Google is sending out increasing numbers of warnings about “artificial” or “unnatural” links to websites. At first, it seemed like a fresh raid on link-building farms and spam-filled websites that offer no value to visitors. Yet the good people at Google have assured us this isn’t the case, and is merely a step towards being more vocal about poor links.
Lots of website owners have filled the Google Webmaster Help forums with concerns and confusion as to what these warnings mean. If you’ve received one, it probably reads something like this:
Dear site owner or webmaster of ….
We’ve detected that some of your site’s pages may be using techniques that are outside Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
Specifically, look for possibly artificial or unnatural links pointing to your site that could be intended to manipulate PageRank. Examples of unnatural linking could include buying links to pass PageRank or participating in link schemes.
We encourage you to make changes to your site so that it meets our quality guidelines. Once you’ve made these changes, please submit your site for reconsideration in Google’s search results.
If you find unnatural links to your site that you are unable to control or remove, please provide the details in your reconsideration request.
If you have any questions about how to resolve this issue, please see our Webmaster Help Forum for support.
Google Search Quality Team
Having read through that, it would give the impression that your website has already been removed from Google’s search results until further notice. Don’t fret – this isn’t the case! While this letter instils fear into our hearts, it’s also a scare tactic in many cases. Sure, a few keywords may drop a few spots here or there, but once the offending links are removed, you’ll notice them start to climb back up.
This is mainly a case of Google wanting to make its position on “blackhat” violations and quality guidelines clear. In the past it’s remained relatively silent on the smaller indiscretions. Fast forward to April 2012 and Google is changing its approach. A Google spokesperson released the following statement:
“The majority of the increase in messages to webmasters is not due to messages about links. Rather, Google recently started sending messages to sites even for egregious or “blackhat” violations of our quality guidelines. The vast majority of the increase in messages is thus due to expanding the types of messages we send, not because of more warnings about links.”
So you’ve gotten the warning, read this post, and the terror is slowly subsiding. Now what? Simple answer: check your links. If you are finding any shifty-looking links pointing at your website, see if you can have them removed. If you really are doing something dodgy under the guidelines of Google, then perhaps this would be the time to stop and try to undo anything before it becomes significantly damaging. But if like most of us you’re innocent, then keep calm and carry on!
I leave you with some hopefully encouraging and somewhat paraphrased words of wisdom from the legendary Gloria Gaynor:
At first we were afraid, we were petrified…
Thinking how we’d ever live without Google on our side…
But then we spent so many nights thinking how we did no wrong…
And we grew strong…
And we just started moving on…
We will survive!