Legit Guest Blog Post Leads To Google Manual Action, Says Site Owner

Feb 8, 2024 - 7:31 am 8 by

Google Robots Writing Handcuffs

Over the past few days the SEO industry has been chattering it up about how a site received a Google Search manual action for unnatural links for a "legit guest blog" post. But when you look, this manual action only affected "some pages," not the whole site.

Niche Site Lady posted on X, "Google hit me with a manual action for 'unnatural links'. I never bought a link. The example they gave was a legit guest post from years ago (I've only ever done about 5 of these)." She shared this screenshot of this manual action:

Google Unnatural Links

I found it interesting that someone received a manual action for links, because I rarely see people posting about these manual actions anymore on social.

But most people found it interesting that a "legit guest blog post" resulted in this manual action. Truth is, she did say she only did like five of these in the history of her site. You'd think five would not result in a manual action.

In any event, Marie Haynes, who did a ton of manual action recovery projects back in the day, dug into this:

She wrote, and I'll quote:

I haven't reviewed this manual action case but it is really interesting to me.

Here's why.

NSL got a manual action for unnatural links. She says she has no paid links, just a small handful of guest posts.

From 2013 to 2017 or so, all I did was remove manual actions. Hundreds of them.

At one point I hired 20 of my friends and we all sat in my dining room manually auditing links one by one nonstop. Our goal was to classify them so that we could make strategies and decide what it is that Google wanted removed.

In 2013 the links that were causing manual actions were the type Google is good at ignoring today... Keyword anchored links in directories like 'BestLinkDirectory', and Ezine Article type sites. Remember ArticlesBase?

Then eventually we saw no more manual actions with links like that because Google's systems figured out how to neutralize them.

Next, we saw a wave of sites being penalized likely because of widget links. Like, here's a tool you can embed, and by the way, it links back to our site.

Again, you don't see people building widget links like we used to a decade ago because the algorithms figured out how to stop valuing them.

By 2020, the majority of sites we helped had in article links that at first glance look completely natural. When you see the patterns, it became obvious that there was a pattern of getting links inserted in articles to manipulate rankings.

For the last few years I have seen very little talk of manual actions. Google still gave them out and occasionally people reached out to me but it wasn't like before.

This week I've heard of a few cases of new manual actions. If this one truly is for guest post links (doesn't matter if they were paid, they were made to manipulate rankings), then my bet is that we are soon going to see declines in rankings for many sites that have thrived on guest post linking as Google systems get even better at learning which links truly represent recommendations.

Every time I write something about guest post links, there are a ton of questions. If you Google my name plus "guest post links" I have written loads on this over the years.

The arguments are usually: -They're not unnatural if not paid. Honestly, would you have made these links if not for the SEO value?

-I could just point links at my competitor then and get them penalized. The thing is, it's not the links themselves that get sites penalized. It's the patterns that are consistent with building links to manipulate rankings. Google has many years of experience in identifying patterns of Link manipulation.

-Isn't all link building unnatural then? It's not unnatural to tell people about your site and invite them to link. In fact, Google recommends it. Where it becomes a problem is when the motivation to link back is more for SEO purposes than because you truly thought your audience would find this helpful.

This caught the eye of Google's John Mueller who responded on LinkedIn saying, "It's been a decade," and linked to Matt Cutts, former Google search spam man, post named The decay and fall of guest blogging for SEO. John added, "the funny thing is that alot of what Matt has said a decade ago still applies today when it comes to Google Search, would you agree with that?"

Basically, John is saying this was part of some sort of guest blog network, which is not what the blogger was saying about. I mean, that is what Cutts spoke about in that blog post, how Google penalzied these guest blog networks. In 2014, Cutts also said guest blogging is dead, stick a fork in it.

In any event, have you seen legit content get hit by manual actions from Google?

Forum discussion at X and LinkedIn.


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