Google Calls DMOZ Link Unnatural By Mistake

Sep 9, 2013 • 8:33 am | comments (62) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

google webmaster dmoz linkDave Cain posted on Google+ that his client received an unnatural link warning via Google Webmaster Tools and one of the two examples given was a link he has from DMOZ, the Open Directory Project. Yea, one of the oldest web directories online, which was once upon cited as a good link to have by Google themselves.

Before I get too far in, I wanted to say Google said that example link, the DMOZ one, is a mistake and should not have been given as an example.

Google's John Mueller said, "that particular DMOZ/ODP link-example sounds like a mistake on our side."

This may be the second time we reported a natural link being called as unnatural by Google in a short period of time.

John does remind Dave that although that DMOZ link is natural the site still has a manual action and needs some link cleanup. John wrote:

Keep in mind that these are just examples -- fixing (or knowing that you can ignore) one of them, doesn't mean that there's nothing else to fix. With that in mind, I'd still double-check to see if there are other issues before submitting a reconsideration request, so that you're a bit more certain that things are really resolved (otherwise it's just a bit of time wasted with back & forth). 

On the topic of links from DMOZ, in a fairly recent poll, only 13% said these links matter much.

That being said, it is interesting to see a Google accidentally label a link from DMOZ as unnatural. I wonder if it was a newbie Googler who didn't know what DMOZ was or a typo of some sorts. The thing is, Google seems to really dislike low-quality directories, so beware.

Forum discussion at Google+.

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09/09/2013 01:32 pm

Your own website is not listed on Dmoz.

Marie Haynes

09/09/2013 01:37 pm

I have a similar situation with a client for whom I am trying to remove a penalty. We were given 3 example links. Two are paid links. The third is a blog mention that we are 99% sure is natural. This company is a large brand and they have many natural mentions of their name that contain a keyword because their brand name is also their keyword. Now we don't know whether Google is targeting the site because they have a large number of exact match anchor text links (which seems unfair because they truly are natural links) or whether this is a mistake on Google's part. We're in the process right now of removing all of the paid links and then we'll see if they give more examples that are articles containing their keyword/brand name.


09/09/2013 01:41 pm

What an irony - the company, that has the goal to structure data worldwide, can't properly handle their own data. Seems, that it's time for the poll : When do you believe Google will be replaced as the main public provider of the structured data ?

F Google and Barry

09/09/2013 02:14 pm

Mistake here mistake there lotsa lives ruined. I have 1400 links from over 10 years. Wanna bet that Google has made a "mistake" on one of them too? How do I feed my kids now that my rankings are gone? Google doesn't care. These penalties are a sham to force small business to advertise. Brands already do so Google isn't touching them. Google is a scam company, especially since Larry Page became CEO.


09/09/2013 02:25 pm

This is very disturbing to say the least. Google went into penalty mode and Penguin too aggressively, with little testing it seems. Furthermore, they are taking months between updates, so disavow lists and their own mistakes aren't corrected for up to half a year. It's ridiculous. For all we know, Yahoo links could be "mistakenly" seen as "bad".

F Shills

09/09/2013 02:39 pm

So Google shows maybe less than 1% of their stuff and we already see life altering mistakes. Google cares only about their clicks on ads and to get sites to advertise.


09/09/2013 02:43 pm

aggressively ? It took them a YEAR to move from Penguin 1 to Penguin 2. Can you imagine - a YEAR !!! for the company with such huge resources. Googlers (incl. Larry Page, Matt Cutts and the Panda guy) just can't do their job, related to the search engine, properly. I don't see any other explanation of such faults, too many of them lately. "In a mature bureaucracy people are promoted to their own level of incompetence."


09/09/2013 03:27 pm

the reason I said "aggressively" was because of their initial stampede into Penguin 1. You're right, a year to Penguin 2 is way too long. Meanwhile, everyone has to suffer though Google's mistakes and arrogance, and wait for an update (which could be months). Thanks for your reply. I agree with everything you said. This latest snafu by Google is very disturbing, and it makes you wonder how many mistakes have gone unnoticed.


09/09/2013 03:56 pm

So what I'm reading here is that DMOZ is so unnatural that Google's process will flag it, yet for some reason Google still sees it as a good link? Maybe the lesson is that we should be moving away from DMOZ. Hell, it barely serves a purpose any more.


09/09/2013 04:04 pm

Everything related to Google Webmaster is bugged, this manual actions penalty is bugged too, just returns random backlinks as unnatural :)


09/09/2013 04:19 pm

Another proof Google can not be trusted with reports regarding your website


09/09/2013 04:39 pm

here is not only dmoz, but also links from yandex directory (biggest russian directory) was sent as example of unnatural links. I looking now into sites with lot of really natural links, but google decided what they are unnatural. Sorry, but I only see what google totally unnatural and wrong now. I can explain it only by one thing - they make money and scam us. coming soon yahoo directory unnatural links examples...


09/09/2013 04:42 pm

exactly. and google want to webmasters to believe in their "good motivation"???


09/09/2013 04:43 pm

because they wait time to make more money. it easy as it.


09/09/2013 04:45 pm

i looking into lot of sites with natural backlinks, which google by some reason decided what they are unnatural. So I can tell you - penguin is extremely buggy and nothing natural inside this algorithm.


09/09/2013 04:47 pm

if they will go same way into the future, soon, i think, they will close organic web search completely.


09/09/2013 04:48 pm

i am same, see lot of similar examples of natural backlinks as unnatural. I don't know what googlers think about it or how they trying to "not lost their face", but their system is totally broken since penguin 1.

Durant Imboden

09/09/2013 05:10 pm

IMHO, this just goes to show that it's unrealistic to expect Google (or any other search engine) to be perfect. It was just fortunate for the site owner that his WMT warning message revealed the error.

EFV Shillmaster

09/09/2013 05:22 pm

Maybe they should ruin a guy's livelihood based on wrong and dubious data?


09/09/2013 05:38 pm

such things happen all time, they testing everything on us.


09/09/2013 06:24 pm

Fairness is not parameter in Google algo. They just don't care. If they think you should remove link that is completely natural, it's either to obey or not have penalty removed.


09/09/2013 06:27 pm

Webmaster Tools is probably the buggiest service Google has ever created.

Morgan Akchehirlian

09/09/2013 06:48 pm

Right totally agree with your point but they are not 100%.Look at the situation If Google hates Spam why they crawl and index it.They always debate great content. If they hare web directories with similar information why do not they clearly declare all web directories are spam do not go there. Web directories are spam but on the other side Citations play a useful role in Google places ranking.

Durant Imboden

09/09/2013 06:48 pm

Stuff happens. Deal with it.


09/09/2013 06:51 pm

trust nobody but yourself!

Juggernart Games

09/09/2013 06:53 pm


Durant Imboden

09/09/2013 06:53 pm

I think the point here has less to do with whether Google hates directories than with the inevitability of errors and how site owners can know if they're victims of such errors. In this case, the site owner was lucky (the error was revealed), but what if the DMOZ link hadn't been listed as an example of an "unnatural link" in Webmaster tools? The more transparency, the better--at least from a site owner's point of view. The challenge for Google is how to provide such transparency to site owners without giving spammers the keys to the store.


09/09/2013 06:57 pm

Mistakes like this are costing people they livelihoods. Not just the affiliates and webmasters Google quite clearly doesn't want to see making money online - but real bricks and mortar businesses are firing staff or shutting down, all because somebody at Google screwed up.


09/09/2013 07:17 pm

Yeah shill-master. You used to shill on WebmasterWorld and Mutts Cutts would take care of your spammy site if it lost rank.


09/09/2013 07:19 pm

I read about this case last week, and it's still rubbish. Who would link to sites in the 'S' section of an alphabar as a 'natural' link? Link to one or two levels up in the hierarchy, and I might consider that Google made a mistake. But in this case? No.


09/09/2013 07:27 pm

but google not will provide it. they call it "secret sauce"

Durant Imboden

09/09/2013 07:51 pm

Since when it is "shilling" to point out the obvious? And do you really think bitterness and using false identities are going to help you overcome your problems with Google? " it happens," to borrow a phrase from the bumper sticker in the TV-edited version of FORREST GUMP. If your entire world is going to come crashing down because a person or an algorithm misread one link, then maybe you need to figure out what you're doing wrong.


09/09/2013 08:08 pm

Maybe Google should just devalue links like they used to instead of penalizing websites. It's pretty clear their ability to detect natural links is imperfect, yet those imperfections manifest themselves in good businesses letting staff go/closing because of Google's mistakes. How terrible this is.

Morgan Akchehirlian

09/09/2013 08:18 pm

Google=transparency.Did Google ever supplied specific reason for any Application rejection?

Durant Imboden

09/09/2013 10:53 pm

Google probably devalues all kinds of iffy or likely-to-be-worthless links (such as links in forum signatures), but if they simply ignored paid links and other flagrant violations of the Google Webmaster Guidelines, they'd need an anti-spam team bigger than the population of Texas. The solution isn't to let spammers run wild, it's to lower the misidentification rate.


09/10/2013 01:48 am

It could be time to storm the gates at google, get all the webmasters together and picket the entrance at headquarters, who want to go and protest so they can't even drive in their parking lot.


09/10/2013 02:21 am

The irony: Google used to use DMOZ listings in their own directory prior to its shutdown two years ago.

wheel turning

09/10/2013 05:26 am

Google is desperate to still increase CPC on Adwords so they are penalizing non-advertisers, forcing (some) of) them to advertise. Brands already advertise so they are left alone. This is a shakedown, extortion attempt and nothing else. Matt Cutts & Co know this and that's why you see no sites recovering any traffic, it would hurt Google's earnings.

Renaissance man

09/10/2013 05:53 am

yeah it's hard to understand what they are trying to do when you have a site selling medieval clothing and your domain name happens to be just that and you only have a few backlinks from relevant sites - no keyword overloading or whatever they call it - and they devalue your site from a top 10 site down to about the 100th page. just because what we happen to sell is contained in our domain name.

Sushi Digital

09/10/2013 07:10 am

This must be new Google employee hired to evaluate websites quality.


09/10/2013 07:40 am

Hey Barry, Why your site is not listed on Dmoz? Did not you ever tried to make it list there?or they rejected your appeal?or you personally consider this site of no-value?


09/10/2013 09:14 am

Yet another example of how Google have jumped in far to hard on combating spammy links without real thought about the process. Many sites are being penalized which should not be and even in cases where they should be penalized are being far to harsh when the webmasters want to clean up their link profiles. Google is a joke at the moment and upsetting a lot of people with this behavior. I know my MD has asked the question should we remove the adwords budget and only spend on Bing/Yahoo. I know a lot of people who are so upset by their actions they refuse to use Google anymore also. Personally think if they carry on the way they are they will lose what they have very quickly, they need to stop acting like they own the internet and fast.

Barry Schwartz

09/10/2013 09:20 am

I have no idea.


09/10/2013 09:22 am

nly 13% believe DMOZ links matter


09/10/2013 09:24 am

I do not understand Barry. You have no idea why they reject your listing request or anything else?Please share with us. I have seen hundreds of crap SEOs are listed on Dmoz. Your one is so old and great.


09/10/2013 09:29 am

You are probably right.


09/10/2013 09:46 am

Personally don't think they have any real value anymore anyway, but at the same time its somewhat unfair to have it as a penalty trigger when years ago it was something which was advised to have by Google. This is my issue with the whole unatural links penalty, they are penalizing you for something which was done years ago and they have changed their policy since. The government don't changes laws then back date convictions for actions taken prior to the changes so why do Google think its ok to do the equivalent?


09/10/2013 09:49 am

Barry, are you there?

Barry Schwartz

09/10/2013 09:49 am

I don't know. I don't care.


09/10/2013 09:51 am

You do not care about Dmoz listing?Or you do not care answering us your views about it.

Barry Schwartz

09/10/2013 09:53 am

I do not care if I have a dmoz listing.


09/10/2013 09:57 am

I know that. You get lots of attention from a lot of great places. I respect your work. But I think you have a soft spot for not getting a Dmoz listing. I mean the way you reacted to my harmless questions. By the way, do you have any idea about how they list at Dmoz. There are so many average sites listed there but not mine(though it's a old and quality site). I will appreciate your answer.

Barry Schwartz

09/10/2013 09:59 am

Are you sure it's not there in dmoz?

Yo Mamma

09/10/2013 05:01 pm

Because many just used the disavow toll without discretion, Google is now under the impression that many good domains are spam domains. Google used the disavow tool database to evaluate spam back link sources. I guess thats yet another #googlefail


09/11/2013 06:35 am

Yes sir. I think so.


09/11/2013 08:37 am

Many might of but that is Google's problem if they are going to use that data they need to monitor it closer to ensure that's not happening if the best known directory and something that was recommended to have is now in the list of bad links how are we supposed to even start to understand what Google even wants here? We started of quite conservative on removing links and now are at the point we have virtually no links at all left due to having to include more and more in the removal list and disavow list, so now by this point we have got rid of good and bad links, natural and unnatural links. Thankfully we don't rely on Google organic traffic and never have unlike some companies out there, so this has had little to no effect on us other than extra work to try and remove a penalty I feel we should never of had. Traffic from Google has hardly changed as we never had that much from them anyway. Google clearly don't have a clue how to deal with this issue correctly at the expense of every web master in the world as it stands, even if your the lucky one who has not been hit by a penalty yet expect one soon for sum dumb reason or another.


09/12/2013 08:44 am

If advertising is a 100 year blip then search engines is a 10 year blip and that'll be why Google hasn't really improved and is now grabbing as much PPC earning as they can before they have to remove natural listings and have ad only listings. When Google gets more expensive than TV and newspaper advertising the brands will head back there as they need ROI and Google is very close to not offering that any more

Admiral America

09/13/2013 07:59 pm

I really think this whole silly unnatural links things is about Google consolidating their power, and destroying competition while in general destroying as many sites as possible for their corporate buddies. The dream of Internet 2 is only for a handful of websites owned by the mega corporations to exist. Google also has strong influence in the government where there is a push to stifle free speech as installation of a police state takes place. How are just about all the links on Google not unnatural links but those on other peoples search engines, small ones in particular, are unnatural? What's next? Walmart calls every other store unnatural, and we should only shop with them?

Gracious Store

09/16/2013 04:55 am

It is good if Google admits to making a mistake in labeling a natural link as unnatural


09/16/2013 08:06 am

Aha Barry, you have listed your site to Dmoz ! Great!

Shai Aharony

09/22/2013 10:53 am

" I wonder if it was a newbie Googler who didn't know what DMOZ was or a typo of some sorts." I stopped believing that the majority of "Manual Penalties" are really manual years ago. I strongly believe these examples are generated algorithmically rather than a person manually selecting them. This is just one example of this.


10/29/2013 07:16 am

Looks good. I wish that major search engines ignored these once amazing directories that turned corrupt and only in their own interest. Just let DMOZ die -- we don't need them anymore so no more weight should be put on them.

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