Automated Tools For Manual Google Penalties

Aug 5, 2013 • 9:08 am | comments (31) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

link detoxA month ago we asked Do Link Tools Help Find Your Really Toxic Links? The results were not awesome but I figured I keep looking and give it another shot.

Googler Aaseesh called out another link that is causing a site to have a penalty in the Google Webmaster Help forums. So I ran the site with Majestic SEO and downloaded all the backlinks that tool discovered. It did find the link in question in the thread.

So then I ran that report through Link Research Tool's Link Dtox tool and it showed that the specific link called out by Google as being a paid link was actually a "Very Low Risk" link according to the tool.

If you look at the specific page with the link on it in question, it does look like a paid article.

Google's Aaseesh said in the thread:

For example, on, there is a link to that looks like it may be a paid advertisement without preventing search engines from following the link.

When you can confirm that backlinks to your site are no longer unnatural, you can file a reconsideration request.

So can automated tools really help with manual Google penalties? I'll keep testing as these public scenarios come up.

Forum discussion at Google Webmaster Help.

Previous story: August 2013 Google Webmaster Report



08/05/2013 04:40 pm

Barry, thanks for this insight. I'm interested in hearing which qualities made you think " does look like a paid article." Just generally curious.


08/05/2013 05:43 pm

The tools can help, sure. But they won't find them all. What's neglected in this post and maybe the source question is the context of links and adverts. There are millions of sites that get away with selling links that are never busted - because they're smart. Now, putting a list of links under "Sponsors" or "Advertisements", and being in shared space with links that are already in bad-health via Google's eyes could point Google in that direction as well. I've said it for years and I'll say it again. It's not just the link that is in question. It's the context and intent, IMHO.


08/05/2013 05:47 pm

There is an article I wrote called 'when link audits go wrong', posted on our blog. Which goes into detail about how to really find toxic links using the best tools out there. This is a comon issue but I'm confident out tools would have called it.

Matt Dimock

08/05/2013 07:31 pm

I headed the link recovery team at National Positions for a year following the wrath of Penguin, and was successful in lifting well over 15 manual actions. In my opinion, and based off of my in depth experience and knowledge of the manual penalties, tools are ABSOLUTELY necessary. Will the provide an end-all solution for your specific needs? Most definitely not. After all, the tools are only as good as the SEO using them. ;^)

Guy E

08/05/2013 10:26 pm

Tools can only do so much; as Matt Dimock mentioned: "tools are only as good as the SEO using them" - nothing could be more true. Just because the tool says it's "low risk", doesn't mean it would pass a manual review; go and check them out, if it looks like that link has been placed purposefully, chances are it could do more damage than good.

Peter Watson

08/06/2013 02:33 am

Link detox price are crazy! And now that there are question marks over the quality of this tool, He won't be squeezing anymore cash out of me.

Peter Watson

08/06/2013 02:33 am

I can also see the links are followed, but they do not have optimized anchors, so why would Google see these as paid? Simply because they are followed? If yes, then all links should be nofollowed!


08/06/2013 04:36 am

Google has already told the world, optimized anchors are treated as cheating the algorithm to gain SERP boost for that specific Anchor in last months hangout. Now it is also flagging a signal to the URLs that is mentioned without a nofollow, is also being treated as spam. I think google is trying to acquire more website owners for its Adwords otherwise there is no logic behind the flagging a URL without Optimized Anchor as SPAM.

Peter Watson

08/06/2013 04:38 am

So can someone show us what a safe, natural link looks like?


08/06/2013 04:39 am

Any tool itself is useless if you don't know how to use them. What actually matters is knowledge and experience. If you have knowledge and experience you can utilize the tool in a great way.

Peter Watson

08/06/2013 05:02 am

But if this tool is highlighting toxic links as 'very low risk', then it has no use. My point is, if you have to manually go through bot low risk and high risk links, then its useless.......

Stefano Gorgoni

08/06/2013 08:32 am

If tools are supposed to substitute SEOs, then yes, they are useless... and they always be (hopefully, otherwise we'll all change job!). If tools are supposed to help SEOs, then they can be useful. And Link Detox IS useful. Just study how the risk level is assessed, and then know how it can help.

Radiance Conseil

08/06/2013 11:57 am

Completely agree. Not agreeing with this is nonsense.


08/06/2013 11:59 am

google not have any logic. just "we need to ban all sites in the world". $$$ cash cow

Radiance Conseil

08/06/2013 11:59 am

Then what's the point in having such a (expensive) tool if you have to manually control all of them? All the more so as on some sites you have hundreds of thousands links, it's not realistic to check them all.

Radiance Conseil

08/06/2013 12:03 pm

You're simply pretending you're a good SEO, not that the tool is reliable, efficient, really useful and worth its value.

Link Juice

08/06/2013 12:57 pm

Do you really need a tool to tell you a blatant advertorial as tenuous as that might be iffy?!

Matt Dimock

08/06/2013 08:03 pm

@RaDiance_Conseil:disqus: I think you missed the point of my comment completely, nor do I see how stating my experience with link recovery was me "pretending to be a good SEO?" Barry asked, "So can automated tools really help with manual Google penalties?", and I'm pretty sure my comment answered his question. And the comment from @guy_e:disqus makes me think my answer was sufficient. Unless your only purpose was to attempt to instigate an argument online, I suggest you think twice next time before speaking up.

Matt Dimock

08/06/2013 08:10 pm

Link Research Tools is not an end-all tool, but their tools do help automate tasks that alone could be a full time job for any person (such as collecting all of the quality metrics like they do). It's the job of the SEO to take that gathered data and derive actionable insight from it. Again, the tools are only as good as the SEO. You'd expect a software company like Link Research Tools to just jump in the game and create a set of tools that could solve all of your unnatural linking problems? If that's the case, then you're definitely underestimating the genius of the people that drive Google behind the scenes.


08/06/2013 09:46 pm

I didn't miss anything at all. I suggest you think twice before taking people for fools ;-)


08/06/2013 09:49 pm

Tools are not as good as the SEO, unless you mean "as good as the SEO who's behind its conception"? It would then make sense. If Link Research Tools had called real SEO experts when conceiving their tool, it would be efficient and reliable today. In its actual state, it's just useless and won't save time at all to SEO professionals.


08/06/2013 10:08 pm

After a WMT email and manual penalty the only way I found to get the manual action removed was to go through the links one by one and judge its own merit. It was hard but getting that manual penalty removed is very important.

Matt Dimock

08/06/2013 10:23 pm

"If Link Research Tools had called real SEO experts when conceiving their tool, it would be efficient and reliable today." - this has to be one of the most ignorant statements I have ever heard. Have you even used any of the tools? Even with that aside, what makes you so sure they didn't consult with SEO experts, let alone have SEO experts on their team? And even if they didn't, you think this tool as it stands today will be AS helpful next year? Of course not - because the search engine algorithms are ever-evolving, and as such, so must be the tools. I could go on for days ranting about your ignorant arrogance, but I won't because you're just a fart in the wind - there one sour minute, and gone the next.


08/06/2013 10:35 pm

Bla bla bla, bla bla bla, bla bla bla...

Guy E

08/06/2013 11:31 pm

I think you have missed the point entirely. The tools are there to collect data, the data is then analysed and the tool then give it's perception on the data collected. It's an automated process; and whilst it's definitely a great thing, at times it can be at our own detriment if we're stupid enough not to go over certain metrics. If you're "any good" at SEO; you would know that data is our biggest ally - and if you analyse data incorrectly, or rely on a tool that could have interpreted data incorrectly, you are a fool.

Guy E

08/06/2013 11:33 pm

Expensive or not doesn't matter - it's how you use the data that it's collected. Even though the tool analyses the data itself, a "good SEO" would take that data, look through it and analyse specific data sets manually. As I mentioned in another comment, data is an SEOs biggest ally in tackling the top spot - if you solely rely on the data that an automated tool collects & interprets, I would recommend finding a new profession.


08/06/2013 11:45 pm

I think you're missing the point entirely. I'm using tools, of course. But what I'm saying is we can't rely on this tool to separate the wheat from the chaff. Why ? Because, like Matt suggested above, it's very far from being as complex as Google's algos / filters. Thus, it doesn't bring anything more than Majestic or ahrefs in this process of "links evaluation". Thus it's useless. What is not useless is analyze datas, cross them, put your own recipe of experience and make a decision. But as far as I have seen with these tools, they give very fancy results. Not reliable, not profesionnal, useless if you already have other links tools and a better understanding of SEO than these tools show (and / or those who coded their algos ?).

Guy E

08/06/2013 11:49 pm

Wow, way to repeat exactly what we've been saying this entire time, to a degree.


08/06/2013 11:54 pm

That's not what my banker is suggesting me and for a good reason: we're not talking about using datas in this job, are you seriously following the conversation? We're talking about one specific tool whose results are not reliable (thus useless if, like most SEO's, you have other tools to detail and analyze your backlinks).

Matt Dimock

08/07/2013 04:42 am

Yep. Paraphrased as best she could. Anyway, I agree - it's all in the data. The more data you have to work with, the better. Link Research Tools is expensive, vut there tools do pull a lot of useful data. I personally loved the competitive landscape analysis report, as it is a great way to show clients WHY they must change up their anchor text profile. I eventually developed my own system for identifying unnatural links though using custom macro's ran against links identified within Google Webmaster Tools and Majestic SEO, and I saw about a 20% success rate within about 8 months of link recovery (some clients as soon as 2 months).

Christoph C. Cemper

08/11/2013 12:58 pm

Hey everyone, I'm creator of Link Research Tools and Link Detox. Thanks Barry for bringing this up! I agree that this specific case is very interesting for us also. This is the FIRST case I find where those examples do not refer to outright spammy stuff. We were runnning & fine-tuning Link Detox for over a year now, and also thanks to a lot of user-feedback, user-ratings we collect in the tool which helps us improve and finetune this. We also collect samples like this directly in the software to further finetune it, and I'm certain that we will be able to solve cases like this as well very soon. From what I heard, there's not a single product out there that calls this links problematic, so I guess we're up onto some changes. As many commenters below outlined, our software doesn't claim to solve all your SEO problems for a couple dollars. Nobody can do this, and my philiosophy and recommendation (even directly in the tool) was always that you would need to review results before acting upon them. We're working with a lot of certified LRT professionals, and this example also caused controversy in our closed group as some people find this link quite OK, or at last edgy. Anyways, you bringing this up and value all the feedback. While this is only ONE example of a link graph being a false-negative I take it very serious and will make sure we'll improve our product further, as we did for the past 4 years. Best, Christoph

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