Jul 312012

Google's Webmaster Warnings: Don't Panic, Behave

According to many, Google has stirred up more confusion and panic among webmasters with its latest messaging surrounding unnatural links and "what to do about them."

I don't think the message is all that complicated or confusing. Google has no way of determining whether the garbage links going to website A were a bad attempt at positive link-building by website A (or its representatives), or a good attempt at negative SEO by website A's competitors (or their representatives). They can't send messages to the link builders because G doesn't know who they are. What they can do is send a message to the webmaster.

That message is: garbage links have appeared pointing at your site. If you're doing this, knock it off. If someone else is doing this to you, don't sweat it. If you don't have many real links pointing to your site, we're more likely to think you're the problem and your website itself is garbage -- clean up the garbage links and we'll reconsider. If you do have a lot of quality links pointing to your site, we'll view your site as quality regardless of the garbage links and just ignore the garbage -- no need to clean up.

As I argued previously, the point of all of this is to make garbage link building go away, which can only be done by: 1) correctly identifying garbage links as distinct from naturally occurring links; 2) valuing those unnatural links at zero; and 3) letting everyone who MIGHT be involved know that they are doing 1 & 2 to dry up the incentive (and money) to chase bogus links.

There are far more knowledgeable SEO folks at RKG than me, but if we assume the folks at Google are rational and not stupid, this is the only explanation that makes sense to me.

Am I wrong?


9 Responses to "Google's Webmaster Warnings: Don't Panic, Behave"
Kent says:
I believe, as long as we focus on human relationship, we won't have many garbage links. Because we don't want to deal with garbage people as well. :)
I think pretty much everyone got this message in webmaster tools, but I wasn't sure exactly how to understand this? You say to take it as a hint to stop doing spammy links, but I also think that it would be a good idea to go through ingoing links and perhaps attempt to remove some of the spammy links, so your overall link profile improves, with the intention of making a reconsideration request with Google. Have you had these thoughts?
Hi Daniel, I think (and I'll ask the real experts on staff to chime in if I'm wrong, here) the answer depends on the extent to which you have quality natural links as well. If you don't have very many quality inbound links then trying to pull down the spammy links is probably worth the effort. If you do have a healthy number of links that developed organically based on the quality of your website content, then it probably isn't worth the time to pull down the bad links; that time might be better spent developing more great content that people will want to link to.
Leslie says:
If I was inside Google I would have sent one of these warning notices to everyone who ranks in the top 1,000 search results in all geo areas for search terms like: seo, internet marketing, online marketing, link building, etc. Then on top of that I would run a spider over these sites and find all the non-seo sites they link to and send all of them the same notice. Man that sort of behavior would really freak people out. Imagine all your clients getting this in GWT? As we all know Google have tried to protect what they see as their position in search by controlling how websites "should" get links. This is just one step further down that road.
Great point, Leslie. Thanks for your comment.
Thanks for the response, George, I've had similar conclusions on the table. Leslie, that would probably freak some people out and further more piss some wrong people off, since the SEOs around world indirectly are a part of Googles income. I don't see any idea in making, the decision to switch away from Google to another search engine, any easier for the online marketing agencies. All in all it is a very fine balance for Google. For one I admire their overall courage to be the forerunner in improving internet content all over the world.
Leslie says:
@Daniel - as SEO's I fail to see how we contribute to Google's over all income. What we really do is take away from their income in helping clients not pay for Adwords. We are a tick on the back of the Google cash cow, one that is swiped at now and again.
Daniel, Leslie, could a case be made that Google has mixed feelings about SEOs based on their practices? I agree with Daniel that organic results are the key component of their income. Absent quality organic results, people will go elsewhere for search/information, and at that point, why go to Google for commercial searches when their are great vertical search engines already? Google likes SEOs that help quality websites rank as well as they should by making the sites easier to crawl and understand. Google probably despises SEOs that give bad technical advice (SEO footers, white text on white background), and gum up the internet with crap websites to try to push lousy sites to the top of the SERPs. Of course, no one can make a coherent case that one site quality site should rank over another site of similar quality, so you're unlikely to hear Walmart say: "well, really we should be in position 4 for this user's search. Amazon has a better selection than we do, the specialty site has tons of relevant/helpful info, and this user prefers Target to us, so 4 is fine, we're satisfied with that..."
Excellent points, George. (good-hearted/white-hat) SEOs help Google on their quest to a better internet with better quality content. I also despise the methods that exploits Google to get to the top, although the content may not qualify for a #1 spot in SERPs. But penalizing all SEOs is probably a step too steep for me! Nice discussion though :-)

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