Google Penalty: No get out of Jail Free card

Life is going along in the flow. Paid work is coming in. Prayers are being answered. Whack! Suddenly an email appears from Google with a warning. Google Penalty: no get out of jail free card!

As a blogger online for years with minimal negative experience of the Google changing algorithms, even seeing the phrase, Unnatural outbound links, can momentarily raise the normal heartbeat.

When I saw the email the first emotion that hit me was confusion. Talk about stress. Google’s links in a penalty notice are anything but transparent! Oh, it’s clearly stated but they give you quite little to go on. You have to behave like both Christopher Columbus exploring new worlds, and Sherlock Holmes asking many questions.

Then, I found a video with Matt Cutts, Google’s main liaison with webmasters, saying Google is “trying to be more transparent.” You know what Star Wars character Yoda says about trying?

“Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

Transparency? Yep; Google is not. Oh there are some hints for you but, you are pretty much going to have to navigate, question and for me, in the end, hire a pro to get the Google Penalty removed.

Here’s my story, and I stick to it.

1 – Google good intentions

If Google means to serve people up with links to valuable content, not spam, it certainly does the general public well. But I find it difficult to picture in my mind a Google employee sitting in some cubicle in their California offices, or other locations, looking at each website.

Nope. In this technological age there is enough automation to power give Columbus a powerboat for his explorations. So Google crawls with their Googlebot and looks at words, tags, and every kind of content you might be able to think about. Using whatever their algorithm of the season is for ranking the billions of pages it finds for a search, voila, your site is either blessed or cursed.

Then, in a borderline bullying way, if it’s the curse, you end up in the quicksand and hope they will throw you a rope, that is, an answer to your question.

Start pulling on the rope.

2 – Google Webmaster Tools

Not being one to like to easily turn over my blog to anyone, including my webmaster, the search for colleagues experienced in maneuvering this started.

LinkedIn was my first go to although, it didn’t give me the depth of information to manage the situation.

Then on locating a Google Webmaster forum to discuss these penalties and how to maneuver your blog or website back to Google’s good blessings, there was an end in sight.

3 – Easy and not so easy Google penaltyGoogle penalty unnatural outbound links

Someone on the Webmaster forum told me, “The kind of penalty you have is one of the easier ones to fix.” We each can control links FROM our site so that made sense.

The suggestion was made that any outbound link should be made “nofollow.”

If that isn’t contrary to helping to build SEO for any of us, I don’t know what is.

The question I had to keep asking, “what is unnatural?” According to Google could be a paid link, meaning Google thinks you are selling links to get Page Rank.

This even includes Blogger Guest websites like one I belong to, MyBlogGuest. Coincidentally, the day before I got my Unnatural outbound links, Google penalized MyBlogGuest and Tweeted about it.


Actually digging further, any outbound links that look like you are using links to places like Twitter, Facebook and the like to get Page Rank, those are frowned on.

I set out on the task thinking I would add the nofollow command to all outbound links, as well as delete my JVZoo links which I had no control over that I could find, my work began.

Guess what was next to get the Google Penalty removed?

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  1. paul graham

    The get out of jail free card is evocative as for this purpose Goohle might as well be Monopoly. Good luck with rebuilding and thanks for the heads up
    paul graham recently posted…The Friday 13 Double Take PhotosMy Profile

  2. Jeannette Paladino

    Pat — ugh! I’m more than a little shocked that linking to popular social networks like Twitter and Facebook could be misconstrued as trying to game Google to get Page Rank. These sites have been integrated into our businesses. They are where we work. So what would Google consider an acceptable back link, which they themselves claim is how you boost your ranking, by linking to authority sites. I have no clue what you had to do next, but look forward to your next installment in this saga.
    Jeannette Paladino recently posted…LinkedIn Reaches 300 Million Users Making Business ConnectionsMy Profile

  3. Julia Barnickle

    What a nightmare, Patricia! I hope you manage to get it sorted soon. I have to admit, I tend not to bother thinking too much about SEO nowadays, because it’s all got so complicated. I simply try to focus on sharing as much interesting content as possible (which includes some guest blogs and links to other people’s articles) – in the hope that, if people find the content valuable, they will visit my blog or subscribe to my newsletter. Life is too short to worry about second-guessing what Google is thinking! 😉
    Julia Barnickle recently posted…Introvert Business Models for On-line SuccessMy Profile

  4. OMG, What a freaky nightmare. It does make you wonder if Google wants anyone to have websites or a blog. We have all done guest posting on our own site as well as others for various reasons all with following the rules but when the rules change so fast, it’s hard to know what is right and wrong anymore. :-/
    Susan Cooper recently posted…Jelly Beans and Opinions: StoryMy Profile

    • Susan what bugs me the most, is how they say they are “trying” to be transparent when you get hit with a penalty, but indeed they are not. And you are so right: we have all done guest posting! Their crawler, I am not convinced, can determine quality versus spam content. I cannot say how many times in a search finding, I click on what looks like it could be a link to something valuable and, it’s junk instead.
      PatriciaWeber recently posted…Google Penalty: No get out of Jail Free cardMy Profile

  5. With Google it is the flavor of the week or month in what algorithms that they want to include. I sell promotional products and on my site is knives. I got an email from Google that I have violated their terms by offering weapons on my site. I went crazy trying to figure out what to do. I sell water guns and they are also called tanks. I had to pay my webmaster to go through the site and remove anything that sounded like a weapon from Google Merchants feeds. I guess it has worked as I haven’t heard anything else about it.
    Arleen recently posted…How to Launch a Successful Publicity Stunt Like Placing a Mustang Atop of The Empire State BuildingMy Profile

  6. As I mentioned to you in the email I sent you, this really sucks and going from what is good to what is not good the next is disheartening. As the others say, it really is a bit of a nightmare and thank you for bringing it up. Tim
    Tim recently posted…House Slippers and Gold MinesMy Profile

  7. The Almighty Oz and Big Brother Google. Sorry you had to go through all that. Did you happen to find an easy list of acceptable or “slap on the wrist” activities that you could share?
    Christina recently posted…How I Landed in the BlogosphereMy Profile

  8. Patricia – I am fairly new to this whole google thing but I have a blog on blogger and have had my reply button removed – I don’t know why and also my URL, again, I don’t know why. Reading about your experience is kind of scary if you aren’t really Internet-wise. This is going to make me more careful than ever – just hope it won’t impact the fun I’ve been having. I’ll certainly read the follow-up.

  9. Finally here Patricia! Great great post. First of all, never take what Google pitches for face value. The whole process of marking your links as sponsored only makes it easier for Google to zap your site. Second, it\’s mostly sidebar links that can be viewed as unnatural. Especially when clustered, like a blogroll. This happen to thousands of us. I got it too. Click on my name to read an older post about the very same Google ban and what I did.

    Have you gotten this resolved yet?
    Greg recently posted…How to Hide an Affiliate Link from Google (Video + Coding Tutorial: Part 2)My Profile

  10. I haven’t had this happen to me. I need to read up on it some more so that it doesn’t.
    Jason B recently posted…20 Companies That Are Currently Hiring In AtlantaMy Profile

  11. Thanks for this post Patricia, although I’m sorry you had to take a hit to communicate the lesson. I guess I remain confused on why/how linking to social media could create a penalty–how else do you get promotion when necessary?!? As social media based companies attempt to become more revenue driving (Facebook, etc) I’m hearing more of these horror stories with ambiguous rules of the game.

  12. Honestly, I know so little about all this. What happens when you are hit with that penalty? Does it make your blog inaccessible? My blog is on my website. Would this penalty make my website inaccessible? I am also very surprised about links to social media being frowned upon, especially since almost everyone uses them. Thank you for your post.

  13. Hi Patricia , Same here mine site got the same issue PR 5 then 4 and now to 0. Got the same email greeting that you got. Google targeting to all sites if they found some links activity. Sponsored post, Paid links and links exchange. Btw i love sponsored post where we can love to feature sponsors and drive traffic to them but Google is now becoming somewhat…they want us to rule with their command and we have to follow their guidelines.

    Use Cloudflare security for better protection of your site and iThemes Security plugin to more secure your site.

    Use the ‘Nofollow for external link’ plugin on your site to ‘No-Follow’ all external links from all over your site and then send a reconsideration request to Google and don’t perform again links activity on your site.

    Thanks for sharing your post with us. Hope they will consider your and all of other bloggers who have got this issue. Finger crossed.

  14. OMG what a nightmare Pat – as Jeanette says, we can’t not have to places like twitter etc, so what is t they want from you? It really is a catch-22 situation. What is so wrong with guest blogging if it’s a genuine post? Surely there are ways they can tell whether it’s just a backdoor spam, which I know yours would not be. ‘m so sorry this is happening to you. I hope you can get out of this relatively unscathed both professionally & financially.
    A.K.Andrew recently posted…Go Tell It On The Mountain – from 101BOOKS.NETMy Profile

  15. Wow, I’ve heard of such things but have never known someone it’s happened to. Thanks for sharing your experience and I hope you get it all cleared up!
    Meredith Wouters recently posted…Fun and Easy Fridge Magnet ProjectMy Profile

  16. I guess i am still in jail. I got an email from google that said that my site violated google rules and they droped me from adsense. I still do not know what the violation was because I could not get a straight answer from them.
    Jay recently posted…Would You Stay With Someone Like YouMy Profile

  17. Cheryl Therrien

    I have been penalized by Google as well. My Page Rank sank from a 3 to a 2 after the last Google update. I give up trying to sort them out. They change their rules far too often to keep up.
    Cheryl Therrien recently posted…#Garden Compass: App ReviewMy Profile

  18. Patricia, it’s all such a mystery! I’ve been blogging for more than four years now and I still don’t have a clue when I hear SEO mentioned – I just cook my food, develop my recipes, write my posts, take my photos and put ’em up there! :-\
    Jean recently posted…Snickerdoodles – Not Just Cinnamon Sugar CookiesMy Profile

  19. Pat, there are sites that deserve to be punished by Google but you are not one of them. What happened to you is wrong but what can we do when an algorithm takes decisions?

    Will be very interesting to hear how long it will take you to get a page rank again. And what had to be done to please Google.
    Catarina recently posted…Shifting wealth of nations – what is overlookedMy Profile

  20. You’re the first person I’ve known that this has happened to, and thank you so much for sharing the details. I keep thinking it’s a matter of time before this happens to a lot of us. I deleted a bunch of old travel posts when I changed the direction of my blog and did not set a proper 404 re-direct in place, so know I’m working with a web person to fix it.
    Jeri recently posted…Poem in Your Pocket Day #pocketpoemMy Profile

  21. Hi Patricia, I received the same penalty and my pagerank went from 3 to 0 in a flash. I set all my outbound links to nofollow as well. I don’t believe that’s how the interest is supposed to work but who I am to argue with Google right? It’s amazing how they pick on the little guys and don’t go after the big link networks, etc. We should all start to just Bing it Patricia!

  22. Lisa for me, the trigger for the latest Google algorithm was membership to and using guest blog posts from a blogging community. I saved that for the happy ending.

    You are likely correct, it serves nothing to argue with Google. Just bow down and follow their anything but clear rules.
    PatWeber recently posted…Google Penalty: No get out of Jail Free card – Part 2My Profile

  23. If you have guest posts that are relevant with links to relevant sites then having a dofollow link should not be a problem. If Google are making it a problem then they are going beyond what they stated they were doing about guest posting. IF you are guest blogging about a topic to share your knowledge and to link with other bloggers in your niche then the links will happen naturally. On one hand I can understand why MYBlogGuest might have been penalised, but I do feel it was done just to prove a point!
    Kostas recently posted…How To Measure If Your Guest Post Campaign Was A SuccessMy Profile


  1. […] Buben’s full post here. For more information, see “Google Penalty: No Get Out of Jail Free Card” by Patricia […]

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