We have seen a lot of evidence recently that suggests Google is becoming increasingly serious about the issue of ‘unnatural’ linking. Whilst Google addressing unnatural link patterns is nothing new, we have seen the likes of JC Penney et al penalised for the use of link networks for example – the use of Webmaster Tools as the delivery vehicle is a new and interesting move on Google’s behalf.
Various threads on prominent sites such as WebmasterWorld are reporting that Google have sent messages such as the following to verified owners of sites which appear to be contravening Google guidelines:
Dear site owner or webmaster of http://www.domain.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 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 any questions about how to resolve this issue, please see our Webmaster Help Forum for support.
Sincerely, Google Search Quality Team
Whilst this would suggest a proactive stance by Google, this still leaves the issue that many SEO’s still have concerns with as regards Google – that of just how good their spam detection is with regards to paid links. Whilst this may deter many new ‘link builders’ from turning to the dark side, one can’t help thinking those that test the boundaries of acceptable link building are not likely to be detered by these events. Further to that it will be interesting just to see where the line is drawn as regards Google sending such correspondance.
Whilst it is certainly a good move as there is an obvious benefit to those who may be the recipients of negative SEO campaigns for example, it still doesn’t full address the issue in my opinion, and until Google can deal comprehensively with the link guideline issue – people will continue to push the boundaries of what is and isn’t acceptable – or more realistically – what does and doesn’t work.