How to Fix Google Webmaster Tools Manual Action for Outbound Links

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It’s happened. This website and two others that we own and operate have received a Google Webmaster Tools manual action for outbound links. It all started when MyBlogGuest got a smackdown from Google. Here’s Matt Cutt’s tweet eluding to it.

UPDATE: The following article has instructions for making ALL outbound links nofollow. Click here to read our article about making only some of your links nofollow.

There has been much talk about it on the Internet, like here and here.

We have used MyBlogGuest sporadically over the last year. Probably less than a dozen guest posts over all three of the websites. I pity those that used it for their main source of link building or content publishing…and trust me there are a lot that did.

All the guest posts we published were well-written, informative, and fit the niche of the websites where they were published. They added value to our websites and I see no reason for the manual action for outbound links. But it is what it is and we will bow our heads to Google Webmaster Tools and conform.

unnatural outbound links

The three websites that we own that received a manual action continued to get traffic and ranking. We saw no difference in either of those. We have requested that the manual action for outbound links be removed for only two of the websites.

One was done just a few days after receiving the notification on March 20th. It took less than a week to have the action removed. I have to admit I was pretty impressed with the speed in replying and removing the manual action for outbound links. The second website was just submitted for review today, April 19th.

There are two distinct differences in what we did to remove the manual action for outbound links. On the first website we made all of the outbound links nofollow. Yep, everyone of them! We carefully documented it in a Google Doc, made the link public, and sent that link along with our request to remove the action taken.

Let’s take a look at what we did for that…since that is probably the main reason you are reading this post. We’ll mention at the end of this article the difference between the first and second website.

Steps to Remove Manual Action for Outbound Links

I have to admit that my heart sunk when we received the notification from Google Webmaster Tools saying that had taken manual action for outbound links on our websites. So step number one includes imbibing in your favorite alcoholic beverage, hitting your head against the wall, or praying for salvation.

Now, take a deep breath and check out what we did to have the manual action for outbound links removed.

Fix manual action webmaster tools

Make Outbound Links Nofollow

Since all of our websites are WordPress we found a plugin that that could make all the outbound links nofollow. We used the External Links plugin. Please note that this plugin has not been updated since January 2014 and may not be compatible with your version of WordPress or some of your other plugins. This, of course, can change and they could update the plugin at any time.

Manual Action for Outbound Links

Even though the plugin is a little outdated we used it. But beware and always back up your website before installing plugins. I should mention that we did this before the WordPress 3.9 major update.

If you don’t feel comfortable using an outdated plugin you can manually change links by adding the nofollow attribute to your link structure.

<a href="https://rankingedge.com/" rel="nofollow">Ranking Edge</a>

Another thing we did was check to see if there were any broken links on the site. Even though we were making all outbound links nofollow, we felt it was a good time to check for unbroken links. To our surprise we found quite a few. We used this to check for the broken links. I documented that too and put it in the Google Doc. Not sure if that was necessary but I thought it was better to give them too much information than too little.

Submit the Reconsideration to Webmaster Tools | Request a Review

After all the documentation was in order to remove the manual action for outbound links it was time to submit a reconsideration request to Google.

Google Webmaster Tools Request a ReviewWhen you click the request a review button, it tells you “Tell us how you have addressed the specific issues we have listed, including all relevant information.” and gives you a message box to enter your information. This is basically what I said in the message:

Hello, I recently received a manual action for outbound links for my website https://mywebsite.com. I have made all of the outbound links nofollow and repaired all broken links. The documentation for this is in a Google Doc here [insert link to your Google Doc].

Please check my documentation and review my website. I have taken care of any suspicious activity regarding my outbound links.

Thank you.

Elizabeth Crane

As soon as I clicked “Request a Review” I received an email from Google Webmaster Tools.

webmaster reconsideration request email

I also received a message in my Webmaster account about the manual action for outbound links.

reconsideration request webmaster toolsI submitted the request to remove the manual action on March 23. On March 26th I received an email from Webmaster tools. I about fell out of my  freakin’ chair! I never expected a response so quickly. Hallelujah!

spam action revokedIf any of the above is too small for you to read. I’ll highlight the most exciting part.

Previously the webspam team had taken action on your site because we believed it violated our quality guidelines. After reviewing your reconsideration request, we have revoked this action.

That was it! Mission accomplished! I was absolutely thrilled with Google handling it so quickly and removing the manual action for outbound links. At that moment I was feeling nothing but love for Google.

Now, what did I do for the second website, you ask? Well, since the problem obviously stemmed from MyBlogGuest posts I decided to only nofollow the links from the guest posts from there. I documented it the same as above and submitted it the same as above. I just did that today. We’ll see what happens and if I need to do more and possibly nofollow all the outbound links.

I thought it was worth a try to see if the manual action for outbound links really did just apply to the guest posts. Or if the whole MyBlogGuest debacle tainted the entire website. I’ll document that in another post. Hopefully I’ll get a response within the next week like I did for the first website.

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