Link Warnings Update Leads to Confusion and Changes

Matt Cutts posted on Google+ last week telling webmasters not to panic over receiving unnatural link warnings. Cutts said:

“If you received a message yesterday about unnatural links to your site, don’t panic…Yesterday, we took another step towards more transparency and began sending messages when we distrust some individual links to a site.”

The first feeling of many webmasters may have been panic, but that quickly followed up with anger. This is easily shown by many of the comments left on Cutts’ Google+ post. Comments such as this one by Meg Geddes:

“Oh for crying out loud.  There’s absolutely no excuse for using the SAME MESSAGE in every situation.  You need flags for “needs action” and “notification”  I can’t even begin to relate the amount of lost productivity amongst the civilians (small businesses, yo) over these messages…”

Or how about this comment from Aaron Chronister:

So really, every site with a few million links should be getting this notice. That’s more transparent, and now more confusing that ever…”

At the time, I completely agreed with comments like these; however, over the weekend, Google engineers made a few alterations that changed my mind.

First, if you received one of these warnings, you’ll now notice that the caution sign next to the warning has been removed, well it has been removed if it was only a warning not an action against your site. That move helps clear up much confusion and is a definite act toward transparency.

Secondly, for those who receive these alerts in the future, Google changed the message so it is not the same message as the ones that were sent out in previous months, denoting a penalty.

The new message you may receive will say something along these lines:

“We’ve detected that some of the links pointing to your site are using techniques outside Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. We don’t want to put any trust in links that are artificial or unnatural. We recommend removing any unnatural links to your site. However, we do realize that some links are outside of your control. As a result, for this specific incident we are taking very targeted action on the unnatural links instead of your site as a whole. If you are able to remove any of the links, please submit a reconsideration request, including the actions that you took.

If you have any questions, please visit our Webmaster Help Forum.”

While this is a step toward transparency, it seems more like a scare tactic to me. Yes, it’s giving webmasters whose site’s may have problems a heads up; however, any site with any sort of a decent link profile, especially that of medium to large brands, are going to get this warning.

If you have received this warning before July 20th, be sure to act on it. You can take some time to try to clean up any links; however, I would recommend spending your time building quality signals to your pages. Every site picks up a certain amount of spam links, so building quality links may be your best option.