google search results. In this case, it seems Google penalized the site by deciding not to trust any of the links on the website.

The email sent to these webmasters read:

If you see this message on the Manual Actions page, it means that Google has detected a pattern of unnatural artificial, deceptive, or manipulative outbound links. Buying links or participating in link schemes in order to manipulate PageRank is a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

As a result, Google has applied a manual spam action to the affected portions of your site. Actions that affect your whole site are listed under Site-wide matches. Actions that affect only part of your site and/or some incoming links to your site are listed under Partial matches.

Here is a picture from one of the many complaints about this manual action in the Google support forums:



You should log into your Google Search Console account and check your all messages box to see if you have this notification or any others. If you were hit by the outbound link penalties, there are instructions on how to fix them over here.

I have only seen a few inbound link notification penalties this weekend. So it is too early to tell if sites on the other end of this penalty got it. If anything, it seems Google is no longer trusting the links from these sites, which can have a negative ranking impact on the sites receiving these links. But that would not be a direct penalty for inbound links.

Google has not commented about this penalty.

UPDATE 4-12-16: Source: Search Engine Land

The mass Google manual actions for outbound links was related to the warning Google gave a few weeks ago around bloggers giving links in exchange for free products or services.

Yesterday, Search Engine Land reported that Google sent out outbound linking penalties to a mass number of webmasters over the weekend. It turned out that this was directly related to the warning from Google a few weeks ago for bloggers to disclose free product reviews as such and nofollow links in their blog posts over these product reviews.

Google told bloggers to “nofollow the link, if you decide to link to the company’s site, the company’s social media accounts, an online merchant’s page that sells the product, a review service’s page featuring reviews of the product or the company’s mobile app in an app store.”

Well, now that the warning was communicated, a few weeks later, in typical Google style, Google actually sent out manual actions for those who did not comply with those guidelines.

John Mueller from Google commented in a few threads in the Google support forums telling people to look at the warning Google published a few weeks ago named Best practices for bloggers reviewing free products they receive from companies. He added:

In particular, if a post was made because of a free product (or free service, or just paid, etc.), then any links placed there because of that need to have a rel=nofollow attached to them. This includes links to the product itself, any sales pages (such as on Amazon), affiliate links, social media profiles, etc. that are associated with that post. Additionally, I imagine your readers would also appreciate it if those posts were labeled appropriately. It’s fine to keep these kinds of posts up, sometimes there’s a lot of useful information in them! However, the links in those posts specifically need to be modified so that they don’t pass PageRank (by using the rel=nofollow).

Once these links are cleaned up appropriately, feel free to submit a reconsideration request, so that the webspam team can double-check and remove the manual action.

2 thoughts on “Google penalizes sites for unnatural outbound linking

    • If your outbound links are not pointing to a content relevant site, it would be a good idea to nofollow or remove. It depends on the objective of the link. This article, and Google’s strategy, is directed at bloggers who are writing paid reviews for products and including a link to the product’s website. If this is not something you are doing, I would suggest you follow the fundamental rules of a good, outbound link strategy and you should be fine. Thank for stopping by and engaging!

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