In the past month, we've been filing 2-6 reconsideration requests per day, so we've seen a very large number of responses to those requests. And since Penguin we've noticed a significant change in Google's messaging concerning unnatural links, which I've mentioned in previous posts. The strongly accusatory message is now a much more gentle suggestion that you may
have screwed up.
But I've lately noticed something that I believe is even more significant. Previously, when you received the unnatural links warning, you were pretty much guaranteed to receive a penalty within 3 weeks - not enough time to preemptively address the problem. So basically, everyone who received the warning eventually got penalized.
But since the warning that went out on 19-21 July 2012, a strange thing happened. Very few sites were harmed, and I believe this signals a paradigm shift within Google. Something major has changed, and I believe it is connected to a problem that Google has been in denial about in the past - negative seo.
We have always known that negative seo was possible. Penguin only made it more obvious because Google really has no clue who is actually responsible for the garbage links pointing to your sites - and triggering the penalties. Yet Google continued to claim it was not possible for 3rd parties to harm sites, even in the face of direct evidence (that we provide to them on a regular basis) that proved it was not only possible, but occurring with some regularity. Once it came under public discussion, many seos picked up that challenge and ran their own experiments.
These experiments were trying to prove that 3rd parties could indeed get sites penalized using spammy links - and in the last month many of those tests succeeded in triggering the unnatural links message. The most visible is Rand Fishkin's challenge to negative seo his site seomoz.com - he has been a mouthpiece for Google claiming it could not be done and even offering a $20,000 prize if someone could do it to his site. He got the warning earlier this month, like every other site that's under attack.
The fact that the attacks are succeeding in triggering the warning is a bad sign for Google. If they were to now penalize all these sites, they now have to know that they will be harming innocents. I believe this is why they have not acted as they have in the past.
Contrast Google's behavior with Bing. Bing has had a link disavow tool in their version of WMT for over a month. This is a tweak to Google's nose that little Bing is more functionally robust in recognizing the problem of negative seo and providing tools to address it. We have been asking for a disavow tool from Google for many years, and we're now expecting Google to deliver on this, especially since they have no options other than to harm innocent sites if they don't.
We have to balance all this against the probability that Google will act on the warnings anyway. But some sites that are under attack have several million links - so many that a granular analysis could be prohibitively expensive and still not address the problem in time.
Given all of this, the approach we're taking is to focus on the most obvious of the problems - the goal being to be able to message Google that unnatural links are coming down but to limit the financial burden in a way that will be seen as reasonable and warranted. We're doing this by concentrating on the most egregious links - site-wides, links from penalized sites, malware distributors, obvious spam, etc.
Even though most sites have so far not been harmed after the last warning it's really not responsible to advise clients to ignore those warnings, but there is a significant consequence that is going to follow any release of a disavow tool in WMT. Like many site owners have already done, just imagine spending thousands of dollars discovering and removing links only to find that it was all unnecessary.
Google, everyone still wants and needs the ability to disavow the links pointing to our sites so we can't be harmed by negative seo. It's the right thing to do. Bing already did it and it's way past time for you to follow suit.