REPORT: Google still penalizing for unnatural links – What to do if you are affected…
As you may already know, early this year Google had a mandate to reach out to the sites that might have had a poor link scheme and asked politely that site owners make corrections if they wanted their rankings back. This proved to be one of the most major updates, followed by more Panda and Penguin updates causing widespread penalization for some.
Realizing the criticality of this mandate to their site ranking, our new SEO client approached us with a notice from Google, asking us to fix their little dilemma created by their old SEO provider. It basically stated: “We’ve detected that some of your site’s pages may be using techniques that are outside Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Google Webmaster Tools notice of detected unnatural links…”
If you receive a notice in your inbox like this, don’t panic. It is a good thing. No, really it is. Think of it as a 12-Step AA Program for SEO. Basically, it suggests that you come to terms with how your SEO has been built up until now for your entire website’s life and somehow find the “bad” links so you can “fix” them. Not a simple task. What they want you to do specifically is to look for possible artificial or unnatural links pointing to your site that could be intended to manipulate PageRank.
What are Unnatural or Bad Links? – Algorithm Updates Simplified:
Panda “Algorithm is in their words is a change to their search results ranking algorithm that was first released in February 2011. The change aimed to lower the rank of “low-quality sites” or “thin content sites” (sites with no real quality content) Page layout and content quality are key in this update. Panda is also designed to stop “scrappers” (sites publishing other site’s content) and return higher-quality page results at the top of the search queries.
Penguin Algorithm update was first announced on April 24, 2012. The update is aimed at decreasing search engine rankings of websites that violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines by using unethical and black had SEO techniques to gain favorable rankings. Black hat techniques targeted are keyword stuffing, cloaking, participating in link schemes, or deliberate creation of duplicate content.
Examples of unnatural linking could include buying links to pass PageRank or participating in link schemes. There are SEO firms all over the planet that will have no idea what Google is talking about in this letter. If you receive a letter like this, you might want to use a different SEO company. One site to look out for is BMR’s network; Google went through this with a fine tooth comb.
Google will request that you specifically, look for possibly artificial or unnatural links pointing to your site that could be intended to manipulate PageRank. Bad linking practices are a real concern for Google. I have seen this many times clients come to me saying their “SEO Guy” did some stuff and they lost their keyword terms overnight. Or “our SEO guys are the best” (landing them low searched keyword phrases) thinking they did some magnificent SEO work.
This is why you want to use Webmaster Tools. If you run into this problem, then at least you are alerted to the problem quickly. There are probably tens of thousands of sites out there having this same issue and probably don’t know it’s due to poor SEO practices.
Organic SEO has always been one of the highest converting traffic sources for website conversions if done correctly. Organic keywords have been a consistent provider of revenues for many small and large brands worldwide and they work extremely hard to maintain these rankings. Organic SEO for your company should not be taken lightly. It is one of the best long-term strategies and even if a social media train comes into town and you feel like hitching a ride, do not neglect your Organic SEO Strategy.
We have clients converting at very high percentages on just a few organic keyword phrases and leading their industry for online exposure.
Remember: If someone can build a website, it doesn’t mean they are an SEO professional.
***This is not to discredit anybody with web experience but merely show that SEO is a very specific algorithmic equation that takes full time analysis and should be taking seriously. Hire only proven professionals that stay current on SEO topics and trends. It is knowledge that you are looking for that does not come at a cheap price. It is worth it. It will be a viable long-term solution for your brand that you will be thankful for investing in.
Let’s get one thing straight. Google doesn’t owe anybody anything. It is a privilege to be ranked high on their search engine. This is why it is critical to only practice ethical SEO techniques.
Google isn’t fooling around. They are continuing to investigate sites and they will want to know specifics on the SEO practices since their ultimate goal is to provide the most relevant content in their searches. They are relentless in doing whatever it takes to provide the most relevant listings in their search queries. Google will want a breakdown in your words what happened.
Google might also request the following:
1 – What actions might have led to any penalties?
Investigate using webmaster tools. Try to find out if this is something you did not knowing what you were linking to and see if you can manually remove the links.
2 – What corrective actions have been taken?
You will need to provide Google with evidence of the corrections you have made to the site. Make sure you keep a record as you will be submitting this while humbly requesting that your site be reconsidered.
3 – Do you use an SEO company?
This is interesting but Google will actually ask this so they can track down more guilty culprits and hand out penalties down the chain.
4 – Describe the SEO firm and their actions, if applicable.
Google will also request that you let them know what actions you were aware of, if any. This will help them better understand exactly what happened and who’s ultimately responsible. If you were a little guilty of this, don’t worry, just correct it and resubmit pointing out what the SEO company did and try to be as accurate as you can.
5 – If you acquired the domain URL and think the previous owners may have violated the guidelines before you owned it, let Google know.
Over the last couple of years, there has been a lot more acquiring domain URL’s with established PR (PageRank) and webmasters have been building content based sites on these URL’s hoping to sell PageRank and linkage. These URL’s have had a lot of SEO hands working with the site and you really have to be fully aware of where your URL has been if it was newer. Run Webmaster Tools to help uncover this to rule out the link history.
6 – Please provide any evidence of “good faith” SEO practices before your site will be reconsidered.
In general, Google may want to know more from sites that directly profit from traffic (e.g. search engine optimizers, affiliate programs, etc.) You may need to provide more evidence of good faith before a site will be reconsidered. If you want to seek help on your own, look at Webmaster Help Forum for support to read what others post or become very familiar with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Remember not every post is accurate and can be fully trusted. It might take some back and forth with Google and remember it is very hard to get a hold of Google’s live personnel; so always use best practices in your Organic SEO program.
Let us know how we can help. If you have any questions or comments, I’d like to hear from you.