Google Admits Link Mistake, Probably Won’t Help Webmaster Link Hysteria

    September 10, 2013
    Chris Crum
    Comments are off for this post.

Google is apparently getting links wrong from time to time. By wrong, we mean giving webmasters example links (in unnatural link warning messaging) that are actually legitimate, natural links.

It’s possible that the instances discussed here are extremely rare cases, but how do we know? It’s concerning that we’re seeing these stories appear so close together. Do you think this is an issue that is happening a lot? Let us know in the comments.

A couple weeks ago, a forum thread received some attention when a webmaster claimed that this happened to him. Eventually Google responded, not quite admitting a mistake, but not denying it either. A Googler told him:

Thanks for your feedback on the example links sent to you in your reconsideration request. We’ll use your comments to improve the messaging and example links that we send.

If you believe that your site no longer violates Google Webmaster Guidelines, you can file a new reconsideration request, and we’ll re-evaluate your site for reconsideration.

Like I said, not exactly an admission of guilt, but it pretty much sounds like they’re acknowledging the merit of the guy’s claims, and keeping these findings in mind to avoid making similar mistakes in the future. That’s just one interpretation, so do with that what you will.

Now, however, we see a Googler clearly admitting a mistake when it provided a webmaster with one of those example URLs for a DMOZ link. Barry Schwartz at Search Engine Roundtable, who pointed out the other thread initially, managed to find this Google+ discussion from even earlier.

Dave Cain shared the message he got from Google, which included the DMOZ link, and tagged Google’s Matt Cutts and John Mueller in the post. Mueller responded, saying, “That particular DMOZ/ODP link-example sounds like a mistake on our side.”

“Keep in mind that these are just examples — fixing (or knowing that you can ignore) one of them, doesn’t mean that there’s nothing else to fix,” he added. “With that in mind, I’d still double-check to see if there are other issues before submitting a reconsideration request, so that you’re a bit more certain that things are really resolved (otherwise it’s just a bit of time wasted with back & forth).”

Cain asked, ” Because of the types of links that were flagged in the RR response (which appear to be false negatives . i.e DMOZ/ODP), would it be safe to assume that the disavow file wasn’t processed with the RR?”

Mueller said that “usually” submitting both at the same time is no problem, adding, “So I imagine it’s more a matter of the webspam team expecting more.”

It’s a good thing Mueller did suggest that Google made a mistake, given the link in question was from DMOZ. There are a lot of links in DMOZ, and that could have created another wave in the ocean of link hysteria. Directories in general have already seen a great deal of requests for link removals.

Here’s a video from a couple summers ago with Cutts giving an update on how Google thinks about DMOZ.

Cutts, of the webpspam team, did not weigh in on Cain’s conversation with Mueller (which took place on August 20th).

Mistakes happen, and Google is not above that. However, seeing one case where Google is openly admitting a mistake so close to another case where it looks like they probably also made a mistake is somewhat troubling, considering all the hysteria we’ve seen over linking over the past year and a half.

It does make you wonder how often it’s happening.

Update: Just got a tweet from Cutts on the matter:

Do you think these are most likely rarities, or do you believe Google is getting things wrong often? Share your thoughts.

Image: Google

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com/full-service-seo Nick Stamoulis

    I’m sure mistakes do happen, but what I want to know is how nit picky Google is getting with these partial manual actions. Can a small percentage of not-so-good links really hold back the entire reconsideration process? And my bigger concern is that Webmaster Tools doesn’t see links in real-time. Are sites being judged for links that don’t actually exist any more?

    • http://www.webpronews.com/author/chris-crum Chris Crum

      All good questions.

    • http://www.itstheroi.com Jonah Stein


      Yes, sites are being judged for links that don’t exist anymore. The real issue is that sites may be penalized for links that aren’t even “spam” (whatever that means).

      The irony is that DMOZ actually contains a FEW paid links (and a few DMOZ editors still own that old Ferrari…) Google could really help clean up this mess simply by ignoring ALL directory links and being clear about it. Hit the reset button instead of trying to judge intent and punish webmasters on a case by case basis.

      • ~e~


        They are ultra-nitpicky in my actual experience, and sometimes target links without real merit, but only guessing, which makes some sense.

        Seems that even guest posts can be bad sometimes, and no, they have never pointed out a link to me that was not in the current GWT recent links list.

        I have learned a lot about which links they they find acceptable/not, which I find useful going forward.

  • http://MikeSearles.com Mike Searles

    Well covered.

    If Google does make a mistake raising solid questions on reputable forums then a prompt and candid admission of error would be welcomed. Not a carefully worded response so cute it could rival the statements released from the Whitehouse.

  • Ryan

    Google has made some many changes they are bound to have got a few wrong it is a given especially with amount of data they have.

  • http://arezdjibril.mywapblog.com Ariezjenuh

    i’m sorry i can’t speak english.
    I’m newbie

  • http://lingeri-shop.blogspot.in/ Fredrick

    Almost every webmaster is dependent on Google and so I must say how can Google make such a mistake? There is no scope for committing mistakes from such a huge firm which happens to dominate the WWW. Is this the beginning of the downfall of Google?

  • Jonathan Parker

    It would certainly help if Google told us which links they thought violated their guidelines. As an example I have a client who has over 1200 back-links each pointing to various pages on his site. The only message he received was ‘we believe unnatural links etc ..’ and a manual intervention on some (not disclosed). This client is as white hat as they come and spends many 100’s of hours writing guest posts, articles & building great on-line relationships within his industry. My point being of over 1200 links how is he supposed to find which links Google believes are unnatural etc? Here we are almost 2 month after the initial notification and he is lost for a solution.
    On a personal note: I’ve always believed that Google has alienated webmasters and the like and recently it would appear to be have become almost psychotic in their drive to maximize profits. I believe that this in part is responsible for the apparent increase in webmasters steering clients towards Facebook and Bing related marketing here in the UK.
    The moral question that I would like to put to Google on my clients behalf is this: For whatever Google guidelines my client may or may not have breached, once he agrees to pay per click these guidelines appear to become irrelevant in Google’s eyes! An explanation please Mr Google.

  • http://corporationsofnevada.com Jennifer

    Just more reason to stop blindly worshiping after google so much. Catering to google’s fickle policy is clearly not the best marketing plan, even if the company has “the numbers” for now. It’s a monopoly, and all monopolies rot from the top.

    I also think people are investing way too much energy into worrying about it. Adopt a more well-rounded marketing strategy than “OMG WHAT DOES GOOGLE THINK??” heh

  • http://www.oldwelshguy.co.uk OldWelshGuy

    Google are an animal out of control, mainly because they have no master to keep them in check.

    the Ideal situation would be to have a ‘no Google’ day where everyone involved stops using Google for that day this includes PPC search all their services. This would hit them in the pocket, and IMO is the only way to get them to sit up and realise that they have t answer to someone.

    • John Q Siteowner

      Use Adbrite….The owner is at least a good and decent guy. Had contact with him when he had a free small social site.

  • Chris

    I think everyone should boycott Google. I’ve used Bing now for about a year and love the results. The only thing I use Google for any more is their maps. Other than that they can do what they want. Any traffic I get from Google is a bonus, I no longer care about their traffic, what they think, their guidelines or their company as a whole. They have gotten so big that they can now dictate what people believe through their search results. I’ve moved on and my traffic comes from a wide variety of sources now. The playing field is not level, if you have enough money to spend you can game Googles results. The rest of us are left to try and compete with the limited budgets we have, then we get Google slapped when they want to be jerk offs. I’m done with Google and would suggest everyone else be done with them as well.

    • John Q Siteowner

      I think at this point we should all cheat as best as possible and I mean all of us.

  • Shiloh

    I had a site penalized too. After 6 reconsideration requests and disavowing thousands of links they finally removed it. Why ? I disavowed every single domain and link in web master tools. They would not tell me which links were “bad” so I just disavowed them all out of disgust. All of it was unnecessary. They should just ignore “bad” links not penalize sites. I guess the “genius” Cutts and his band of idiots are happy now? Hmmmm….maybe not because I refuse to purchase any Google PPC ads as a result of my contempt for Google.

    Well at least I am finally seeing web masters fed up with Googles tyranny and dictatorship. Cutts is an imbecile and Google is out of control….whats new?
    Just use BING (its better anyway) and NEVER click on any Google PPC ads.

  • http://Mabuzi.com Kevin

    Its all going to be pay pay pay and you need to start preparing your business for that day but getting in contact direct with your market.

  • http://helpotherpeoplenow.com J. Ferrari

    All this seo and concerns about Google Gods penalizing webmasters can drive one nuts. I really don’t concern myself with it at all. Maybe I ought to but with Panda and Penguin and who knows what else I can’t be bothered. life is too short. I have my webmaster take care of things and will be putting forth the effort to learn and do better for my new site, but I wanted to say that I recall reading a few weeks ago ( I believe it was at this blog )that Yahoo came up the number one search engine, outranking Google fairly easily so maybe these never-to-be-admitted ‘mistakes’ by Google is costing them more than they would care to admit.

    And this is one “old” ’56 Ferrari that nobody owns except for maybe my wife-:)

    From above post: “The irony is that DMOZ actually contains a FEW paid links (and a few DMOZ editors still own that old Ferrari…)”

    Just sayin’…

  • HJ

    What we see are just the cases where some warning came from Google. But if the algorithm has logical issues then it affect the other search rankings also. I mean a site many not have got warning but in the background imperfect logics may be affecting it badly. Somehow the link logic itself has too many loopholes. Another baseless extension to it was the nofollow thing. Who would love to give you a DoFollow link? Any website with greater resources would always be able to manipulate such things and to become so called an authority site. Google also has to think that different kind of sites would need a different criteria. They still accept analysis and forecast as News and that’s a height. I still like Google but there are a lot of confusion in the logic there.

  • http://quality2wayradios.com Sandra Hamrick

    This is more a general comment, not just about this article. I want to say how much a appreciate WebPro News. I get so much crap in my in-basket. Most of it just ads of little value, I just hit the delete key. No so with your articles, I always read your stuff. The articles you write inform and are written well, on subjects of importance. Keep up the great work and thanks!

    • http://www.webpronews.com/author/chris-crum Chris Crum

      Thank you, Sandra.

    • http://piranhalake.com Dan

      Dear webmaster, The above comment is clearly comment spam. Sure, it mentions WebPro news, but that is probably an algorithm simply recognizing the domain name. Notice how the rest of the comment is completely generic? Doesn’t say anything relevant to the article itself.

  • http://www.wesleyyoung.co.uk WezTheWiz

    Great read. It is concerning to read they’ve made this link mistake. At the end of the day, humans make mistakes, which control the processes and algorithms Google run. I can appreciate that. It would, however, have been nicer to read more accountability from them. But, ah well, what can you do?