The Google Webmaster Central Blog announced that they have made a few changes to Google Webmaster Tools. The most noticeable change is the new user interface for the dashboard. It has a sleeker look and is a bit neater than the previous version.
The most significant change is the addition of the paid link report tool. This tool allows webmasters to inform Google about sites that are buying or selling links. The page reads:
We work hard to return the most relevant results for every search we conduct. To that end, we encourage site managers to make their content straightforward and easily understood by users and search engines alike. Unfortunately, not all websites have users' best interests at heart. Some site owners attempt to "buy PageRank" in the form of paid links to their sites. Buying links to improve PageRank violates our quality guidelines.
Google uses a number of methods to detect paid links, including algorithmic techniques. We also welcome information from our users. If you know of a site that buys or sells links, please tell us by filling out the fields below. We'll investigate your submissions, and we'll use your data to improve our algorithmic detection of paid links.
Google has also added a page telling you Why should I report paid links to Google? Where they explain that links are used to "determine reputation." Google then adds, "some SEOs and webmasters engage in the practice of buying and selling links, disregarding the quality of the links, the sources, and the long-term impact it will have on their sites." It is because of this, that Google wants you to report links that are paid. Saying, links that are not nofollowed or redirected are in "violation of Google's webmaster guidelines and can negatively impact a site's ranking in search results."
Here is a screen capture of the form:
One thing I should add is that, Yahoo's directory is currently not using a nofollow attribute on their links, nor are they using a redirect that I can see. Here is the source code for the link to my corporate site from the Yahoo Directory, <a href=http://www.rustybrick.com/>RustyBrick Web Construction</a>. Plus, looking at the server headers, it does not appear to currently go through any redirect.
The final change is renaming the "reinclusion request form" to a "reconsideration" request form. Here is a screen capture of the new reconsideration form.
There is discussion on mostly the paid link report form at DigitalPoint Forums. Many forum members are not happy with the new form. But I suspect it is here to stay.
Forum discussion at DigitalPoint Forums.