Why Removing Links after an Unnatural Link Warning Might be a Bad Idea


As oxygen is to the body, links is to a website. Simply put, the modern search engines’ core algorithm ranks web pages based on a crucial factor – how many other sites are linking to a site and how good those sites are. It suffices to say that the higher the quality of sites that link to you, the better the chances of your site ranking.

However, what about all the bad, supposedly spammy, low-quality links pointing to your site? Should you be worried about them? Can they harm your site and do they have the ability to bring down your rankings? We’d like to think “not” but Google has sent out mixed signals about that recently with their latest Penguin updates.

This fad about removing links has gained momentum in the last few months after Google has been sending out “Unnatural Link Warning” notices. With the most recent set of notices sent, it was surprising to see that even a site like SEOMoz.org got an unnatural links notice. So the question that begs itself, if Google is issuing such notices, should you remove some of those links pointing to your site?

Google Unnatural Link Warning

Well, there are two ways of looking at it:

1.   You could spend hours removing (or at least attempting to remove) as many suspicious links as you can, contact Google informing them of your efforts and hope your site recovers in their next algorithmic update.

2.   You could spend the same amount of time that you would’ve spent in removing links but instead on renewed link building efforts that result in a stream of quality links flowing to your site. The resultant effect of such an effort being that your rankings do eventually recover because of a rebalanced link portfolio and that the penalty effect of the unnatural links wanes over time.

I am of the opinion that the latter might be a more sound strategy because the Penguin update is an algorithmic update after all and not a manual update. So what that means is that when your link profile does start looking stronger and more diverse, your sites’ rankings will automatically come back in the fold.

You could ask, what about the “penalty” effect of those “unnatural” links if you don’t remove them? What if Google is not just ignoring the value of those links but in fact imposing a penalty? I believe that there are two aspects to be looked at here to understand how Google could `possibly be interpreting your links where the Penguin update is concerned:

a)      They’ll look at the quality and diversity of your links in terms of the kind of sites that are linking to you. The basic premise of PageRank remains, the value you get from each link would be determined by the quality of the site. However, if you have one too many links from a very similar profile of sites, then the site could possibly be “Penguined”.

b)      They’ll look at the diversity in your anchor text. If you have a large number of money keywords and little to few branded/domain based keywords or natural linking words, then this could be another possibility of your site being “Penguined”.

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How Google Has Messed Up With the Latest Link Warning Notices

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In July 2012, Google made a big mistake. Webmasters from all over the world logged into their Google Webmaster Tools accounts to see this message:

“Google Webmaster Tools notice of detected unnatural links to: http://www.sitename.com”

For webmasters who participate in spammy linkbuilding tactics, this kind of notification would come as no surprise. What did shock webmasters was that some of the sites who saw this notification were quite reputable sites, like SEOMoz.org which also received this notice.

People who’ve spent months and years building organic backlinks to their site suddenly saw a message from Google accusing them of spam. Needless to say, the SEO and website building communities were outraged.

What Happened?

The notice came as a result of Matt Cutts and the Google Web Spam Team making changes to their notification algorithms. More specifically, the Web Spam Team is trying to be more transparent with their processes.

In other words, instead of just banning a site outright one day, they want to give sites that are potentially in violation a little more notice. They want webmasters to know what they’re thinking.

So what Google decided to do was to notify webmasters if they thought they were seeing spammy links pointing to their site. It was meant more as a “heads up” rather than a “we think you’re spamming” message.

Unfortunately, the warning message was worded quite ambiguously. The message didn’t tell site owners how severe the issue was or whether or not they were being penalized. It simply said that “unnatural links” were detected. Also, the message came with the yellow warning logo.

In the past, Google only gave warnings when they thought an entire site might be suspect. If they thought that a site’s linking tactics involve spam, they’ll give you a warning. Today, they’ve changed it so that if you have any spammy links at all, you’ll get a warning.

What Google Has Done to Rectify the Situation

Matt Cutts has already gone on Google+ and clarified their stance of there not necessarily being a reason to panic if one has received this notice. That said, Google has not rescinded their decision to post the message. [Click to Enlarge]

Matt Cutts Link Warning Rectification Notice

Instead, they’ve split the one warning message into two. People whose entire site is suspected of spam will receive a different notification than people who’re receiving spammy backlinks. Webmasters should easily be able to tell whether they’re still in Google’s good graces based on the warning message. Also, the yellow warning sign has been removed.

Note: The main reason Google can’t just ban any site getting spammy links is because competitors can then easily take down any other site simply by spamming it with links. Google wants to warn sites if they’re receiving spammy links, but Google doesn’t want to ban sites that are being spammed by competitors.

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Beyond Basic Stats: 7 Ways to Track Visitors


Analytics Business IntelligenceHaving good visitor intelligence will allow you to market to your customers and optimize your website on a completely different level than before. Most people never look beyond the surface with their visitor intelligence. Sure, they’ll use Google Analytics to figure out their bounce rates and their time on site – But rarely do they go beyond that.

A world class business on the other hand goes far, far beyond the basic stats. They want to really get inside their customers’ heads and figure out what makes them tick. Why are some customers more valuable than others? Why do some customers choose you, while others go to your competitors?

Here are 7 ways you can use visitor intelligence in your marketing efforts.

1) K.I.S.S Keep it short and simple

The first thing you should remember about visitor intelligence is to “Keep it Short & Simple!” (KISS.)

A lot of companies make their visitor intelligence far, far too complex. You don’t need to track 20 different stats for every visitor or every marketing campaign.

Figure out your most important stats and keep a close eye on those. Use other stats to improve your overall processes, but stop watching them once you’ve gotten what you need.

2) Analyzing Your Lead Followup

Analyzing Lead FollowupHow is your lead followup system performing? What percentage of people who come into your funnel ultimately end up buying?

One thing every dedicated marketer should absolutely do is spend some time analyzing his or her lead followup system. Where do your customers drop off? What aspects of the system are working and what aspects aren’t?

3) Analyzing On-Site Customer Behavior

Use tools like CrazyEgg to learn about how your customers behave when they’re on your website. Use software that allows you to take videos of customers browsing your website. Or better yet, have real customers come in physically and use your site.

Watch them, then ask them questions about what they liked and didn’t like about using your site.

Analyze your customers’ on-site behavior to really get a sense for what they like and don’t like.

4) Replicate Previous Marketing Successes

Go through your past marketing campaigns and examine the ones that succeeded particularly well. What was it that made them stand out? Why did those campaigns succeed while others failed?

Take the winning elements from those campaigns and rinse and repeat. Make sure you change other things, so it doesn’t look like you’re just doing the same thing over and over again.

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