Last year at this time Matt Cutts promised the SEO world that Google would start making penalty notifications a lot easier for web publishers to understand.

Unfortunately, most SEO watchers, including the highly respected Barry Schwartz, agree that Google’s penalty notifications are every bit as confusing as they’ve ever been.

In a recent SearchEngineLand.com posting on the subject of Google penalties, Schwartz pointed out a couple examples of how tough figuring out exactly what Google is penalizing you for can be.

Schwartz’s first example involved the SEO company Portent which, like so many other web publishers, received an unnatural links notification saying:

Google has detected a pattern of artificial or unnatural links pointing to your site. Buying links or participating in link schemes in order to manipulate PageRank are violations of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

The notice also said that a manual action had been applied. What the notice never mentioned, and Google never wound up supplying, were examples of the offending links. That’s pretty much the opposite of how Cutts said Google would be doing things in a video he released last June.

In Portent’s case, the penalty was quickly rescinded, also without explanation, and the company went on about its business, MyGuestBlog was not so lucky.

Last week MyGuestBlog was hit with a major penalty in notice that read:

Google has detected a pattern of unnatural artificial, deceptive, or manipulative links pointing to pages on this site. These may be the result of buying links that pass PageRank or participating in link schemes.

The notification made it seem as though unnatural links were pointing to, rather than coming from, MyGuestBlog.”In short, why does it seem that MyBlogGuest was hit by a manual action for links versus being part of a linking scheme itself?” Schwartz asked in his posting.

In a typically cryptic statement to SearchEngineLand, a Google spokesperson said that networks like MyGuestBlog shouldn’t be surprised if spammy inbound links are discovered while Google investigates other violations.

While that explanation may have been satisfying to Google, it still doesn’t answer why the network, rather than the source of the inbound links, were actually penalized.

The bottom line here is that Google’s status as the only game in town allows it to do pretty much whatever it wants, without explanation; even when they’ve promised to make warning clearer for the penalized parties.

 


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