Earlier this year, Google began sending messages to publishers, alerting them that they were involved in unnatural linking. Messages repeated last week and this caused publishers’ panic, some of them noticed dramatic ranking drops after Google Penguin update.
How to interpret Google’s link warning/advisory messages?
The head of Google’s web spam team – Matt Cutts – clarified that the messages do not mean Google is going to penalize the publishers’ websites so there’s no reason to panic.
What Google wants to do is to let you know that there are some links pointing to your site that Google might now distrust. However, the messages were not that clear and the publishers couldn’t understand if they could safely ignore the warnings or not.
After panic raised, Google decided to work on the messages, i.e, to make it clearer in the message in which type of the situation the publisher is in. User interface (UI) of the messages was changed, earlier publishers received messages with yellow caution sign. The newer messages contain no caution signs or warning signals and look more like an advisory. In other words in newer messages Google wants to advise a publisher to do his best in removing bad links that link to his content.
All Google wants to ask publishers is to remove the unnatural, spammy links that link to their content and this does not mean Google is going to penalize your website if you do not do so. It’s absolutely clear that in some cases nothing can be done on the publisher’s side. However, if you have received a warning/advisory message from Google, perform link pruning.
Link pruning is the practice of getting rid of the inbound links that hurt your website. This could be spammy, unnatural, low-quality backlinks. Google asks for a reconsideration submit once the publisher performs link pruning.
Questions, Confusion, Panic
• Why does Google simply don’t discount the links?
• Why does Google try to help publishers?
What the Publisher Should Do:
If you have received such kind of alert
- Check out if your rankings have dropped
- Was the drop noticed before or after Penguin update
- Perform link pruning – this practice is OK in any situation
- Think about website reconsideration – this is not the thing I would advise a publisher to immediately perform
All in all, a link warning message is a good attempt of Google to let publishers know that their websites may not rank well as the link counting methodology changed. And some of the links are not counted, not because you have applied negative SEO techniques but the links that link to your content used techniques that are outside Google Webmaster Guidelines.
What still remains a mystery for me is why does Google try to help publishers? Why the links are not simply discounted? Google has outlined for years that backlinks are golden rule of SEO and they should be built on authority, trustworthy websites, if poor websites link to your content, this has negative effects on your website. So why send messages?