Update: Google Manual Action Penalties Target Free Product Reviews

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Google’s manual action against unnatural links was directly linked with the warning Google sent out at the beginning of April – relating to bloggers giving out links for free products.

Google sent out penalties to a number of sites for using unnatural outbound links at the beginning of April 2016. The penalties sent out were issued by the Google manual actions team, and were issued specifically for sites using unnatural outbound links to manipulate Search engine results pages. It has now been confirmed that the penalties issued targeted bloggers who went against Googles Guidelines.

On 11 March, 2016, Google published an article on the webmaster blog covering the new guidelines for bloggers carrying out free product reviews. The article states that bloggers must use the ‘nofollow’ tag on links to the companies’ site, mobile app, or social media accounts. The reason for this being that the companies PageRank will increase significantly due to the unnatural outbound link on the bloggers’ website or social media channels. After allowing bloggers a month to add nofollow tags to appropriate links, Google decided to take action upon those who failed to comply.

Googles’ John Mueller announced who the penalties were aimed at, in a comment on the Google support forums:

In particular, if a post was made because of a free product (or free service, or just paid, etc.), then any links placed there because of that need to have a rel=nofollow attached to them. This includes links to the product itself, any sales pages (such as on Amazon), affiliate links, social media profiles, etc. that are associated with that post. Additionally, I imagine your readers would also appreciate it if those posts were labelled appropriately. It’s fine to keep these kinds of posts up, sometimes there’s a lot of useful information in them! However, the links in those posts specifically need to be modified so that they don’t pass PageRank (by using the rel=nofollow).

Once these links are cleaned up appropriately, feel free to submit a reconsideration request, so that the webspam team can double-check and remove the manual action.

Need more guidance on Google’s guidelines on unnatural outbound link. Read our news post Google Penalises Unnatural Outbound Links.

For more information on the new blogger Guidelines read our guide to reviewing free products according to Google’s regulations.

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