How to Fix a Google Violation: Unnatural Outbound Links

This week I came across a nasty manual spam action penalty from Google. It’s called Unnatural Outbound Links.

If you got this penalty, you’re in a state of chaos. The penalty is usually applied site-wide and it will take A LOT of work to clean.

Here’s what the email looks like:

Google has detected a pattern of links from your site to other sites that is either unnatural or irrelevant. This pattern attempts to artificially boost other sites’ ranking in Google 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, we are discounting the trust in links on your site. This manual spam action has been applied to WWW.SITENAME.COM. To fix this, remove the unnatural links on your site and file a reconsideration request. After we determine that you have complied with our guidelines, we will remove this manual

What is a unnatural outbound link?
While the penalty addresses the obvious issue, unnatural outbound links = links that were paid for, chances are, you are not directly engaged in this practice (if you are, you’re stuck in the stone age).

What this penalty addresses are compensated links in form of (edited from

  • free product in return for writing a review of the product.
  • free product to give away to your readers in a contest.
  • free experience in return for writing a review of the experience (hotel stays, amusement park tickets, access to an exclusive event, etc.).
  • free product to develop and publish content that uses a specific product or service (creating recipes using a specific product, makeup tutorial, clothing moodboard, etc.)
  • writing about products featured in a Swag Bag from a conference or event that you received for free.
  • recipe link ups or other content sharing link carousels that aren’t using a nofollow attribute (you’re only linking to all those recipes because they’re linking to yours = compensation by exposure).
  • links to affiliate programs on the base merchant’s domain without a nofollow (especially Amazon).
  • Guest posts from a company.
  • Links to advertisers in your sidebar, etc. that link to the advertiser without using a nofollow link.

Basically, ANY link you didn’t come up with on your own is subject to the Unnatural Outbound Links violation. The reality is that people get advice and tips through others. But Google being Google, wants you to no follow ALL those links.

  • Got a button from a conference and posted a pic with a link? NO FOLLOW
  • Got crayons in exchange for a review? NO FOLLOW
  • Part of a blogger network and got stickers to make your own DIY card? NO FOLLOW
  • Have banner ads? NO FOLLOW
  • Have affiliate links? NO FOLLOW

The violation oversteps common sense, but hey, Google doesn’t have common sense, they just wage war on anything that appears to be paid.

  • Google’s John Mueller stated:
    “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.”

How do I fix the violation?

This is what Google will tell you to do:

Here’s how to fix this problem:

1 Identify unnatural links on your site – Look for links that were added to your site in exchange for some type of compensation like money, goods or services, or reciprocal links.

2 Remove or use on these links- The nofollow attribute allows you to tell Google not to crawl a specific link.

3 Submit a reconsideration request – Include any details or documentation that can help us understand the changes made to your site.

What you need to do is:
1. Be a detective and figure out what happen. You HAVE violated their terms, so arguing with Google is fruitless. Now is the time to buck up and fix your issues.

2. Create a spreadsheet with all the website pages that the issue appeared on and that action has been taken. You will need this spreadsheet. Every piece of work you have done to rectify the problem needs to be documented.

3. File the reconsideration request. Be polite, be nice, and most of all, DON’T BE ARGUMENTATIVE. Do feel free to ask for more clarification if what you did wasn’t right. YOU NEED TO FIX THIS, so get help.

Once the request has been, you’ll wait from Google. If they approve your fixes, you’ll see changes in the search results almost immediately. If not, they will tell you to keep working. At this time, you can ask for guidance from them to make sure you remove the violations completely and wholeheartedly.

Have you received an Unnatural Outbound Link penalty? Do you need help? If so, please reach out to chotipreeti at gmail dot com.

Posted in: SEO

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