Ask the SMXpert: Google manual penalties explained

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The Ask the SMXpert series continues with the question and answer (Q&A) segment of sessions held at Search Marketing Expo (SMX) West 2018.

Today’s Q&A is from the All Google Manual Penalties Explained session with speaker Kaspar Szymanski, with an introduction by moderator Chris Sherman.

Moderator Chris Sherman: For those of you who don’t know Kaspar, he is a veteran of the Google Search Quality team, where he was the driving force behind global web spam tackling initiatives and the public face spearheading Google webmaster outreach and communication efforts.

He speaks not only as an insider but also someone who has spent years helping clients get out of trouble and back into Google’s good graces. His advice is solid and well worth heeding!

Question:  What happens when you get an unnatural outbound links penalty but never sold links? The website used proper FTC disclosure and all outbound links in articles were no-follow. However, the site did have a lot of affiliate links that were dofollow. After “no-following” those links and doing a reconsideration request, the site was approved. Is it common for sites to get penalties because they used “dofollow” affiliate links?

Kaspar: In short, yes.

Regardless of Federal Trade Commission (FTC) disclosure which has no bearing on search engine optimization (SEO) or how Google perceives links, outgoing affiliate links are almost always commercial, and so are the anchor texts. That fact alone is sufficient grounds to always use nofollow attributes on the links in order to avoid violating Google Webmaster Guidelines and thereby risking a penalty.

Question: Is it true manual penalties aren’t removed manually? That a bot reads through the reconsideration requests instead of humans?

Answer: No, that is not correct; a human reviewer reads through the reconsideration request. From Google:

Reconsideration requests are handled by real people, so good documentation helps the reviewer…

 

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