Over the last 48-hours many people have reported seeing new unnatural linking detection notifications inside Google Webmaster Tools. Twitter has been abuzz about the topic, and search engine news outlets have reported on the subject as well. It’s hard to tell if the warnings are in the tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands, but it is certainly high volume.
The Head Honcho Speaks
Matt Cutts just posted an update on his Google+ account essentially saying that you don’t need to immediately panic. He further stated that some might see negative movement, but it didn’t come across that that negative movement would be necessarily widespread.
New Communication Has Changed Opinion
A few weeks back, we wrote a post about the first big series of unnatural messages that were sent out. In that post, we provided similar advice to the point that folks should not immediately get concerned. In addition, certain overtures were made that perhaps Google’s intent was to influence webmasters to “turn themselves in.”After speaking with a Google representative, we became informed that this was not a scare tactic, but rather an opportunity for webmasters to re-evaluate current or prior SEO campaigns which may have violated certain Google webmaster guidelines. The original article was an opinion piece, but after discussions with said representative, much of the contents of the post became moot, and the post was removed.
What We’re Advising
We’ve been busy advising our own clients on the best ways to develop off-page SEO strategy, WITHOUT violating Google’s guidelines. So many companies have received this message, and we are being extra proactive. Google has even confirmed that more than 700,000 letters were sent out, and that was just the first round from a few weeks ago. As we’ve helped companies audit their backlink portfolios, we found that it was not uncommon that older linking campaigns were often the culprit. Our belief is that old and new campaigns will set this off. Nearly every SEO on the planet has at one point or another violated Google’s guidelines at varying degrees, and so there is a huge history of bad back-linking embedded in the roots of a massive volume of websites (700,000+ according to Google). We feel that being transparent about what we’ve seen and learned is important for us, our clients, and the message we communicate to the industry. Paid links and linking strategy which does not align with Google’s guidelines are being scrutinized more than ever. As I stated in an earlier post, it is my opinion that the Penguin update is the most serious and direct update launched since the Florida update from 2003. Some who have received these messages, that have also violated guidelines in an aggressive and egregious manner are seeing ranking penalties for individual keywords, keyword groups, or entire site-level penalties (even if those efforts are recent or older). Others have received these and have seen no negative effects. I do believe that the majority of sites receiving these have seen no negative movement and likely won’t see negative movement, but, that can’t be confirmed outside of our partners and circle of industry friends. The sage advice at this point is take a hard look at your off-page SEO strategy. If you’re running campaigns which directly violate Google’s webmaster guidelines, now is the prudent time to set forth a plan to change that strategy. Maybe that means it’s time to jump up and down and demand some real resources for content development, creative, and promotion. Having no off-page SEO strategy is also an ineffective solution. One consistent message coming from the ranks inside of Google is to create great content that people want to consume, share, and link to.
Companies are Hearing the Message Loud and Clear
Many leading agencies like iAcquire have stepped up efforts in content marketing and social media to not only deliver more progressive and up to date tactics, but also mitigate the varying risks that come with running any campaigns that might violate Google’s guidelines at any level. Those tactics often require more resources, longer commitments, and more cohesive buy-in from internal departments. But after all, isn’t SEO a cross-channel discipline anyway? We have made a major shift over the last several months, and this shift was further elevated in the last 60-days after our own Google slap. We’ve probably become somewhat of the experts in auditing backlink portfolios. Where relevant, we are working with customers to improve transparency from our side and their side, with the hopes that we can help them clean up or improve off-page SEO tactics across their entire organization, and across all SEO vendors/consultants. Our clients are getting deep, highly thorough backlink audits. Because we’ve put resources in this department, we are also going to offer 25 free “top-level” backlink portfolios to the first non-clients interested – don’t be shy, most companies will read this post and not ask us to help them. Just fill out the form below to get started – no strings attached.