Google Slaps Mozilla with Manual Spam Penalty

Interflora, The BBC and now Mozilla? Google have been relentless in their pursuit of spam recently. A campaign leaving waves of devastation all over the SEO world. A lot of people think Google are being too picky as a lot of sites claim to have been penalised but have no record of ever knowingly conducting any black hat SEO. Predominantly these have been Algorithmic penalties dished out by Google’s Web Crawler, but every now and then you hear about a Manual Penalty too.

Mozilla is the latest high profile victim in this crusade against webspam. Not through unethical backlinking, cloaking or any other black hat SEO, but by User Generated spam. Mozilla received this message:

Google has detected user-generated spam on your site. Typically, this kind of spam is found on forum pages, guestbook pages, or in user profiles.

A bit harsh then that Google would punish a site that has been taken advantage of by it’s users. However, Google have issued a granular manual penalty. Not penalising the site overall, but singling out the page that was generating the spam and penalising that. Good news right? Wrong. As it left Mozilla completely in the dark about which page was penalised.

It’s a theme we’ve seen a lot after the latest Penguin refresh which generated thousands of “Unnatural Link Warnings”. You can see an example one below:

Dear site owner or webmaster of ….
We’ve detected that some of your site’s pages may be using techniques that are outside Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

Specifically, look for possibly artificial or unnatural links pointing to your site that could be intended to manipulate PageRank. Examples of unnatural linking could include buying links to pass PageRank or participating in link schemes.

We encourage you to make changes to your site so that it meets our quality guidelines. Once you’ve made these changes, please submit your site for reconsideration in Google’s search results.

If you find unnatural links to your site that you are unable to control or remove, please provide the details in your reconsideration request.

If you have any questions about how to resolve this issue, please see our Webmaster Help Forum for support.


Google Search Quality Team

A fair warning you would think, but in the world of SEO Link Building is a massive part of the optimisation of a website. So if you’ve built a website and had it optimised and you’ve had a lot of links built and then you get the warning, it’s quite annoying that Google have told you that your site has unnatural links and you may be penalised, but NOT telling you which links in particular are offending.

This has led to a lot of people getting out the scythe for their links when really all they needed was a pair of tweasers. In Mozilla’s case though, Google took the preliminary step of removing the offending result from their index. This annoyed Mozilla as their site is huge and the quickest was to find this spam would have been searching for it through Google. But as Google have removed the page, it can’t be found to be fixed.

What do you think to Google’s Webmaster Warnings?

Blog Post by: Greg McVey