Google Manual Penalties Over Follow Freebies

As you may have already heard, the Google webspam team were working hard over the past week, as they issued a vast number of manual penalties to sites which they deemed had broken the Google rules.

The rule in particular was associated with sites that offered links in exchange for a product. So what does this all mean? Read on for more details.

How do you know if you’ve been affected?

Messages were sent out via Webmaster Tools (or Search Console I should say). Check all your sites to ensure you haven?t received a message, however providing you haven?t been offering product reviews in exchange for a link, you should be safe.


How Do You Recover From This Manual Penalty?

The first step would be to identify the offending pages?. Once you have found the outbound links that have probably led to the manual penalty, you will want to change the link to nofollow. You don?t need to delete the link, as this would appear even more shady (why delete something you didn?t feel was wrong, unless you are admitting to selling links). By adding a nofollow tag, you are stating to Google the article is still of use to visitors, however the link will not pass on any link juice.

The next step is to submit a re-inclusion request. There are a couple of things you have to remember. First, be polite as possible. They aren’t punishing your site out of a personal vendetta, they are simply doing their job. If you are rude to them, they probably won?t want to return your website to its original position. Secondly, you want to provide as many details as possible. I would create a Google docs sheet and list all the URL?s which have had the nofollow tag added on. I would also provide details on that sheet of the companies you delt with, just to show more clarity. They have previously spoken about how transparency is your best friend when hoping to recover.


What Sites Have Been Hit?

Once the dust settles and Searchmetrics has been crawled thoroughly, we will all be able to spot some big hits, however the early prediction is that it will largely be bloggers. A common link building tactic for e-commerce businesses or product based brands has been to send out a sample product to bloggers in exchange for a product review and a link to the website.

This has been a common tactic for good reason, it got results! However when you really look at it, it is no different to a paid link, while the link wasn?t gained naturally. There will be some sites unfairly caught up in this, who gave genuine product reviews based on their experience, however you would presume the majority of the punished sites will be ones that offer regular reviews which look to be paid. This is a manual penalty so there will be someone actually going through these blogs actually looking for obvious signs.

My early prediction is that the biggest damage will be on the mummy blogger scene, which are known to write the majority of their content on product reviews. How quickly some of these sites recover will be interesting to see, especially if they aren?t overly educated on recovering from a manual penalty. In fact, there will probably be a few blog owners that might not check Webmaster Tools or monitor their traffic on Google Analytics and might have no idea they have been punished.


What Have We Learnt?

Up until last weekend, many digital marketing agencies or marketing experts would openly recommend targeting bloggers for product reviews, however this tactic will now be severely frowned upon. I would’t say it is “dead”, as many websites can send on some high quality, targeted traffic through a product review, yet the use of this as a general link building tactic will definitely be cut back.

This highlights a previous post I made, where I pointed out the constantly ever-changing link building fad? which changed annually. These innovative ideas are really short term based and often don?t protect your site in the long term, leaving you to clean up the mess at a later date. You should be focusing your efforts on safe and respected tactics, such as PR focused campaigns.


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