If you haven’t yet heard, Google is on a rampage to “clean up” the webspam created by overly aggressive SEO firms seeking to rank their clients by the use of what Google considers to be “Unnatural Links”. Since February of 2012, Google has sent out over 700,000 warnings through Google Webmaster Tools notifying clients of problems with their link profile.
The Google Webmaster Tools notice occurs when a site is suspected of using link-building efforts that are considered spam. These efforts can include directory submissions, article submissions, and blog and forum comment spam, and particularly links with excessive use of keyword based anchor text, or links from low quality or unrelated sites.
The balance of low-quality links versus high-quality links alerts the bot that you may be spamming. However, Google has not commented on what algorithm it uses to determine the penalty threshold.
The message that webmasters have been receiving in their Google Webmaster Tools accounts looks like this:
Google Webmaster Tools notice of detected unnatural links to http://website.com/
Dear site owner or webmaster of http://website.com/,
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 PageRanklink 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
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
Google Search Quality Team
How to Respond to the Unnatural Links Notice in Google Webmaster Tools:
In most cases you should do nothing. Don’t go about removing all of the links to your site, or even to submit a request for a review. Usually when someone receives a notice of this kind, it’s best to just move on and re-double your efforts to build quality links to your website.
Submitting a request for review will not re-establish any rankings that you achieved artificially, and if you’ve lost rankings due to poor links, you’re not going to regain those rankings by submitting a request for review.
Many webmasters believe this is a strong-handed scare tactic employed by Google to root out the spammy link builders and hunt down blog networks selling paid links. Whatever their true intention, Google is not going to give you the blueprint for SEO, or point out the bad tactics. Their notices are intentionally vague because the second they give out that information, the “black hat” SEO’s will find a way to manipulate them.
2 Ways to Handle the Notice:
If you’ve received this notice, you should take this as a wake up call that Google is onto your link-building tactics and they are no longer going to rank you based on the low quality links that you’ve been building. Based on the volume of notices being sent, this is an algorithmic “Penalty” and not likely a manual review of your website. You don’t need to waste countless hours of time pruning your links for little or no return.
If your rankings haven’t been affected but you did receive the notice, you’ve likely got a very strong link profile and only a small portion of your links were considered “Unnatural”. Many webmasters have never done ANY link-building and have still received the notice. If you’re not affected don’t worry about it, just be mindful of where your website is listed and who is linking to you.
If you’ve received the notice and you see a corresponding drop in your rankings, then you need to focus on building new links to your site from quality websites. Go back to the old school methods of link-building and find relevant, authoritative sites from which to get your links. If you’re going to build links from ad spots, make sure to use rel=”nofollow” so that they are not considered to be paid links.
How to Identify the Unnatural Links to Your Website:
Many well respected professionals in the SEO field have commented that the sites receiving the penalty have a higher ratio of low-quality links compared to high-quality links, and are generally heavily weighted with “followed” links vs. “no-follow” links. Google considers any link that is “followed” to potentially be a paid link, and for quite some time they have publicly stated that they are against paid links designed to manipulate PageRank.
Jump into your Google Webmaster Tools account and take a look at the links to your site. You can download a table of the links and review them one-by-one. You can also use one of the SEO link explorer tools such as Open Site Explorer
Examples of poor quality link profiles that we’ve seen triggering the notice:
- Volumes of over optimized anchor text (generally to the most competitive head terms)
- Links coming from multiple outside websites which show clear signs of being networked (same IP or C-Block class, cross linking, same Google AdSense ID,same/similar coding or CMS technology)
- Poor overall deep linking ratio to the site
- Low quality sites (repurposed content) and off topic sites
- Excessive directory links using keyword based anchor text
Consider it a notice that quality should trump quantity in your link-building efforts. You should focus your efforts on building links from quality, relevant websites. Use a mix of followed and “no-followed” links, and link to your site using both keywords and your company name. The key to a natural link profile is diversity. Naturally occurring links come from a broad range of websites, using diversified anchor text and commonly using the business name. Make your link profile look the same.
A final note: If you are going to be buying links from sites (for advertising or traffic purposes), request that the webmaster creates the links using the rel=”nofollow” tag. This will ensure that the link you are getting is not considered a paid link and is not being used to manipulate PageRank.
If you are seeing problems with your website’s rankings and need to get your hands around what is going on, we can help. Contact us today