If you have what Google calls “unnatural links” that hare pointing to your web site, then Google will notify you. They do these notifications via Google Webmaster Tools. In order to receive the messages, web site owners must go through a verification process to “verify their web site” and prove that they are the web site owner. Consider yourself lucky–or doing something right–if you have not received any of these “detection of unnatural links” messages.
In what I call a confusing turn of events, Google has sent out a correction to recent messages regarding the detection of unnatural links. I am able to see all of this since I am still the verified owner of a web site that I no longer work on. My former client has not removed me from his Google Webmaster Tools as a verified owner. And, since I no longer work on this web site, I am able to see the notices of unnatural links to the web site, all of which I am not responsible for.
This is the first message of unnatural links that Google sent via Google Webmaster Tools, one received on July 19, 2012:
Dear site owner or webmaster of http://www.XXXXXXXXXX.com/,
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 pointing to your site that could be intended to manipulate PageRank. Examples of unnatural linking could include buying links to pass PageRank or participating in link schemes.
We encourage you to make changes to your site so that it meets our quality guidelines. Once you’ve made these changes, please submit your site for reconsideration in Google’s search results.
If you find unnatural links to your site that you are unable to control or remove, please provide the details in your reconsideration request.
If you have any questions about how to resolve this issue, please see our Webmaster Help Forum for support.
Google Search Quality Team
This is the second message of unnatural links that Google sent via Google Webmaster Tools, received on July 23, 2012:
We’ve detected that some of the links pointing to your site are using techniques outside Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
We don’t want to put any trust in links that are artificial or unnatural. We recommend removing any unnatural links to your site. However, we do realize that some links are outside of your control. As a result, for this specific incident we are taking very targeted action on the unnatural links instead of your site as a whole. If you are able to remove any of the links, please submit a reconsideration request, including the actions that you took.
If you have any questions, please visit our Webmaster Help Forum.
Note that on the 2nd message Google doesn’t address the web site owner, it’s simply a note. They could have at least make it semi-cordial.
The second message from Google should have some sort of explanation, something that indicates that Google may have previously sent notices–and this new message should override any previous messages that they sent. It’s hard enough to keep up with confusingly vague messages that Google sends. But really–to send out another message that is equally as vague as the previous message, that really is going to make it even more confusing. Especially to web site owners who are not as technical as I am.
Search Engine Land has a story about these unnatural links, and talks about how you should ignore them, which is even more confusing.
Are you confused yet? I am.
If you read this message carefully, the links that Google is notifying you about may be links on your web site pointing to other web sites. In this case here, this web site was linking out to other web sites and they suffered a search engine ranking drop that they eventually were able to take care of–after fixing the issue.