Matt Cutts Clarifies Unnatural Link Notifications

Here’s our digest of the most important clarifications from the most recent post on unnatural link notifications.

Matt Cutts: Good & Bad

Recent unnatural link notification messages [2] issued by Google caused much confusion among webmasters and few were certain of their purpose and severity. Last week Matt Cutts offered a brief explanation in his Google+ post [3], and later in the week a post was published on Google’s “Webmaster Central Blog” [1].

Main Findings

Here are the main bits of information contained within the post:

There are Two Types of Link Warnings

  1. Original link warning message (used for a while for clear cases of link manipulation)
  2. New link warning message (new message sent to borderline cases [4])

Original Link Warning: How serious is it?

Severity: Serious to Critical

The original link warning message has been used for a while and sent to webmasters of websites which show a clear pattern of link manipulation. Cases with wide-scope link spam over a longer period of time are likely to wear a heavier penalty usually affecting the entire site. This message often precedes the action against the website and affects its ability to rank.

Action Required: Complete clean-up with thorough record keeping for reconsideration request.

New Link Message: Who gets it? What to do?

Severity: Moderate

[blockquote type=”blockquote_quotes” align=”right”]The message says that the current incident isn’t affecting our opinion of the entire website, but it is affecting our opinion of some links to the website, and the site might not rank as well for some phrases as a result. Matt Cutts, Google[/blockquote]

Although not as severe as the original link warning notification, this message is not to be ignored. If you’ve received it your website has already been affected (specific pages or keywords). The difference is that Google takes a more targeted action and does not affect the search performance of the entire website.

Note: At this stage it is not clear whether the effect of the “targeted action” simply implies ignored links or there is an element of negative point assigned to unnatural link instances.

Recommended Action: Clean-up of any self-generated unnatural links and identification of spam which was out of your control. Reconsideration request may be used to explain the situation after clean-up.

What types of links are considered ‘manipulative’ and ‘unnatural’?

  1. Widget links with commercial anchor text (‘widgetbait‘)
  2. Paid links
  3. Blog comment spam
  4. Guestbook spam
  5. Mass-article directory submission
  6. Automated (or unmoderated) link exchanges
  7. Reputation management links designed to push results down
  8. Other similar manipulative tactics

How many new link notifications have been sent out?

According to Matt Cutts, Google sends out around ten per day. So far nearly 20,000 messages [1] have been sent out. This type of message adds to around 10% of all messages sent out to webmasters.

Should I ignore the new message?

No, Google recommends not to ignore this message. Removal of all inorganic links is encouraged and a proof of the clean-up activity is to be submitted via reconsideration request.

What happened with the warning sign?

In order to reflect the severity status correctly, Google has re-issued the notifications with no “warning sign” icon. As of today the Google Webmaster Tools no longer shows the original message. It has been removed to prevent further confusion and prevent webmasters from going into unnecessary panic.


[1] Cutts, M., – New notifications about inbound links,

[2] Petrovic, D., – Google: Unnatural Links Notification,

[3] Cutts, M., – Google+,

[4] Petrovic, D., – Google Sends Out ‘Unnatural Inbound Links’ Notifications,

Dan Petrovic, the managing director of DEJAN, is Australia’s best-known name in the field of search engine optimisation. Dan is a web author, innovator and a highly regarded search industry event speaker.

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One thought on “Matt Cutts Clarifies Unnatural Link Notifications”

  1. Google claims that we should have “natural links”, not “natural-looking” ones.
    Perhaps they have blacklists of abusers who send outbound links and also blacklists with the receivers… And if you are “part of the club”, then you’re going to be a target for penalties.
    I think it’s otherwise quite hard to understand which link is really natural and which is not…
    Editorial links, even references tend to look identical. And I know that even some big sites do some link selling in-context… just to earn a few bucks more. Even some article editors practive this…