We have all witnessed the modifications made by Google to their algorithm in recent years. We understand that these changes are always intended to benefit the user and, above all, the websites that, in terms of optimization, faithfully carry out the directives of the search engine. Search results have to be as reliable, efficient and effective as possible; that is what we all want and what Google works towards.
The First Messages: March–June 2012
In pursuit of constant improvement, during the months of March and June Google dedicated itself to sending warning messages, to many webmasters, relating to unnatural links they had identified. The message was as follows (in Google Webmaster Tools):
Web masters tools links
These messages, according to the explanation from Google, were sent because they had detected violations against their quality guidelines. It is important to mention that at the time, Google said these messages had been sent after detailed analyses of the websites which, in turn, recommended the execution of changes to the site and the removal of unnatural links.
Nevertheless, the receipt of this message does not mean that the site was penalized. In fact, one had to consider other factors (specifically a fall in traffic during this period) in order to draw conclusions about whether the site had been penalized or whether it was simply supposed to be a warning to take into consideration.
Many websites received this message and, in the sector, the issue was a point of analysis and reflection. The webmasters and those in charge of websites that received the messages began to take interest (we received many external queries about it). The seriousness of the message was never doubted and the parties involved, to a greater or lesser extent, were interested in analysing their link profile and proceeding in accordance with the recommendations of the search engine.
However, last week Google returned to send the same message once again in the form of a warning. On 19th July many sites received a message through GWT about unnatural links (links that are exactly the same, with the same words). To everyone’s surprise, Matt Cutts (Head of Google’s Webspam Team), came out to say that the message shouldn’t spread panic and clarified that it was a product of identifying some individual links that generated suspicion for them (for more information of this subject you can read more at their Google Plus account).
In conclusion, they have sent a message using the same words but to identify two different things. Before, the message was a product of a global analysis but, now, that same message is about the identification of an individual link or links that create suspicion. Previously we had to take it all into account, but now, what should we do? Do we ignore it? Something is definitely happening at Google. Something that is creating a certain degree of confusion. Danny Sullivan has some interesting thoughts on the matter in his article: Google Updates Link Warnings To (Sort Of) Clarify They Can Be Ignored (Maybe)
But there’s more. After this message, on July 23rd to be specific, the same accounts that received the above message received another message entitled Unnatural Inbound Links, which reads:
Unnatural inbound links
Here the message is clearer. They explain more coherently that they have detected some links that point to sites that may be violating the guidelines. However, they maintain their recommendation to remove any unnatural link. In my opinion, the positive aspect of this message is that (different to before) Google recognises that some links are out of the webmaster’s control. The rest of the message follows the traditional Google line.
Therefore, following the above information, we recommend conducting a link profile analysis and, more generally, analysing the possible causes of having received the message. However, if there is no change in site traffic, no change in rankings or visibility, there is really no need to be concerned as to why the message was sent. Be sure that we will have more information soon.