Last week, Google released some warnings to site owners stating that they have detected unnatural links pointing to their sites, via the Google Webmaster tools console.
Unnatural links or artificial links are identified as techniques outside of Google’s quality guidelines, i.e. acquiring links specifically intended to increase rankings or PageRank (Google’s link analysis algorithm).
Typically, such warnings result in immediate action for the site owner to remove the links, but in this recent case, the warnings were more of an FYI, than an actual penalty. To give more background on these link warnings, we’ve compiled a summary of the updates made by Google leading up to the latest alert:
Round one of link warnings – March 2012
The message was clear to site owners that if artificial or unnatural links were found pointing to their site, then immediate action was required. Site changes had to be made to meet Google’s quality guidelines and webmasters had to resubmit the whole site for reconsideration in Google’s search results. If not, they should expect to see a drop in traffic and rankings.
This first round was in conjunction with the release of their algorithm update dubbed Penguin. Penguin was developed to devalue sites which they saw as being over-optimised, using spam methods such as keyword stuffing or large volumes of links from poor quality sites using the same anchor text.
Round two link warnings – 19 July 2012
Google released some notifications to site owners last week but has since announced that they do not intend to take specific action against the millions of sites worldwide who received this message.
Google followed up with an updated message to confirm that instead of taking action against the website, they will merely devalue any questionable links. Google’s latest message is as follows:
“We’ve detected that some of the links pointing to your site are using techniques outside Google’sWebmaster Guidelines. We don’t want to put any trust in links that are artificial or unnatural. We recommend removing any unnatural links to your site. However, we do realize that some links are outside of your control. As a result, for this specific incident we are taking very targeted action on the unnatural links instead of your site as a whole. If you are able to remove any of the links, please submit a reconsideration request, including the actions that you took.
If you have any questions, please visit our Webmaster Help Forum”.
For sites that have received the latest notifications from Google Webmaster Tools, we’ll work together with you to conduct a full audit of your site’s backlinks. We’ll pinpoint links that could be deemed unnatural and either modify or remove them to avoid any further notifications or negative impact to your site. Also, we’ll monitor your site’s rankings and traffic closely and keep an eye on any sudden or large drops in the next few weeks.
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your SEO Account Manager for more information.