If you read any SEO news or forums, or keep up to date with the Google Webmaster blog you may have heard that there have been many changes in SEO over the last few weeks. Here is a brief summary of some of the things that have happened:unnatural links detected?

  • Google has rolled out multiple Panda algorithm updates over the last few weeks targeting both on page factors and backlink profile issues.
  • Over 700,000  webmasters (probably over a million now) have received a message inside their webmaster tools warning them that they have “unnatural link” profiles. The message starts with “We’ve detected that some of your site’s pages may be using techniques that are outside Google’s Webmaster Guidelines….” and then goes on to say “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“. It reommends that you remove the unnatural links and subit a reconsideration request to Google.
  • Many paid blog networks have been completely de-indexed. This includes networks such as Build My Rank (BMR) High PR Society, ALN plus many private networks. These have been closed down and this has affected potentially hundreds of thousands of webmasters.
  • It is now possible for your site to lose rankings as a result of these things. In the past, backlinks could never negatively impact a site – they just wouldn’t count towards your ranking.

One of the biggest issues in my opinion that comes up as a result of this is that it is now possible for a competitor to negatively impact someone else’s website just by building some “unnatural” backlinks to the site. This opens up the doors for all sorts of horrible things such as negative SEO services. It is also hard to define exactly what Google means by an “unnatural link”. They are never going to tell people in too much detail what this means as it could reveal areas of their algorithm that they want to be kept private.

Things are still changing and it is hard to make concrete recommendations at the moment. It is best to wait until the “dust settles” and until there is some concrete data to analyse.

At the moment you may want to consider the following:

1) If you are using any link networks that you think may be deemed by Google as “unnatural” it may be best to remove your site from these networks. I’ve been a member of BMR for som time now and although it has been giving excellent results for the last couple of years it has now been deindexed and is closed down. I’ve gone ahead and scheduled my posts for deletion and downloaded my content to be used elsewhere. There is no value in having a link from a deindexed site and now that it can actually hurt a site I made the decision to delete my posts. I’ve noticed from reading forums that some people are jumping from one blog network to another, but personally I don’t think it is worth the risk – it looks to me like Google are on a mission to shut down these networks one by one.

2) If you have a message in your Google webmaster account, don’t do anything hasty – take time to think about it and consider your situation. It is most likely that the message has been automatically triggered (algorithmic rather than manual) so if you submit a reconsideration request you are then triggering a MANUAL review of your site and its backlink profile. There is always a chance that you could end up in a worse position after a manual review. If your site’s traffic has gone down to zero, then you probably have nothing to lose by doing a reconsideration request, but if you have seen no impact to your rankings, you may want to consider just removing any links that can be seen as unnatural and then wait for these to be picked up naturally. I have around 20 websites and received this message for two of my sites. At the moment I’ve done nothing about this. Strangely, one of the sites is a site that I’ve barely touched and had done no link building for over 5 years! It has a link from DMOZ and some article and directory links. My traffic has stayed stable on all of my websites apart from 3. Two of the 3 were using BMR and the other wasn’t.

3) Whenever you build any backlinks it is important to keep things as natural looking as possible. Now that Google can actually penalize your site rankings if it looks like you have unnatural links pointing to your site,  it is best to keep the following things in mind when building links:

  • VARIETY OF LINK TYPE – don’t rely on one type of backlinking technique. Vary things as much as you possibly can.
  • VARIETY OF ANCHOR TEXT – it is good to use your keyword in the anchor text of your links, but you should vary this as well. It is not natural for a site to get only links with the keywords in the anchor text. For this reason include some natural looking anchor text keywords such as “click here”, “look at this”, “sign up here”, your domain name, your keywords within a longer phrase and so on.
  • AVOID LINKING SCHEMES – Google recommends inside the webmaster guidelines that you do not purchase links or use any sort of linking schemes. In the past this could result in Google simply not counting a link that fell into this category, but more recently they have been punishing sites that do this. For this reason be very careful of the linking techniques that you use.
  • USE A MIX OF FOLLOW and NOFOLLOW LINKS – it is not natural to only have “do follow” links to your website. It is much more natural to have a mix of both of these.

4) Add Quality Content – continue to add high quality original content to your website. Vary the length of your content to include some extra long blog posts or pages and consider refreshing some old content on your site.

5) Diversify your traffic. Don’t rely on just Google to get traffic. I’ve read so many devastating stories of people losing their business virtually overnight as a result of a Google algorithm change. If you are not doing so already, consider using some other traffic generation methods such as joint ventures, Ad swaps, Facebook traffic, paid advertising, viral marketing, forum marketing and so on. Build a list if it makes sense for your niche.

6) Don’t believe everything you read in forums. It can be useful to do some research in internet marketing and SEO forums but don’t believe everything you read! These tend to be full of people making speculations about the reasoning behind these changes and what to do about it based on a dataset of one or two websites. Not to mention people gloating that their websites have not been affected and saying that anyone who used blog networks must be a spammer!

I’ll be doing lots of research over the coming weeks, attending some webinars and doing a little testing with some of my existing sites and some new sites.

I’ll be doing a minor update to my Search Engine Optimization Ebook over the next week with more advice on the above, so if you are a customer  please be sure to register for updates (as outlined inside my EBook) and I’ll send you a free update when this is ready. I also expect to do a more major update once the dust has settled and it becomes clear what the best SEO strategy going forward is!

If you’ve been affected by this yourself, or if you have any questions I’d love to read your comment so please feel free to post below.

Incoming search terms:
  • google unnatural links

Related Posts:

Tagged with:

Filed under: Google Algorithm

Like this post? Subscribe to my RSS feed and get loads more!