Google’s latest round of Manual Actions are a carefully timed warning to those using Outreach to boost their organic rankings. If you (or an agency you employ) are undertaking outreach then you need to know what Google are doing and why.
11th of March 2016
Google releases a post warning people that they need to take care when giving out or receiving free products for reviews.
“Links that pass PageRank in exchange for goods or services are against Google guidelines on link schemes. Companies sometimes urge bloggers to link back to:
the company’s site, the company’s social media accounts, an online merchant’s page that sells the product, a review service’s page featuring reviews of the product or the company’s mobile app on an app store.
Bloggers should use the nofollow tag on all such links because these links didn’t come about organically (i.e., the links wouldn’t exist if the company hadn’t offered to provide a free good or service in exchange for a link).”
9th of April 2016
Sites begin to receive notifications via Search Console that they have been given a penalty due to “unnatural outbound links”. Search Engine Roundtable reports that
“The sites may not have seen ranking drops but Google is not trusting these sites for passing any PageRank or value to other sites until the manual action is lifted.”
11th of April 2016
Google’s John Mueller confirms that the Manual Actions have been applied to sites (mostly blogs) which have not followed Google’s suggestion to add the nofollow tag to links in review for products they have been given for free.
What’s Going On?
Google is sending out a clear message that gaining SEO benefit from a link in a review of a free product or service is no longer going to be acceptable. The manual actions which have been applied are essentially a warning shot – Google knows that these will cause a stir and be written up on industry sites. The manual actions are being used in this instance to reinforce the message that this is no longer a viable SEO tactic.
How To Tell If Your Site Has Been impacted
Manual actions are often confused with Algorithmic penalties but they are not the same thing. As the name suggests manual actions are applied by a person who has manually reviewed your site. They are always accompanied by a message in your Search Console account which will explain the issue and how you can resolve it. You’ll need to submit a Reconsideration Request to get the action removed.
If you have links from reviews where you have given away products for free you need to monitor your rankings. You may find that these links are devalued and this could have an knock on impact on your site’s authority. You may decide to ask all bloggers who have written reviews to add the nofollow tag to their links. The nofollow tag leaves the link intact but prevents it from passing on any SEO benefit.
This change clearly impacts the use of blogger reviews as an outreach tactic. This is still a viable way to get exposure for your product or service but it’s probably unwise to continue to do this for SEO reasons. Adjust your outreach strategy accordingly!