Google’s manual actions team issued many penalties for “unnatural outbound links” over the weekend. This is specifically over sites linking to one another to try and manipulate the search results.
Webmasters whose sites contain patterns of “unnatural artificial, deceptive or manipulative outbound links”, or those found to be “Buying links or participating in link schemes in order to manipulate PageRank” have been hit with either a whole site penalty or a penalty on parts of their sites.
Numerous complaints have been posted in the Google support forums, like this one.
Here beauty blogger Sammi Penni is alarmed because she received a warning email, and was unsure of what she was doing wrong.
Though she may not be part of any “link buying schemes”, she states that “My affiliate links are how I monetize my blog.” Questioning “What is this “nofollow” thing?”
Beauty blogger Sammi is clearly confused because she has more than likely not read Google’s guidelines on link schemes, and has now received a penalty.
In short, having been posting since 2013 she now has to change all of the paid affiliate links on her site to nofollow links. Under Google’s guidelines, any paid affiliate links must be nofollow, to ensure that they are not counted towards the site’s ranking in the Search Engine Results Page, or else Google will deem the site to be in breach of its guidelines and hit it with a penalty, as Sammi has learned.
Although Google haven’t commented on the penalties, it’s clear to see that they are cracking down on paid links, reinforcing the fact that links, as ever, must be earned rather than bought.