Up until a few month’s ago, knowing if you had a link penalty in Google was virtually impossible. Then the search engine giant started sharing manual penalties with webmasters through a small section of Webmaster Tools (another great reason to have it installed on your site) making it very easy to know if you had a manual action taken on your site by the Spam team, or not.
One thing that I should say to preface this entire article, if you are a SEO or a website owner, I truly believe that Google has different sets of expecatations. For a site owner, making a concerted effort largely seems to be enough, at least it was when I had to have a penalty removed from my wine site, whereas a SEO is IMO at least, held to a higher standard.
Step 1: Find All Your Backlinks: I’d suggest starting in Webmaster Tools and downloading your entire link list. If you’re a SEO, it probably makes sense to pull your link list from another source as well, such as Ahrefs or even Majestic SEO.
Step 2: Classify all your links as either good, or bad. This isn’t an entirely difficult concept and when I went through the process I decided to be incredibly conservative, only keeping links which were truly editorially given. In my list of good links, I even applied a set of categories about how the link ended up there and why it was a truly good link. I had a section for editorial links, a section for blog comments, forum postings and so on.
Step 3: Start the removal process: Google has been incredibly clear that they want you to make a very real effort to have bad links removed before moving on in the process. Your second (or better yet, an attached page) should list contact information for the site owners for every bad link on your list. If you can find emails, that’s easy, but you can also use social media contact information as well. Step three involves simply asking these website owners to either remove the links entirely, or to simply no-follow links if they aren’t willing to remove them.
Step 4: Use the Disavow Tool: As you might expect, a very small percentage of website owners are going to respond positively to your request to take down the spammy links that you’ve created. That’s one of the reasons why Google (and Bing in the recent past) have included a disavow tool, that effectively removes the links from counting toward your rankings. Google wants this to be a last step in the process, for the truly spammy links that simply cannot be removed by any other means. In my case, I had about forty thousand links to remove via the disavow tool, so the number might be massive. That isn’t unusual.
I hope this short article has helped you understand how to have a manual penalty removed. With Google now sharing this information with website owners through Webmaster Tools there really is no good reason that a manual penalty should affect your site for more than a few weeks, even if the removal process for penalties won’t be much fun for site owners.
Mark Aselstine is the owner of Uncorked Ventures, an online wine club based in San Francisco. Mark started his SEO journey by paying $1500 per month for SEO services that only brought a Google Penalty and an ROI of exactly zero. He now handles all his own lnik building and takes pride that everything he does fits well into Google’s guidelines.