Google Webmasters Tools Warnings: Don’t Panic but Don’t Ignore

Last Month, Bing launched its Link Disavow Program which allows webmasters to choose links that they want to ignore. This program is designed to help people fix poor SEO practices/ choices that they may have made in the past. When we last explored this idea we wondered how Google would react. At the moment Bing does not penalize websites for poor link building programs, but Google does and probably needs a system like Bing has to help webmasters fix mistakes.

At the moment, Google is not willing to provide such a system for a number of reasons that I reviewed last month but has made efforts to better help webmasters fix their mistakes. They have updated their warning system in Webmasters tools. Remember those warnings that first appeared several months ago? It was great that Google was letting us know that something was wrong, but we had no clue how to deal with it. Well now those scary messages have become a little more descriptive and a little less scary.

The first messages that were sent out by Google were designed to shock webmasters and make them aware that things had changed:

Let’s talk about the original link messages that we’ve been sending out for months. When we see unnatural links pointing to a site, there are different ways we can respond. In many severe cases, we reduce our trust in the entire site. For example, that can happen when we believe a site has been engaging in a pretty widespread pattern of link spam over a long period of time. If your site is notified for these unnatural links, we recommend removing as many of the spammy or low-quality links as you possibly can and then submitting a reconsideration request for your site.

This original message gets straight to the point that old “spammy” SEO practices were no longer going to work and that an entire site could be ignored if such practices continued. This warning probably caused a good amount of panic to those webmasters who received one.  But what did Google recommend that we do?

In a few situations, we have heard about directories or blog networks that won’t take links down. If a website tries to charge you to put links up and to take links down, feel free to let us know about that, either in your reconsideration request or by mentioning it on our webmaster forum or in a separate spam report. We have taken action on several such sites, because they often turn out to be doing link spamming themselves.

Google reworked the content of this message to provide more positive outlook on the back link problems some websites are facing. Since Google wishes to make Penguin your friend, they need to make sure the program does not come off as a witch hunt.

In less severe cases, we sometimes target specific spammy or artificial links created as part of a link scheme and distrust only those links, rather than taking action on a site’s overall ranking. The new messages make it clear that we are taking “targeted action on the unnatural links instead of your site as a whole.” The new messages also lack the yellow exclamation mark that other messages have, which tries to convey that we’re addressing a situation that is not as severe as the previous “we are losing trust in your entire site” messages.

So don’t panic if this message makes its way across your webmasters tools, as Google may be on your side after all. Or they might not? It pretty unclear as to whether or not your site is being targeted as whole or if only a few links are being targeted. This leads us to our next message:

These new messages are worth your attention. Fundamentally, it means we’re distrusting some links to your site.

We often take this action when we see a site that is mostly good but might be might have some spammy or artificial links pointing to it (widgetbait, paid links, blog spam, guestbook spam, excessive article directory submissions, excessive link exchanges, other types of linkspam, etc.).

So while the site’s overall rankings might not drop directly, likewise the site might not be able to rank for some phrases.

I wouldn’t classify these messages as purely advisory or something to be ignored, or only for innocent sites.

So is my site “innocent” or not? And what defines “innocence”? These messages seem to be making things more confusing than helpful. These excerpts read more like quotes from the “hitchhikers guide to the galaxy” than they do from Google’s “helpful” staff.  But Google has provided us with a useful tool from all of this.

We recently launched the ability to download backlinks to your site sorted by date. If you get this new link message, you may want to check your most recent links to spot anything unusual going on.

If you discover that someone in your company has been doing widgetbait, paid links, or serious linkspam, it’s worth cleaning that up and submitting a reconsideration request.

Any good SEO plan will require both a tracking system and also Google webmasters tools. This message from Google could be very helpful in determining where you have gone wrong along the way. Both Google penguin and panda have great documentation. If you see a dramatic change in traffic to the site, try aligning that information with your backlinks. If nothing significant lines up with that, try aligning it with updates to panda and penguin. You may find that a change in online content directly lead to a penalty from Panda or a poor choice in linking program lead to a penalty from Panda. But again Google only suggests that this may be the case. And while your message from Google may be more confusing than helpful, with the right tools you may be able to sort things out.

I am not 100% sold on the new updated message from Google, but I do think they are a step in the right direction. At the moment, a webmasters best friend is still his eyes. Read Google updates to Penguin and Panda and if a link sharing program seems off, stay clear of it. It’s easier to avoid spammy links then it is to find them once your notified by Google.


– Matt Wilkos

If you are interested in more SEO techniques or would like to hire us to manage your reputation online contact us at: or call 857.526.0096.

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