Last week, Google began sending out messages to webmasters, warning them of bad links, much like the ones that many webmasters got prior to the infamous Penguin update. Google said, however, that these messages were different. Whereas the company's advice in the past was to pay attention to these warnings, Google's said this time, that they're not necessarily something you need to worry about it.
Google's head of webspam, Matt Cutts, wrote on Google+,"If you received a message yesterday about unnatural links to your site, don’t panic. In the past, these messages were sent when we took action on a site as a whole. Yesterday, we took another step towards more transparency and began sending messages when we distrust some individual links to a site. While it’s possible for this to indicate potential spammy activity by the site, it can also have innocent reasons. For example, we may take this kind of targeted action to distrust hacked links pointing to an innocent site. The innocent site will get the message as we move towards more transparency, but it’s not necessarily something that you automatically need to worry about."
"If we've taken more severe action on your site, you’ll likely notice a drop in search traffic, which you can see in the 'Search queries' feature Webmaster Tools for example," Cutts added. "As always, if you believe you have been affected by a manual spam action and your site no longer violates the Webmaster Guidelines, go ahead and file a reconsideration request. It’ll take some time for us to process the request, but you will receive a followup message confirming when we’ve processed it."
Obviously, this all caused a great deal of confusion, and panic among webmasters and the SEO community. Barry Schwartz, who spends a lot of time monitoring forum discussions, wrote, "It caused a major scare amongst SEOs, webmasters and those who owned web sites, never bought a link in their life, didn't even know what link buying was and got this severe notification that read, 'our opinion of your entire site is affected.'
Even SEOmoz was getting these warnings. The company's lead SEO, Ruth Burr, wrote,"We've got the best kind of links: the kind that build themselves. Imagine the sinking feeling I got in the pit of my stomach, then, when a Google Webmaster Tools check on Thursday revealed that we'd incurred an unnatural link warning."
Cutts eventually updated his post to indicate that Google has changed the wording of the messages it is sending, in direct response to webmaster feedback.
@justinrbriggs I'll talk to the team about whether we can resend or update the messages we sent starting on Thursday.
Google has also removed the yellow caution sign that accompany the messages from the webmaster console. According to Cutts, this illustrates that action by the site owner isn't necessarily required.