Earlier this month, Google issued manual actions for “unnatural outbound links.” This is a ranking penalty issued by Google, specifically for sites linking to third-party sites in an effort to manipulate Google’s search results. In this case, it seems that Google may be penalising sites by deciding not to trust any of the links found on the site.
In an email sent to offending webmasters, Google explained:
“If you see this message on the Manual Actions page, it means that Google has detected a pattern of unnatural artificial, deceptive, or manipulative outbound links. Buying links or participating in link schemes in order to manipulate PageRank is a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
“As a result, Google has applied a manual spam action to the affected portions of your site. Actions that affect your whole site are listed under Site-wide matches. Actions that affect only part of your site and/or some incoming links to your site are listed under Partial matches.”
Here is a screen cap from one of the many webmasters that have received this warning manual action:
If you have yet to, you should log into your Search Console account and check for any outstanding warnings or messages to see if you have this notification. If you were hit by the outbound link penalty, there are instructions on how to fix the problem here.
At the moment, any warnings seem to be isolated to blogs promoting brands in return for free products. However, Google has been known to widen the net after issuing penalties, so make sure any outbound links on your website are quality and have a legitimate purpose.