On Friday there was another batch of Google Analytics message about “unnatural links” sent out to a wide number of websites. Most of these sites had not received a link notification before. From experience much of the online world, on receiving these messages, began ferreting around the back link profile of and affected site.
The previous unnatural links warning messages were about a large number of links and would result in a penalty to your website and a downturn in the number of rankings and visits you receive.
However, shortly after these messages were sent Matt Cutts posted on his Google+ page that these messages were a “step towards more transparency”. It turns out that this batch of these messages is more about one of two individual links rather than a bank of “bad links”.
Now, since the first batch of unnatural links messages came through in July last year we all learnt to respond to these with a full link review and making sure that the links which might be an issue are removed.
Now that Matt Cutts has said that these most recent messages are for transparency and not for the same use as the older messages what benefits do they offer webmasters?
Before we knew this we would perform a full link review to ensure that we knew which links would be an issue on the site from links such as site wide links or websites which don’t offer value to the site.
If this data is not trustworthy because it’s about information and not about potential penalties on your site, then should we be worried?
The trouble with Google sending out messages that it tells us can be ignored is that the weight and importance of these messages is diluted. Should you listen to Google Webmaster Tools message? Or are they just noise now? The difficulty with them being seen as noise is that they COULD be useful, and the trouble with thinking they are important when they aren’t is that you waste a lot of time looking at something which isn’t having an effect on you.
So what should you do if you’ve received one of these messages? The first thing to do is not panic. The next thing to do is to consider your back link profile from within Google Webmaster Tools to try and see if there is anything which might be causing an issue.
Look for sites which are sending thousands of links to your website but only link to one page, this indicates a site wide link to your website – these are best avoided and if you’ve got some of these then it’s a good idea to try and get these removed.
Look for sites such as Updowner.com which might be linking to you many times, although Google have said not to worry about these, there are a lot of case studies on the web which are claiming that despite this they noticed an increase in rankings for websites after they removed links from these kind of sites.
Looking at your back links in Google Webmaster Tools can also help you to identify duplicate versions of your website, which you, otherwise might not have been aware of. This will help you resolve duplicate content issues and make sure that there is only one version of your site showing in Google.
Keep an eye on your Google rankings and make sure you are aware of the amount of traffic your site is getting, if either of these (or both) are dropping you might have received a penalty. However, make sure you are reviewing a long enough period of time to make this figure a viable statistic.
It remains to be seen if these messages from Google help or hinder but as I see it they do make sure that you are paying attention to what’s going on with your website, so that if there IS a problem you are more likely to spot it and resolve it more quickly than if you hadn’t had the message or had ignored it.