Thumbtack, a service professionals hiring web site, which was backed by Google Capital in August 2014, has received a manual action from the Google search quality team for “unnatural links to your site“.
The co-founder and president of Thumbtack, Jonathan Swanson, has confirmed on record with Search Engine Land that they have received the manual action. He says the company has seen a huge decline in Google referrals, ultimately impacting the leads that professionals in their network are receiving.
Swanson told us he believes Google’s penalty came about due to this post, which he called “inaccurate.”
“To be clear, we do not now, nor have we ever, paid for links,” Swanson said. “We have always strived to work within Google’s guidelines.”
But did they?
As many SEO blogs have already documented, Thumbtack is asking professionals to link to specific sections of their web site with rich anchor text, all in exchange for progress points as part of their profile completion system. Moz also has a screen shot of such a solicitation of links from Thumbtack:
Swanson told me the company has already submitted a request through the standard reconsideration process this past Saturday and is waiting to hear back from Google. “We will take the necessary action to reverse this penalty,” Swanson told me. But he’s eager to hear that advice from Google and make the changes after the fact.
The simple answer, in my mind, is to nofollow the links in the instructions going forward and communicate to all the existing links out there to nofollow those links going forward. Then document these efforts and submit the reconsideration request.
“Every year Thumbtack helps customers accomplish five million projects and 150,000 professionals use Thumbtack to connect with new customers and grow their business last quarter,” Swanson told us. “We are doing everything we can to resolve this as quickly as possible,” he added.
Thumbtack is not the first venture-backed Google company to be penalized. Google has even penalized its own properties in the past.
The good thing is that this is a manual action and, as long as Thumbtack takes the necessary steps to reverse this action, the Google traffic can return pretty quickly. Of course, nofollowing all those links can result a lower ranking in Google but only time will tell how much their rankings will drop naturally after the manual action has been lifted.
To see more about this topic, see our past Google penalties section.
Postscript: On Tuesday, June 9th, the company sent an email to their businesses that have linked to them to remove the link or add a nofollow to the link. Here is a picture of the email from @NortheasternExt:
Postscript #2: On Friday, June 12th, Google has reversed the manual action and Thumbtack’s traffic returned.