Google's hold over webmasters is undisputed.

Last week we reported that Google is cracking down on sites that engage in what the search engine giant calls “unnatural linking practices.” While plenty of webmasters have received warnings that engaging in the practice could bring on penalties, many of them weren’t really certain why they’d been flagged in the first place.

Now, thanks to an enterprising forum poster over at WebProWorld we have a better idea of what signals Google is examining to flag bad link offenders. It turns out, blog comments could be the culprit.

One Explanation

In a posting titled So…who wants the Google scoop of the year, WebProWorld moderator WilliamC described the link between spam blog comments and Google unnatural link warnings.

After examining links sent to him by several clients, WilliamC noticed that many of the offending links came from blog comments that had never been approved. The big question quickly became, “How did Google access this feed in the first place?”

After posting his findings, WilliamC, and others, came to the conclusion that Google was somehow accessing a feed of unapproved blog comments possibly through Akismet. Askimet is a very popular anti-spam program used by many WordPress hosted sites.

This story moved very quickly through the SEO world and was refuted by an unnamed Google spokesperson in another article on . In it, the Google rep flatly stated, “No, we don’t use Askimet to flag spam. ”

Room for Debate

Across SEO forums, commenters debated the validity of the blog comment connection and various actions to diminish the unnatural link penalty (use of no-follow tags is a popular suggestion.) But at the end of the day, it’s all just speculation and that’s the way Google wants it to be.

The big boy on the search engine block keeps developers and content creators guessing about its tactics out of necessity, but that makes for plenty of guessing, both educated and fantastic, as to their tactics and motives. We hammer this point often, but it’s worth repeating, Google is stressing that quality content and links are the best way to grab top rankings and is continuing to penalize over-optimization and bad link networks and that’s all anyone knows for certain.

What do you think about a Google Askimet connection? Let us know on our SEO forum.

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