On Friday the 19th July 2012 Google decided to send out a fresh batch of ‘unnatural link’ emails to all those lovely folks using Webmaster Tools.
“Dear Site Owner or Webmaster of http://www.yoursitenamehere.co.uk/,
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 additional questions about how to resolve this issue, please see our Webmaster Help Forum for support.
Google Search Quality Team”
This type of message can often cause panic among businesses as it could mean that Google considers them to be spamming and they will be penalised, causing them to be removed from the search results, losing traffic and therefore sales. This can have massive repercussions on the business, either forcing them to solely rely on PPC (Paid Search) or potentially lose the business!
Whoa there…Slow down…
Before things get out of hand, take a few moments to really look at what Google have said this time. In previous mentions of this ‘unnatural link’ letter, Google have always stipulated that you MUST do something about it. Site owners had to show willing, try to get rid of this negative links. However in many cases all that happened was a lot of people got frustrated because they had no control over the links, and others became paranoid what ‘negative SEO’ could be put in place by competitors.
This time, Google have offered a little more information, but it requires some analysis of your own…
Matt Cutts (Head of Google’s Webspam Team) writes about it on Google+:
“If you received a message yesterday about unnatural links to your site, don’t panic.”
“If we’ve taken more severe action on your site, you’ll likely notice a drop in search traffic.”
So it is important that you don’t overreact and instantly spend hours trawling through your backlinks using tools such as Open Site Explorer and Majestic trying to pin point those ‘unnatural links’ and try and remove them before submitting a reconsideration request.
Take a look at your traffic data, your sales and your rankings, are you seeing any large drops? Any significant changes over the weekend? If you are, then perhaps it is time to take a look at who is linking in and doing a spot of spring cleaning. If not? Then relax, take a breath and ignore the message from Google (but continue to keep an eye on things as you should!).
Google has also decided that future messages will be tagged differently in an effort to be more transparent, so that they don’t come across as so daunting, and that they will hopefully contain more actionable information, letting you know when you do and don’t need to make some changes.
We will let you know how useful this is, if and when we spot one! For now, if you have had the message come through to your Webmaster Tools account and you are unsure of what it means or what to do, please just get in touch, either email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call on 01925 393510 and we would be happy to help.