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We just recived (March 8 2013) a message from Google saying.

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.

Our site is AlternativeTo and it's a big well respected software site and we have never ever bought any links or anything like that. We recive natural links from places like BBC, Reddit, Lifehacker, cnet and so on.

Anyway we do however have some sites that is using our API and are sending 100.000+ links back to us from their domains and i also see some other rather dodgy looking sites with low page rank linking to us. Nothing that i can clearly say are spam but well they look bad and have lots of ads on them.

How the heck would i know what links to remove? I mean we have hundredthousands backlinks from all over the web to our site. Where to start?

I found Matt Cutts suggestions about downloading recent links and so on but there are still hundreds of new links discovered by google each day ..

Anyone have any suggestions about this? Should i ask the sites that are using our API to put no-follow on their links to us to avoid these 100.000+ links from single domain names?

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2 Answers 2

The problem is Google will view the links unnatural due to the relevance of the sites to your own as well as the sheer volume of them. Basically yes you should of been using nofollow on the links but its done now and you've likely been 'HIT' by Google Penguin.

Nofollow can still 'BITE'

I believe even using nofollow in your links can still bite and receive punishment from Google, a lot of sites that engaged in comment spam had mostly 90% of no follow links and only a handful of follow links so I'm fairly sure using nofollow will not safe guard you. Many SEO'ers including myself believe that Google still uses nofollow in the rankings even though it does not pass page rank and indirectly improves page rankings - because Google 'may' use relevant links to determine the authority of the page linked too.

Mass Root or Page Linking

Most often sites that have 100,000s and even 100,000,000's of links tend to have pages deeper on the site linked too, for example its very unnatural to have 100,000s backlinks on the ROOT domain and then only 10 links on deeper links so this could be also something you should consider.

Relevance is Key!

Personally it has come to the end where Footer links and so forth are just not worth the hassle and I would consider removing all those links unless they are on topic (Your hear this though out the whole answer).

I make websites and I don't even put 'designed by blah' in the footer no more since it ruins my authority and doesn't help my actual rankings since the pages are not relevant.

Site wide links are your worst Enemy

Site wide links are very risky and again something you do not want! UNLESS its 100% relevant, Blog rolls links on blog rolls used to be pretty good and now there just to risky, Google can detect links in sidebars and footers, personally again! only engage in such site wide links if they are on topic of your own site.

What makes a Spammy Link?

Also to clarify what Google classes as spam is not low PR sites or sites with lots of adverts, it uses many signals and patterns to establish if a site is classed as spammy. Spammy sites generally have lots of non-relevant outbound links and also have spammy links incoming.. but as I said there's many signals and its best you result this.

Good Links are Ace!

Its great that you have links from the big corp sites like BBC but sadly now that you received such a email its likely as I said earlier your rankings have been effected by this due to Penguin. I recommend you take a look at a question I asked on here a few weeks back and peoples thoughts on recovering including things like Google's disavowed tool.

Summary

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Great answer. Will probably ask some follow up questions later today! –  Stuck Mar 11 '13 at 8:11
    
no problem shoot away –  bybe Mar 12 '13 at 0:29
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if your using SAPE link building software then that might have being the problem...solution is to remove all linkbuilds you created uing the above said software

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As i said we have never done any link-buildning or shade SEO in any way. We are only buildning a site and trying to get people to like us. –  Stuck Mar 11 '13 at 8:10
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