Following the gossip on the topic SAPE Links Penalized by Google? from 07 / 03 / 2013 on the very next day (08 / 03 / 2013) lots of webmasters and SEO experts announced that they have received a warning for unnatural inbound links in their Google Webmaster Tools accounts, which they said to believe is a Sape related problem.
Before you start panicking, I suggest you try and analyze the situation more carefully. Do you remember the Penguin algorithm panic from the last summer when Google sent over 700 000 warnings for detected unnatural links? Well, if you do you will most probably remember that a few days later many of these messages were removed or replaced with another ones which purpose was to specify that the previous messages had to be ignored.
What is the small but very significant difference between the two reports?
Let’s look at the titles of the two warnings first. What differences do we see? The more severe message was the first one with title “(exclamation mark) Google Webmaster Tools notice of detected unnatural links on http://www.website.com/” while the second one was “http://www.website.com/: Unnatural inbound links“.
But that’s not all. Let’s take a look at the body of the warnings. The first and more vigorous one says:
“We’ve detected that some of your site’s pages may be using techniques that are outside Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Specifically, look for possibly artificial or unnatural links on your site pointing to other sites that could be intended to manipulate PageRank. Examples of unnatural linking could include selling links to pass PageRank or participating in link schemes.”
while the second one claims that:
“We don’t want to put any trust in links that are unnatural or artificial, and we recommend removing any unnatural links to your site. However, we do realize that some links may be outside of your control. As a result, for this specific incident we are taking very targeted action to reduce trust in the unnatural links. If you are able to remove any of the links, you can submit a reconsideration request, including the actions that you took.”
Seeing the difference now? While the first Google warning sounds quite rigorous and the title is marked with an exclamation mark, the second one is rather informative than threatening. It simply says that Google have found some links which MIGHT look unnatural, but this doesn’t mean that they look dangerous and will not necessarily lead to Google penalties (Penguin penalties). They have admitted that they may have been wrong about this!
I have also received several warnings from the latter myself, but I think they are just informative and will probably (but not by all means) lead to trust reduction of just these links that Google has found unnatural. Another strong evidence of this is that the SERP positions of all projects that got such warnings have stayed intact up to now. What is more – they are even improving slowly!
So what does this actually mean? Should you worry?
Nope. Google have probably decided to remove the ranking power from some of the links in your link profile, but this doesn’t mean that your sites have been penalized! So, heads up and relax! All you need to do is to re-check all your links and remove the ones that Google’s Webspam Team might have considered artificial… that’s all.
I also got a warning! Now what?
I strongly suggest that you to remove all the low quality backlinks that point to the websites that got the unnatural links warnings. Start with the following:
- Site-wide links (links that present on each page of the website)
- Footer links (placed in the footer area of the website)
- Irrelevant links (placed on websites on different topics than yours)
- Some of the links with the main keywords in their anchors (diversify your anchor texts – add more naked links, links with your brand name on them, links with your secondary phrases, etc.)
- Take some time to build more links to your inner pages, don’t link just your home page
After following these 5 simple rules things should be just fine and these warnings will stay in history. Don’t rush towards the reconsideration request option. Don’t freak out, Sape is not banned by Google, you should just be extra careful when building Sape backlinks. Much more careful than before!