Google’s Latest Cans of Worms
Two Rants for the Price of One!
Today, I began a rant about the “unnatural links” notices some webmasters have received in their Webmaster Tools accounts, but it morphed into a second rant about negative SEO. I haven’t ranted about anything for a while, so I wanted to give everyone their money’s worth, or so to speak
Yeah, the redhead is cranky this morning. It’s raining and dreary and put me in a mood. A ranting mood.
It looks like our friends (?) at Google have opened a massive can of worms with their new algorithm change to detect “unnatural links.” While the intention to get rid of sites who are ranking high due to link spamming is a positive one overall, it is having massive unintended repercussions.
Rant One: Unnatural Links Notices
First of all, it’s important to understand that, in Google’s eyes, any link that you build yourself pointing back to your money site is “unnatural.” The key here is “built yourself.” How many of us have ever built any kind of link? Well, just about all of us have at one point or another.
I’m not talking about link building from forum profile spam from Xrumer blasts, or 1 million Scrapebox blog comments or anything of the sort. In Google’s eyes, if you have done something as benign as written an article for EzineArticles that points back to your site, you have engaged in unnatural link building. Any link to your site not built by someone else is “unnatural” in Google’s eyes.
Now, don’t go and panic and take down every article that you’ve written and submitted to Ezine’s or GoArticles or the like! Or go on a bloodbath and nix your Squidoo lenses or your Blogger blogs or the like. I’m just saying that the “official” view of unnatural link building by Google is pretty narrow, even if this type of link building is on the mild side.
Recently, site owners may have received “Notice of Unnatural Links” in their Webmaster Tools accounts. You would think that Google was being totally gracious here and allowing site owners who have paid for link building to make amends by removing their bad links and keep their rankings. Ha!
I have read several reports where site owners wrote to Google and showed where they had tried to remove what Google had termed “bad links” and documented the steps they took to make amends to Google. Didn’t matter. Their sites still ended up diving in the SERPs.
The problem is if you do in fact attempt to make amends and clean up these links, it’s clearly an admission of guilt. As well, by attempting to clean up these links and submitting a reconsideration request means that you will face a manual review from Google. That’s not something any sane person would invite. The kicker is that just because you jump through the hoops doesn’t mean that Google won’t penalize you anyway.
I would also not use Google Analytics or Webmaster Tools. Why? Because I don’t see the point in handing the keys to your sites over to Google. You don’t think that they won’t use that nice list of sites of your sites that you’ve conveniently provided for them? I think you’re being naive.
Guilty Before Proven Innocent?
Over on the SEOMoz forum, one user, JarrodH, provides a nice summation of why attempting to make nicey-nicey with Google is probably not a great idea. I agree with his assessment of why trying to appease Google could do more harm than good.
Click here to learn more
Rant#2: Negative SEO
Google’s attempt to force owners to clean up their links is having an unintended fall out: The rise of negative SEO services. Negative SEO is a means to blast thousands of bad links at a competitor to make their sites fall in the SERPs. While in the past, Google gave reassurances that you could not be harmed by someone pointing bad links at your site, this doesn’t seem to be the case any longer.
Here’s a case study that a couple of members of Traffic Planet performed to see if they could sink someone’s site with bad links. They were very successful with their negative SEO experiment. I’m not condoning what these guys did at all; I just want to point out that Google’s algo update to punish bad links has not been well thought-out when innocent bystanders can be caught in the cross-fire. Make sure to read the whole thread, as it is pretty enlightening.
You know when something has gone totally mainstream when you see Fiverr gigs appearing for the service. Yes, there are now negative SEO Fiverr gigs.
Edit: This gig has now been pulled by Fiverr.
Google needs to put a lid on this stuff and fast.
So, what’s the take away from today’s rants?
1) Look for alternatives to Google analytics/Webmaster Tools. If you get one notice of bad links from Google for one of your sites, you don’t think they won’t check out all of your sites that are conveniently listed for them? A marketer I really respect, Shane Melaugh, has done an excellent analysis of the pros and cons of various Google Analytics alternatives.
2) I would not respond if I got a notice of “unnatural links”. Why admit guilt if you are likely to be punished regardless if you try to remove the links or not?
3) Make sure that you are not creating a huge footprint when you are creating back links. Quit hammering the exact same anchor text to the same pages.Yeah, I’m a nag on this point; diversify your anchor text!
4) Find yourself some quality traffic that doesn’t rely on Google’s whims! Facebook, ppc, email marketing–whatever. Just don’t rely 100% on organic search traffic from Google.
What’s Your Take?
I’d love to hear your take on Google’s latest maneuvers. Please leave a comment!