My Google Reconsideration Request For Removing Paid Links

Apr 16, 2013 • 9:03 am | comments (91) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

Google Webmaster ToolsOn Friday I announced that I nofollowed my paid links after several years of being a stubborn blogger. I promised more details on the reconsideration request and the traffic results from Google.

Here I will share the reconsideration request details and in a follow up post later this week, I will share my Google Analytics.

On Thursday, April 4, 2013 I submitted a reconsideration request. I basically notified Google that all my paid links on my web site were now nofollowed. I then waited.

On Tuesday, April 9, 2013 I received the response. The response was "No manual spam actions found." What? I wasn't penalized for selling links manually? Was it automated? I got one of those generic emails saying no manual action was on my site but you may be impacted by an algorithmic one or maybe a technical issue with your site.

I was 100% confident I had a manual penalty, so I decided to email Google's head of search spam, Matt Cutts.

He told me I was right, that I did have a manual penalty. He said that the manual penalty expired, yes manual penalties expire, 21 days ago on or around Wednesday, March 20, 2013. I wasn't shocked to hear that. On that date, I believe my PageRank jumped up from a 3 or 4 to a 6 or 7. This has happened a few times since I had a manual penalty and I chalked that up to being an expiration of the penalty. Often within 30 days of the expiration, the penalty was re-applied and my PageRank jumped back down.

Was it just PageRank that was hurt or was my rankings hurt? While I won't share statistics right now, let me share what Matt Cutts told me.

The webspam team had noticed the upcoming expiration of the manual webspam action on and had prepared another incident regarding and the sites buying links from The scheduled webspam action was considerably stronger than the previous action we had applied. However, since you've added rel=nofollow to the paid links, it's no longer necessary for us to check in that incident.

You see, Google was preparing to slap my site with a harsher penalty for not just my site but the other sites who paid for links on my web site. So my rankings and the sponsor's rankings may have been seriously impacted, according to Matt.

Matt also said explained what may happen if I ever again sell links that pass PageRank:

If we see new paid links that pass PageRank on, I would expect us to take stronger action than we have in past because of the repeated violations of our quality guidelines.

So in short, I did have a manual penalty but at the time I removed the paid links from passing PageRank, that manual penalty expired. If I did not remove it, the penalty would have been back shortly and been harsher going forward.

In a couple days I will share the traffic from my Google Analytics reports. So stay tuned.

Forum discussion continued at Google+.

My Site's Penalty: Three/Four Part Series Post:

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04/16/2013 01:17 pm

Oh well it was fun watching you be stubborn Now it would be nice to know what the hell is happening with


04/16/2013 01:20 pm

So Cutts just said that buying a link for my competitor will hurt them?

Andy Kinsey

04/16/2013 01:22 pm

no he said it will hurt the site hosting the links.

Jawad Latif

04/16/2013 01:23 pm

It will also hurt the one who is buying.

Barry Schwartz

04/16/2013 01:24 pm

Nothing, it is fine.


04/16/2013 01:27 pm

0 PR is fine? ok but I still think it's weird.

Barry Schwartz

04/16/2013 01:27 pm

Traffic is fine, didn't know PR was 0.


04/16/2013 01:30 pm

Yeah Alexa seems good still but for some reason it says 0 PR and a week or so ago it was the dreaded ?. Probably some little thing you have overlooked somewhere on the site. You should get a SEO to have a look at it ;)


04/16/2013 01:36 pm

Pretty sure the TBPR of R.B. is currently registering as n/a (not "0"). It's odd because the site is both in Google's index and is also Google-cached. Might mean it's currently "under evaluation" - ?


04/16/2013 01:37 pm

Wow I think I just broke disqus? My comment above is coming up as guest?

Barry Schwartz

04/16/2013 01:38 pm

We recently switched to amazon web services.

Andy Langton

04/16/2013 01:39 pm

Pretty much: "...another incident regarding *and the sites buying links from*" Wish we could just bury the whole "links can't harm sites" argument. Why is there even a debate about it?


04/16/2013 01:40 pm

Google hates you because you went to Amazon? I have switched at least 20 sites (my own and clients) to AWS and never had this happen

Marie Haynes

04/16/2013 01:41 pm

Ah, now it makes sense why your PR jumped back up. This is very interesting. Now what I am wondering is if the webspam team revisits every site that has had a penalty expire (to see if they've cleaned up) or, if for most sites another spam report needs to be filed in order for the webspam team to re-evaluate.

Jereme Thomas

04/16/2013 01:44 pm

This would be frustrating for the average webmaster who does not have direct contact with Matt Cutts. You are told your site does not have a manual penalty (because it expired) so you go on your way only to be hit with another penalty weeks later. It would be more helpful is Google supplied some additional information for the webmaster. Like your site had a manual penalty for XYZ but it has expired.

Barry Schwartz

04/16/2013 01:45 pm

Maybe we did something wrong?


04/16/2013 01:45 pm

Yes he did.. read the article.


04/16/2013 01:46 pm

I'd think it was more likely that it's just "n/a - under evaluation" because a change in host was detected (it's a pretty big change) and will bounce back as long as nothing shady has been going on


04/16/2013 01:49 pm

Tell you what Barry I will send you over a contract. Just sign on the dotted line and I will get to work on the problem ;)

Barry Schwartz

04/16/2013 01:50 pm

Let me ask Matt. :)


04/16/2013 01:52 pm

What would he know? ;)


04/16/2013 01:53 pm

Agreed.It will hurt both parties.

Praveen Sharma

04/16/2013 01:56 pm

Barry, do you have any idea what was the exact duration of this manual penalty on SER which got expired?


04/16/2013 02:01 pm

Google team says "no manual penalty" and MC says "yes, there is manual penalty". Which is it? Does Google team know where to look? Or was this Matt Cutts' penalty over SERT? With all respect to you Barry and MC, I just don't believe they were going to apply stronger action. If this is how things work, then it's a mess extraordinaire. Someone mentioned above - little guy is helpless in a situation like this.

Barry Schwartz

04/16/2013 02:02 pm

Did you read what I wrote?

Barry Schwartz

04/16/2013 02:02 pm

I feel like a year or so, but I think it varies.


04/16/2013 02:11 pm

Google looks sooooo weak and even unprofessional in such links related stories. They send out alerts and penalties, they ban networks and brands, etc etc etc ... and what in the result ? Nothing. Same link building, just better hidden. When did the Penguin happen ? A year ago or even more ? Where is the Penguin 2 ? I can't believe, that the Google team, with all of the resources they have, need so long time frame for the next step. It seems, that Google is trapped by their own links based algorithms. Meanwhile SEOs are discussing on forums how to hide better their links activity.


04/16/2013 02:18 pm

Exactly. Confirmation from Google, at last, that sabotaging your competitor by buying links on their behalf works! It will harm them.


04/16/2013 02:18 pm

The answer you got from MC is something to be expected from webspam team. No manual penalty is not an answer. They could have told you "your penalty expired, there is another action coming up, but you added no follow and now you are fine". They haven't even confirmed they got your information which could prevent new upcoming penalty.

Tom Tom

04/16/2013 02:24 pm

Hey Barry - Very interested in seeing if you receive a traffic increase, as you know many webmaster removed their Manual Penalty but no increase in traffic? You have a more popular site and have direct contact with Cutts so I assume you will see a traffic increase, why haven't those that revoked their penalties seen any increase?


04/16/2013 03:06 pm

Barry, It's really disturbing that if you don't have the right connections, you are left in the dark. I for example have no way to reach out to Matt just to check my website situation.

Barry Schwartz

04/16/2013 03:10 pm

Well, it didn't matter. I didn't have a manual penalty.


04/16/2013 03:22 pm

But Matt's clarification helped you to understand that if there would be a next time... your penalty would be harder. In addition, you had a manual penalty that expired and you wouldn't know that without Matt's answer.

Barry Schwartz

04/16/2013 03:25 pm

Does that matter? I already removed it.


04/16/2013 03:30 pm

Yes, it does... now you wouldn't even consider it :-) BTW, is there any way the common webmaster can contact the webspam team? All I found are closed forms that do not suit my message for them.

Barry Schwartz

04/16/2013 03:35 pm

Yes, Google responds to these questions in public forums!forum/webmasters


04/16/2013 03:43 pm

Did I read it incorrectly when you stated that you didn't have a manual penalty (it had expired), but would again shortly (and worse so) if not for your adding the nofollow? I don't think his issue is with the exact situation as laid out by the blog post, but that confusing and not-really-helpful e-mails get sent out and those who recieve these are directed to Webmaster Central...while you are able to shoot an e-mail off to the head of the web spam team. If I am correct in my summary then I think the issue Assaf has is one of 'fairness', or maybe it would be more appropriate to call it 'access.' My opinions on earning access through years of involvement aside, I think that this is the issue Assaf is talking about. Or I am talking out of my arse, both seem probable...probably.


04/16/2013 03:45 pm

Fascinating... I'm looking forward to seeing the Analytics data.


04/16/2013 03:46 pm

Thanks. I wanted to have a more discrete message to them and not a public one.


04/16/2013 03:47 pm

Matt Cutts said that to everyone, using Barry. This is how PR works. You can't expect Matt Cutts will reply every question. Especially when most of the questions like this one are asked by former veterinarians, self proclaimed writers, sellers, etc ...

Martin Missfeldt

04/16/2013 03:50 pm

Thanks Barry for this story. Nice reading... Could I buy a link ;-)

Barry Schwartz

04/16/2013 03:51 pm

Why? Can't everyone learn from your site like they do from mine?


04/16/2013 04:01 pm

You are right that I'm talking about access in general and also yes about the fairness to have a two ways communication with Google. Just to make it clear, I have never received a message in my GWT for any of my sites BUT I do want to be able to communicate with Google.

Barry Schwartz

04/16/2013 04:04 pm


Barry Schwartz

04/16/2013 04:06 pm

I think it is a huge outlier to send in a reconsideration request during a penalty expiration period. This is an unusual case. Truth is, when I emailed Matt, I said - it looks like my penalty expired, so maybe the timing was off. It turned out I was right. So Matt didn't really tell me something I didn't suspect, he just confirmed it. Regarding a harsher penalty, well, that would be something I would not expect. But who knows if that would be felt or not...

Barry Schwartz

04/16/2013 04:07 pm

Maybe or maybe they quickly looked to see if there was a penalty and saw none and shot off a templated email?


04/16/2013 04:07 pm

Let me give you the scenario... I have a list of about 60 blogs (which seem like a network) pointing to my blog and also other blogs in my niche. These are pure spam which I have nothing to do with them. I don't know what they are trying to do. My concern is that they will cause a penalty if they haven't caused it already. I don't want to put the list into the public eye as I don't want to be a target to negative SEO. BTW, if you want to do a public service, I'll be happy to provide you the list ;-)

Barry Schwartz

04/16/2013 04:08 pm

This is not new. Buying links have caused sites to be penalized manually and even algorithmically (penguin).

Barry Schwartz

04/16/2013 04:10 pm

So to be frank, the only reason Matt responded to me is because I told him I will share the details on my blog. He didn't do it as a personal favor.


04/16/2013 04:33 pm

What would have happened if you were not the 'Barry' with direct access to Matt Cutts? Maybe after learning that you did not have a manual penalty you would have thought the Google has allowed you to sell?

Barry Schwartz

04/16/2013 04:34 pm

If I wouldn't have shared this with the public, Matt would not have sent me these details. You can get help yourself from Googlers in the Google Webmaster forums.

Sean Stewart

04/16/2013 04:38 pm

You should add one link to the section where you nofollowed the paid links and disregard the nofollow on just that one link. Let's see what happens to that website.


04/16/2013 04:42 pm

Agreed Matt knew that you will be sharing it on the site and the wide reach this will have. Its good that he did. But again its leaving things to chance rather than having a proper communication directly with site owners within the reconsideration request reply itself. They are doing a lot of but maybe this is one area for improvement which many have been seeking for long.

Rauf Arshad

04/16/2013 05:08 pm

Thats a wierd thing Barry Sir : how could your site will be hurt when it has more better classic post google should avoid penalties , But if they page rank then it means definatly there is little change in the search results ranking of your site , and now i am going to do the smae thing to make links nofollow to whom i give links after getting Paid


04/16/2013 05:29 pm

Barry, because there are SEO people working for major companies that would not want the exposure, especially from sites like this and basically avoid the Google forums like the plague. Remember Forbes and the new employee that went to the forums and you and everyone else had a field day, I know many people who read this website would not want to believe that big sites get penalties, but they do and the last thing they will ever do is go to the Google forums and ask for help. But it is true for small and big sites about the exposure, so I understand the need and desire for a more discrete communication channel.

Doc Sheldon

04/16/2013 06:37 pm

I've been anxiously waiting for this post, Barry, and imagined all sorts of interesting possibilities. But it never occurred to me that your site had recovered for any reason other than the nofollows you added. Talk about serendipity! Along the lines of a subsequent penalty being harsher: I wonder if that refers to depth, duration or both. I suspect it could well be both. So, you seem to think that RB is presently showing as unranked because of your recent relocation to Amazon? How long ago was that move?

Barry Schwartz

04/16/2013 06:38 pm

Doc it was around the same time of the PR downgrade I think.

Doc Sheldon

04/16/2013 06:42 pm

I would suspect that given Barry's reputation, his traffic is close to immune from being affected by his rankings. (he's notorious, doncha know?) ;)


04/16/2013 06:53 pm

Did you notice traffic decrease associated with the loss of PR? I noted below you mentioned Rusty got reset; however, traffic remain. What happened here?

Matt Cullen

04/16/2013 07:05 pm



04/16/2013 08:27 pm

Yes you are correct Barry, the link costed us our rankings aswell!!

Barry Schwartz

04/16/2013 08:36 pm


Guy E

04/16/2013 09:06 pm

Being one of your sponsors Barry; I sincerely appreciate the efforts you went to (even contacting Matt Cutts to get a defined answer).. and from saving our website from any harsh penalties. Kudos. :)


04/17/2013 12:24 am

glad to read this article i am facing a problem with my site and still waiting google to replay to my RR can u help Barry

Alan Smith

04/17/2013 06:04 am

I have a question is that as per a video of Matt Cutts : Google will not count backlinks from paid site as in website ranking factors Still I need to follow such steps for my site if it is penalized?

Ajaz Mirza

04/17/2013 06:19 am

Hi Barry, I've been following your paid links-penalty rant for quite some time and I just noticed that atleast one link (I know the site, but don't want to mention here) has been removed from your sidebar. Just wanted to know, does penalty on your site negatively impacted their site? Ajaz

David O'Donnell

04/17/2013 08:50 am

"so I decided to email Google's head of search spam, Matt Cutts." Must be nice to have a direct line to reach out to Matt - most of us don't have the luxury.

Barry Schwartz

04/17/2013 09:55 am

There is no penalty on my site. Did you read above.

Soni Sharma

04/17/2013 10:03 am

Question still link advertisers using keyword oriented anchor text in nofollow links why? I suggest they should use company or brand name in their paid links


04/17/2013 10:47 am

No penalty, because JUST IN TIME, Barry no-followed the links. As Matt explains, those sites would have been penalised if he had not done so.

Barry Schwartz

04/17/2013 10:48 am

I didn't know this before. Only after.


04/17/2013 10:50 am

There is no debate now. Matt Cutts has confirmed that paid links WILL harm the sites that are linked to. Confirmation that negative SEO will work :-(

Dave Fowler

04/17/2013 12:04 pm

Assaf, use the disavow tool, this is the type of scenario it was created for.


04/17/2013 07:19 pm

Maybe you can do a piece on all the crap-talk from some of the forums TC's that simply make fun of ignorant webmasters. Lysis I think is a good example of this.


04/18/2013 06:25 am

Google never spare anyone on Paid links. I am confused that if manual penalty has specific duration which expires automatically after some period. If Yes then what's that specific period.


04/18/2013 06:53 am

One Indian company whose link was removed is still ranking. So, no penalty was passed. And i am sure, thinking of Barry reputation, he must have informed all the advertisers about Matt's reply. Fearing the penalty, the company must have preferred to remove the links instead of being nofollowed.

Dixit Dhinakran

04/18/2013 07:04 am

I can't understand

Gregory Smith

04/18/2013 11:45 am

:) Pay Google!

Gregory Smith

04/18/2013 11:46 am

It's very easy to contact matt cutts... He has a Twitter account you bums!

Dave Naylor

04/18/2013 02:20 pm

I have to LOL at all the people moaning about the direct connection you have with Matt.. top tip go a to a conference meet Googlers ask them for help


04/18/2013 04:38 pm

you must be lucky. I tried for but it didn't work yet.


04/19/2013 11:13 am

Thanks to Matt, and to Barry to share this post with us.. Came to Learn That Manual Penalty also expires.. From the comments i have learned, every one is saying barry, that he have connections. Most of the webmasters who have the connection's won't write in public about their incident. Its good that Barry have wrote a post, so must of us can learn. Thanks Once Again.. Keep Up the good work Barry

Andy Langton

04/19/2013 05:40 pm

Expect the debate to continue, as it has in the face of all evidence thus far ;)

Barry Schwartz

04/19/2013 09:50 pm

Yea, seriously.


04/20/2013 05:16 pm

Dave, I thought about using the disavow tool but I think it is far from fairness that Google asks us to make any effort to clean links that we had nothing to do with their creation. Furthermore, I think that the specific links I'm talking about could give Google an insight for a scheme that they should fight as part of their algo.

Nathaniel Bailey

04/23/2013 03:35 pm

I did a reconsideration request for a domain I had a directory on and got a reply saying I had "No manual spam actions found", so how do I contact Mr Cutts to ask him if my site had lost its PR for not using nofollow on some links/advertising? It would be nice for google to let us know if the PR of a site was removed by them as some point for this, but they don't look at past problems, just what's in front of them now, so now I have to spend more time working out why my site went from PR2 to N/A a few weeks back! FYI - I checked back links and none seem to have lost value/PR, and I have also now decided to change the site from a directory to another unique content site as I feel the directory has seen its best days and would be better spent as a well managed content site for others to submit unique guest posts :)


04/26/2013 03:23 pm

Maybe he can do a piece on the thousands of webmasters who come in without a bad attitude and who are actually looking for help that get extremely polite and useful responses from Lysis.....


04/26/2013 03:26 pm

Yes it will hurt you if you are caught buying a no-followed link, you won't be hurt if someone links to you. Those penalties are only going to be applied where Google is sure the site itself purchased the links to it. In the case of this site, I guess Google is fairly sure that Barry would be putting up links to people just to hurt them. Also the hurt might just have been the complete devaluation of the links from this site to them, we just don't know.


06/16/2013 06:34 am

Have gone through our site and made some changes to advertisers banners with nofollow. My question is we never had any warnings in GWT so I presume we don't need to send reconsideration request. Not sure if we got penalised but I think we could have so if this is a manual penalty would we just wait for it to expire?

Spook SEO

11/27/2013 09:36 am

Hi Barry, My friend is also having trouble with this penalty. I recommended to him to submit a reconsideration request. It seems that he’s really confused because he never expected that he’s going to be hit by the latest algorithm updates. Right now, I’m helping him and I hope we could resolve this sooner. Thanks for the tip!

William John

01/13/2014 06:04 pm

I have went through the same but still could not gain back my rankings or traffic, still in a jinx

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