February and March were hellish months for most webmasters, as Google unleashed the Panda update and many, many webmasters were charged with unnatural links penalty, sending the rankings of their websites for a toss. The Webmaster forum was abuzz with webmasters finding out a possible way out to get their rankings and income back on par with pre-penalty levels. I too was hit with this unnatural links penalty, but managed to get out of this penalty. How? Here is my story.
Unnatural Links Penalty-How to Know If Its Manual Penalty or Algorithm Penalty
For starters, Webmasters need to know there were 2 types of penalties-Manual and Algorithmic. Manual spam action or the unnatural links penalty was for websites which had some of their links in the shady area. As far as algorithmic changes/penalties are concerned, they were not imposed, but rather the site took a hit because Google does not prefer crappy stuff in the search or maybe the websites did not match up on the parameters of the tweaked algorithm. There is absolutely nothing that can be done for the algorithmic changes, webmasters will just have to wait it out till the next major algorithm tweak occurs.
As far as the manual penalty goes, it is much worse, though you can do something about it. The following are the symptoms of a manual spam penalty/unnatural links penalty:
1. You see a sudden decrease in traffic. My traffic fell 98%
2. You type your website name (without the .com/.in/.whatever your site ends with) in Google and you cant find your website in the first place. I found my site on page 5, a -40 ranking penalty.
3. You get a mail in your “contact us” e-mail ID that you have been caught and screwed, though its a rarity.
4. If you have an account in Webmaster Tools (and I recommend that you do have), you will get a message like this which will send shivers down your spine.
How I Got My Unnatural Links Penalty Removed
If it did scare the daylights out of me, you’re probably right. Adsense was a good source of income for me, helping a student like me earn more than a computer professional did. But freaking out is something that I dont recommend, so lets get down to business. Here is what you should do to get your unnatural links penalty removed.
1. Reduce the number of ads in your site.
Reducing the number of sites can help when you file your reconsideration request. As such after the page layout algorithm, ranking has been affected for sites who display very little content above the fold. As pointed out to me by a fellow webmaster, lesser number of ads aids in a better user experience. Reduce the number of adsense units in your site, remove Kontera,Infolinks,Adbrite and any pop-up ads you may have, as your site will be judged by real people.
2. Empty your blogroll
I had done a few triangular linkings with 2 other sites (where they link to me and I link to them) That amounted to link schemes, intended to pass on PR juice, and that was the first thing to go. I also removed the link of my site from the other 2 sites.
3. Check your Inbound Links
You can check your inbound links with a few services like Majestic SEO, but the most effective one is through Webmaster Tools, as it gives each and every link within domains, which I believe Majestic cannot, providing only the top domain from where your link comes. Here is how you can check and download all links to your site through webmaster tools.
After step 2, do this:
Once you have downloaded the Excel file, start checking for unnatural links and make a separate file to note down those unnatural links. It is time consuming, but you will come to know if you screwed up on your SEO or someone else took the trouble for doing that, like the SEO company you hired.
After going through your links, you can also request for sample unnatural links in your reconsideration requests. It is plain luck if you get them. I did, and turns out they were the only 2 unnatural links. But its all up-to HOW you file your appeal that decides if you keep on suffering or Google puts you out of your misery, in a good way.
How To Appeal For Reconsideration Read On