In a Webmaster Hangout, someone asked John Mueller about examples of bad links that Google sent his client. The problem was that the sample links were nofollow. Google’s John Mueller explained why those sample links were nofollow then offered guidance on what should be done for a successful link reconsideration request. The question asked was long, so I’m not going to reproduce all of it.
This is the main part of the question:
“Google has sent us two sample links… as an example of unnatural links. I found that one of the links carries nofollow tag… I don’t see how you can… send nofollow tag in a sample URL.”
Google’s John Mueller answered that it could have been a mistake on Google’s side.
“That could be something that went wrong on our side.”
John Mueller confirmed that it’s a mistake if the example of bad links they send contain a nofollow link.
But he then went on to instruct on what your next step should be.
Here is what John Mueller said:
“But generally speaking, if you did a reconsideration request, especially for link spam and you got it back saying that it’s not good enough then I would focus on the bigger picture, not… worry too much about that one nofollow link, but really think about what kind of bigger picture things have you been doing with regards to links that you still need to clean up.
Sometimes what can happen is that they will flag an issue and say, well this is the kind of thing that you should be watching out for. It’s not like, these are the two remaining links that you need to fix. But rather, here are some ideas of issues that you need to clean up.
So I would take it more in that direction and really… try to clean those links out as completely as possible.”
Those examples of the kinds of links Google are considering as spammy are not meant to literally be an example of a bad link. They are meant to be examples of the kinds of issues that are causing a site to have a manual action for links.
So if the example link is nofollow but it has an exact match anchor or even three exact match anchors, the problem to focus on is those exact match anchors and the circumstance in which those links were given.
In my experience helping sites recover from a link penalty, sometimes those exact match anchors text patterns are like a flag that something sketchy is going on.
There’s nothing wrong with people randomly linking to you with exact match anchors. But there is sometimes a telltale pattern that forms that indicates that maybe the publisher is doing something sketchy like requiring those links.
The problem sometimes is that sometimes the publisher feels they are innocent. That makes it harder (for the publisher) to understand how to get out of a link manual action.
Understanding what kinds of links are problematic is probably the type of bigger picture that Mueller is suggesting publishers should focus on and to just ignore little things like when there is a nofollow tag on the sample link sent by Google. If a sample link Google sends to you seems cryptic or doesn’t make sense, then maybe it’s time to have a third party look at it.