Google's Targeted Penalty Webmaster Tools Notification

Apr 9, 2013 • 9:04 am | comments (12) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

Google Notification of Granular Link ActionA WebmasterWorld thread has a webmaster sharing a notification message he received via Google Webmaster Tool. The interesting part is that this notification is very specific that although the site has a penalty, the penalty is only being applied to a specific page or section of his site.

Google said the penalty is "very targeted action to reduce trust in the unnatural links," but not in the other links pointing to the site. Google said they took "very targeted action" because they know these "links may be outside of your control" and thus don't want to penalize you for that.

Google did add that they "recommend removing any unnatural links to your site" and when you do, you are recommended to "submit a reconsideration request."

This is the first time I've seen someone post a webmaster tools message of a penalty with this type of language.

We do know that Google does often take very targeted and granular action on sites, as to not impact the whole site or all the links. This came up recently with the BBC penalty and has come up before.

Have you seen this message?

Personally, I think this is great because the previous penalty notifications were never that specific and webmasters went overboard to remove all links pointing to their sites. Hence the disavow tool.

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

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Marie Haynes

04/09/2013 01:20 pm

This is the same type of message that was spread widely in July 2012. Many people felt that you could ignore that message if you got it. However, if you get this message and soon after you see a ranking or traffic drop, then you do need to take some action. If you got the message and there was no yellow caution sign next to it in your Webmaster tools, and you don't see a ranking drop, then the best course of action is to do nothing. Otherwise, I would treat it as a regular unnatural links message.


04/09/2013 01:32 pm

I've seen these messages as recently as Monday. I would have appreciated Google mentioning the specific links that they were devaluing and personally I'm unclear as to why I need to submit a reconsideration request if the action is only against the links, not the page.


04/09/2013 01:34 pm

Also, Google doesn't "recommend" a reconsideration request, they simply state that it is an option. "If you are able to remove any of the links, you can submit a reconsideration request, including the actions that you took."

Josh Zehtabchi

04/09/2013 01:58 pm

It sounds like if you're able to make some action, THEN file a request. If you're unable to take action then it would appear to void the latter need for a reconsider request. Just my 2 cents.


04/09/2013 02:34 pm

Usually huge algos provide results based on averages. Most probably it would take too much resources to mention specific links. Even Google is limited in resources )


04/09/2013 05:00 pm

Up to now Google has only 2 different unnatural link warnings: A harsher and a less harsher one. People often tend to neglect these 2 messages, but they are quite important. The third one will most probably be the best to receive. Time will tell.

Casey Markee, MBA

04/09/2013 05:45 pm

I'm going to disagree. If you compare the note in the WW thread above to the notes sent out last July they aren't the same. This most recent warning actually has the remarked upon new snippet which stands out noticeably: "As a result, for this specific incident we are taking very targeted action to reduce trust in the unnatural links." Now, this is NOT a new notice. It's been out for awhile. However it is DIFFERENT from the notices sent out en masse last July. You can compare the wordings yourself by viewing Barry's text snippets above to the original notices covered in this SEW article from last Summer:

Marie Haynes

04/09/2013 07:12 pm

Interesting. I had to read it again to see. The warning is ever so slightly different this time. In July, there were warnings sent out and then, because those warnings were confusing, new ones got sent out a day or two later. These new ones contained this text: "As a result, for this specific incident we are taking very targeted action on the unnatural links instead of your site as a whole. " The new warnings that I've heard of a few people getting this week say, "As a result, for this specific incident we are taking very targeted action to reduce trust in the unnatural links." Otherwise the rest of the message is the same. So, the only difference is that now they say they are reducing the trust of the unnatural links where previously they said they were taking targeted action on those links. My opinion is that this is the same message, but that they just tamed the wording down a little bit so that people don't freak out. I would still say that if you haven't seen a drop in rankings then there is no need to worry. But, if the rankings do drop then there's probably something that needs to be done.


04/10/2013 12:52 am

I'm curious to know - do they say what page or section of the site has been affected? If not, then it's a bit silly.


04/10/2013 06:50 am

I agree with Kyle. Anyway nice post.

Emma North

04/10/2013 08:17 am

I saw a similar message arrive on a WMT account last year. It is good to know that Google understand that some rubbish links are outside the control of webmasters and aren't penalising sites as a whole for having them. However, I still believe Google could give us more to work with when cleaning up link profiles. If a site has a few dozen links it's easy to review them all and get rid of unnatural ones but if sites have thousands of links it would be a real help to know where to look! After submitting several disavows and reconsideration requests for one account, we finally got an email with an example link, giving us a much better idea of the dodgy links we were missing. Why not share that information to start with?


04/18/2013 07:06 am

"links may be outside of your control" Means that they (Google) admit that they "attacked" sites that could not defend themselves.

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