On Friday, we reported that Google began sending out a new batch of link warning notifications. What we found out later was that these were not penalty notifications, but rather just a heads up from Google that Google is ignoring some links that are pointing to your web site.
Matt Cutts posted the update on his Google+ page saying that these notifications can be ignored. Ignored! Yes, ignored!
How can manual notifications be ignored when Google has told us that manual notifications are penalties and should not be ignored? Well, they did.
Google's intentions were golden. They wanted to be more transparent, tell you they are ignoring links but when it came down to the implementation, they simply messed up.
Danny Sullivan blew up and called this insanity and he is right. It caused a major scare amongst SEOs, webmasters and those who owned web sites, never bought a link in their life, didn't even know what link buying was and got this severe notification that read, "our opinion of your entire site is affected."
So Google changed the message over the weekend. Matt Cutts updated his post to write:
Thanks to everyone who gave feedback on this change. An engineer worked over the weekend based on the suggestions here, and starting on Sunday we made two changes so you can tell the "individual links aren't trusted" messages from the "our opinion of your entire site is affected" messages.
First off, we changed the messages themselves that we'll send out to make it clear that for a specific incident "we are taking very targeted action on the unnatural links instead of your site as a whole." So anyone that gets a message going forward can tell what type of action has occurred.
The second change is that these messages won't show the yellow caution sign in our webmaster console at http://google.com/webmasters/ like our other webspam notifications. This reflects the fact that these actions are much more targeted and don't always require action by the site owner.
Thanks again for the feedback, and we'll continue to work on ways to provide more useful and actionable information for site owners.
So why is Google informing webmasters that they are ignoring links pointing to their site when it has no impact on their rankings? Any ideas?
Of course, if they did have a positive impact and no longer do, then that might be useful. But from the way Matt worded this, "If we've taken more severe action on your site, you’ll likely notice a drop in search traffic, which you can see in the “Search queries” feature Webmaster Tools for example." So these ignored links wouldn't cause a drop in rankings I guess? So why inform webmasters of links that simply do not count?
Update: This afternoon, Google sent out another notification to those on Thursday/Friday via Google Webmaster Tools about this. The message read:
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.
Image credit to ShutterStock for head in sand