Google Sends BBC News A Manual Link Penalty Notification

bbcGoogle has sent the world’s largest broadcast news organization, BBC News, an unnatural link notification last Saturday.

The Search Engine Roundtable reports Nick, a BBC News representative, posted in the Google Help Forums about the notification. Nick was seeking advice from Google or SEOs on how he may find those unnatural links so the BBC can remove them and submit a reconsideration request.

Nick wrote:

I am a representative of the BBC site and on Saturday we got a ‘notice of detected unnatural links’.

Given the BBC site is so huge, with so many independently run sub sections, with literally thousands or agents and authors, can you give us a little clue as to where we might look for these ‘unnatural links’.

An unnatural link notification is nothing new, it is sent out by Google representatives after manually review sites with link issues. Receiving one of these notifications are not uncommon, they account for about 1-2% of all webmaster tools notifications, or about 7,400 notifications sent to webmasters in September 2012.

David Naylor believes the reason the BBC received this notification was due to how RSS scrapers abuse the BBC.

It is quiet surprising that a news site as authoritative as the BBC would receive such a notification. It is of course possible that someone within the BBC sold links on some section of the web site. But we have no easy way of telling that. Google did recently penalize dozens of UK news sites after Interlora was penalized for advertorial links.

We do not know if the BBC link notification led to a downgrade in their rankings or traffic from Google.

We’ve asked Google for a comment and will post if we receive one.

Postscript: Google has declined to comment on this story.

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Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Google: SEO | Google: Webmaster Central | Link Building: Paid Links | Top News


About The Author: is Search Engine Land's News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry's personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here. For more background information on Barry, see his full bio over here.

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  • kendalbren

    Paid links on the BBC has been talked about for years now so this comes as no surprise. Take a look at the ‘External Websites’ links in the footer of this page (, for example. I wouldn’t link out to a site which has an ad for a betting company as a pop up so why does the BBC?

  • Guest

    This is shocking news indeed. The problem is Google has turned a blind eye to their guidelines for so long, that now every webmaster is guilty of breaching them.


    Shocking news indeed. The problem is that Google has turned a blind eye to their own guidelines, and now every webmaster is guilty of breaching them.

  • Josh

    Now this is a story worth following. Very interested and even more curious to hear back from Google. Awesome share!

  • medway808

    This might not be as newsworthy as some think. Cutts already said the new warnings sometimes include more benign notices where they don’t think you did anything wrong necessarily but are just letting you know they detected something.

    ” For example, we may take this kind of targeted action to distrust hacked links pointing to an innocent site. The innocent site will get the message as we move towards more transparency, but it’s not necessarily something that you automatically need to worry about.”

    Of course that won’t stop people from sensationalizing it to get clicks.

  • Rokas Globys


  • Tahir Ahmad

    Great Post!!!

  • Durant Imboden

    Dang. We’ve got at least one inbound link from the BBC. I hope Google doesn’t think we’ve been hanging out in “bad neighborhoods” with a bunch of British SEO yobs.

  • Alan

    Wow Google’s algorithm must be that advanced that they can pick out unnatural links in a link profile that has over 1 million backlinks. Google you are so smart.

  • Mark

    I believe Google is trying every way possible to descredit SEO’S , so websites can increase adwords spendings.

    Any solid technique that is highly recommend by experts in the industry and which actually achieve results turns into a penalty the next day. A good example is “Editorial Links” , every main stream expert used to recommend these untill last year. Now many newspaper sites has been penalized.

    I can see more relevance in Yahoo and Bing results now. This attitutude of discrediting SEO’s will not help Google in the long run.

  • Lilacor

    The more interesting question is whether this warning has been a “Notice
    of Detected Unnatural Links” or just “Unnatural Inbound Links”. There
    is a significant difference as the first one means a manual link related
    penalty as the second one is just for webmaster’s information. When the
    first type is received SERP positions start to decrease after 2-3
    weeks, while the second type can also lead to SERP drop, but not due to a
    penalty, but due to lost link juice (the 2 differences are well
    explained here:
    So, if the message BBC received is for “Unnatural Inbound Links” they
    won’t have to worry about it, it’s a common thing. There can always be
    links that might look suspicious to Google and they know it!

  • Jon Wade

    Interflora, not Interlora!

    The BBC is one of the few real authority sites – unbiased (mostly), non-commercial (in the UK). A bastion of professionalism (apart from the Saville incident/s).

    Google, sort yourself out!

  • emeldastarr79ma

    my buddy’s step-mother makes $64 an hour on the internet. She has been without a job for 6 months but last month her pay was $15110 just working on the internet for a few hours. Read more on  Ask25.c­om

  • Gabriel Sita

    I don’t belive it, it wasn’t confirmed yet.

  • Michael Curtis

    I suspect that this is down to BBC news being something of an extreme edge case as far as backlink profiles go, given their size and high profile, and this is the cause of the notice.

    I also suspect this notice will magically vanish in the next few days.

  • Unbound Marketing

    I’d never noticed that before. I use those live sport on TV type sites but they’re always spammy and often keyword stuffed and it surprises me that the BBC would link to them.

  • Pascal Lainé

    Les guidlines de Google sont impénétrable !

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