One day I checked my google analytics and there was like a 60% drop in search traffic. There was no panda updates in that time.

I checked my webmaster tools and saw about 200 spammy sites linking to mine that did not link to it before.

So I figured I got penalized for having lots of spam sites linking to me.

I sent a reconsideration request to google, and they said it wasn't a manual penalty, so they can't do anything.

Any idea how I can get de-penalized from all these spammy links?

2 Answers 2


You can't get penalized for sites linking to you. If you could everyone would sabotage their competitor by getting a large amount of crappy links to point to their websites. Basically you can't be penalized for the actions of websites out of your control.

However, if you do link to any of the websites that are linking to you then you may be considered part of the bad neighborhood, or link farm (or whatever bad thing it is) and that could be a source of a drop in rankings. If you do not link to any of those sites then this obviously would not be the case for your website.

  • John, normally i'd agree with you, but there are some situations where Google can take a dim view of your back-link profile: searchengineland.com/… Oct 27, 2011 at 0:00
  • 1
    I've been under the assumption that it has to appear under the control of the receiving website to be penalized with the JC Penney massive and complicated link purchasing incident being a prime example. I think an over-generalization is occurring here as I don't see anything in that article that says or demonstrates just having unnatural links are a cause for concern. It can easily fall under the umbrella of Google determining the sites with the bad incoming links are associated
    – John Conde
    Oct 27, 2011 at 0:49
  • with (either through buying a link farm, etc) are the ones receiving this notice and not all sites that suddenly get an influx of bad links. Google usually errs on the side of caution when issuing penalties (Panda being an obvious recent exception). For example, when Google started cracking down on paid links a page that sold links would get its PR reduced making the link less valuable but the receiving site was not penalized.
    – John Conde
    Oct 27, 2011 at 0:51
  • Agree - my comment was to make you consider such a rigid statement as "You can't get penalized for sites linking to you"...other than that I agree with your answer. Oct 27, 2011 at 3:52
  • I probably could have worded that better. I'll have to see if my brain can find a better way to articulate that point.
    – John Conde
    Oct 27, 2011 at 11:38

The old common knowledge was that you can't get penalized for sites linking to you. It was true at that time. Post-Panda, you can get sites penalized a lot easier with certain linking patterns and, yes, it can be used to penalize weak competitors. If you want to see this in action and it's worth spend $5, find a ranking site with only a few weak links and buy a Xrumer blast for it at Fiver. Odds are it will drop like a rock.

Note though that this applies to sites with a weak link profiles and perhaps only for certain keywords. You aren't going to do this with Amazon or CNN but with Joe Blow's pink dog collar niche affiliate site it works.

I'm not saying a competitor intentionally did this to you. It could have been someone testing SEO pattern changes or somebody using your site for link camouflage. The bottom line is that getting rid of the links won't be easy if you can even do it at all.

The solution is to work on building better and stronger links to your site. This will make your site less vulnerable to such tactics.

  • Can you provide any evidence that "you can get sites penalized a lot easier with certain linking patterns and, yes, it can be used to penalize weak competitors."?
    – John Conde
    Oct 26, 2011 at 21:52
  • As always, I recommend testing things out for yourself as I mentioned above. I've ran tests on this and discussed this issue with people I trust. At first and like you, I was telling them that incoming links won't get a site algorithmically penalized. But, when I started investigating and testing it, sadly, I found that this wasn't true anymore.
    – jfrankcarr
    Oct 26, 2011 at 23:01

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