At the beginning of this month, Google announced their latest algorithm changes which included new ways of handling links, and more penalties for link exchanges and poor quality links.
Usually, it’s very hard to even know whether or not you’ve been hit by a penalty, and Google is famously close-mouthed (or uncommunicative, depending on your point of view) about whatever is wrong.
Since the last update though, people have reported receiving messages from Google, informing them that their site may have artificial or unnatural links, that appear to be used to manipulate PageRank.
They also make a point of recognising that website owners don’t always have control over who links to them, and gives the option of providing details of such links when submitting reconsideration requests to Google.
Google Gets Vocal About Problems
As far as I know, (although I stand to be corrected), this isn’t something that Google has ever really done before, let alone on this scale.
This looks like Google actually telling you that there is a problem, and what the problem may be. According to Google, (in an email statement to the good people at Search Engine Land) that this has nothing to do with an increase in the number of penalties, but a change in their policy to make their actions against sites more visible.
Personally, I think this is a great thing. Nothing more frustrating than taking a hit and not having any idea why. At least this will give people a chance to clean up their acts.
Apparently, this type of message to Webmasters has been on the increase all year, and they’ll continue to use this method to warn of problems or potential violations.