April 12, 2016: Google — after warning product bloggers to do-follow their links and disclose any compensation-based posting arrangements several weeks ago — lowered the boom this past weekend, issuing manual penalties en masse, according to SEORoundtable.com.
The wording of the penalty issued, code-named WNC-636200, was as follows:
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.
It’s not known how many product bloggers received these manual penalties, but it appears to have been many, judging from the number of complaints appearing on Google’s Webmaster Central Help Forum.
Here’s a typical complaint from a webmaster affected by the crackdown:
It’s a beauty blog, so I often link to beauty products. Is that the problem? Do I have to go back to every single one of my posts from 2013 and take them out? My affiliate links are how I monetize my blog. What is this “nofollow” thing?
Many affected webmasters appear to have been caught unaware of Google’s recent announcement concerning no-follow links from reviews. A few apparently fell afoul of a glitch in Google’s Blogger platform which allegedly indicated that links were no-followed when they in fact were not. Others neglected to no-follow product links from old pages they’d forgotten about, evidently believing that Google wouldn’t notice them.
If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of being issued such a warning, you must do the following:
1. Check for any do-followed links in posts, pages, or other areas. Chrome has an extension that detects no-follow links, so does Firefox.
Convert these do-follow links to no-follows. If you’re running WordPress, there are plug-ins that can make this operation pain-free, even if have hundreds of posts: Ultimate Unfollow is one of them. (Note: there is no need to no-follow links to your own pages; just to external resources).
2. Check for do-follow links in footers, headers, and sidebars for widgets that may contain do-follows, and convert them to no-follows.
3. Ensure that any paid relationships are disclosed prominently in the site’s copy. Many product bloggers include disclosure notices in a separate “disclosure” or “advertising” page, but it’s advisable to include disclosure language in the post as well, to avoid any impression of deceitful intent.
4. Fix any problems and submit a Reconsideration Request. Don’t file this request before you’re 100 percent sure you comply with Google’s guidelines. Unfortunately, Google doesn’t process such requests immediately: there may be a lag of days or even weeks before your site again is in the clear.
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