Google has changed the way it notifies webmasters of suspected unnatural linking – the kind of links that are built rapidly in large quantities often by automated software.
Thousands of web masters received a message from Google in February that said: “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.”
This resulted in many sites losing rankings and therefore business.
Google recently sent a wave of similar emails, but this time the situation was slightly different as Matt Cutts – the head of Google’s webspam team – came out the next day and told us not to panic.
The suggestion was that Google may have penalised sites for having what it called “spammy links”, but it was equally possible they were merely highlighting they didn’t trust certain links on those sites.
Not surprisingly, loads of people panicked – how do we tell the difference and how do we fix it?
Google then changed the message to say: “We’ve detected that some of the links pointing to your site are using techniques outside Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.”
This seems to be more of an alert than a warning, but most people are still not sure how to deal with it.
Here’s my guide to what to do if you get a Google warning:
- Check for a drop in search traffic to your site.
- Make sure the anchor text on your links uses the name of your site and not a torrent of keywords – so, it should be “Joe’s Widget site” rather than “blue widgets, big widgets, best widgets” etc.
- Selective link building still has value – Google is not the only search engine out there – just be discerning and go for quality over quantity.
- Keep writing great content. Fresh, relevant content is the single most important thing you can do to improve your search engine ranking.
- Oh, and don’t panic!
By Dr Ian Smith, MfP