Friday, July 27, 2012
Lots of site owners use our webmaster console to see how their site is doing in Google. Last week we began sending new messages to sites with a pattern of unnatural links pointing to them, and I wanted to give more context about these new messages.
Original Link Messages
First, let's talk about the original link messages that we've been sending out for months. When we see unnatural links pointing to a site, there are different ways we can respond. In many severe cases, we reduce our trust in the entire site. For example, that can happen when we believe a site has been engaging in a pretty widespread pattern of link spam over a long period of time. If your site is notified for these unnatural links, we recommend removing as many of the spammy or low-quality links as you possibly can and then submitting a reconsideration request for your site.
In a few situations, we have heard about directories or blog networks that won't take links down. If a website tries to charge you to put links up and to take links down, you can let us know about that, either in your reconsideration request or by mentioning it on our webmaster forum or in a separate spam report. We have taken action on several such sites, because they often turn out to be doing link spamming themselves.
New Link Messages
In less severe cases, we sometimes target specific spammy or artificial links created as part of a link scheme and distrust only those links, rather than taking action on a site's overall ranking. The new messages make it clear that we are taking "targeted action on the unnatural links instead of your site as a whole." The new messages also lack the yellow exclamation mark that other messages have, which tries to convey that we're addressing a situation that is not as severe as the previous "we are losing trust in your entire site" messages.
How serious are these new link messages?
These new messages are worth your attention. Fundamentally, it means we're distrusting some links to your site. We often take this action when we see a site that is mostly good but might have some spammy or artificial links pointing to it (widgetbait, paid links, blog spam, guestbook spam, excessive article directory submissions, excessive link exchanges, other types of linkspam, etc.). So while the site's overall rankings might not drop directly, likewise the site might not be able to rank for some phrases. I wouldn't classify these messages as purely advisory or something to be ignored, or only for innocent sites.
On the other hand, I don't want site owners to panic. We do use this message some of the time for innocent sites where people are pointing hacked anchor text to their site to try to make them rank for queries like "buy viagra".
Example scenario: widget links
A fair number of site owners emailed me after receiving one of the new messages, and I think it might be helpful if I paraphrased some of their situations to give you an idea of what it might mean if you get one of these messages.
The first example is