A local businessman has been asking us what he can do about Google.
Apparently, he used a link-building company to promote his new website and has ranked well until this month. Google has now informed him that there are a number of 'spammy' links that violate their guidelines and he must sort it out or suffer the consequences.
It began on August 29th:
The website owner noted that over 1,000 of the links were from the link-building company and asked for them to be removed, which they did. He re-submitted the website to Google for consideration and, on September 12th, received a response:
Disaster! This is the subsequent response on September 19th:
It isn't clear if this still refers to inbound links or whether Google thinks the website content lacks quality. However, the Manual Actions page states: Unnatural links to your site
There is a link to https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/2700611 which says
In total, there are 145 links and the website owner has asked for advice regarding identification of the bad links as the link-builder is denying responsibility for creating any bad links. Is this small website such a threat to somebody that, perhaps, there was some deliberate bad linking from a competitor?
Two weeks ago, the website owner contacted the first 10 identified bad links with a 50% response rate. He will have to disavow the other 50% then contact the next 10 and so on, repeating the requests for those that won't comply. It could take quite some time. And what if new bad links appear? It's another weekly maintenance job for the website owner.
But, wait a moment! The original sinning site with over 1,000 links that were removed in early September is still listed under Webmaster Tools, unchanged, as having over 1,000 inbound links ... yet we checked that the links were definitely no longer on that website so why does Google still attribute them?
Update: January 2014
Google drip-feeds the link information to the client, thus prolonging the process. When the website owner thinks he's done everything he can and submits a reconsideration request, Google produces the next batch of links that they don't like.
I've looked at the two most recent links; one was on a genuine blog that contained links to more than one product on his internet shop and the other was a directory.
The directory wants people to pay for their entries but it seems that they have trawled the internet and included 'free' entries to bulk their search results. The links from this particular directory do seem to violate Google's guidelines, even if the website owner is unaware of its very existence. The way other directories, e.g. Yell, work around this is to launch all external website links from a 'Visit website' button using a 'rel=nofollow' instruction.