Just after Google’s announcement that they were going to hit over-SEO’d sites, they have struck out to de-index many private link networks over the past week. This strike against the link networks appears to be unrelated to the over-optimization algorithm change Cutts talked about, which we’re still waiting to see in the weeks ahead.
The first two link network targets were the popular ALN and BuildMyRank. ALN has a significant percentage of their sites completely de-indexed by Google, and BuildMyRank announced that nearly their entire network has been de-indexed and they’re shutting their service down.
Since BuildMyRank and ALN were hit last week, there have been reports of more and more paid blog networks falling this week.
How is Google Finding Them
As always, Google isn’t saying much, but looking at which networks have been hit and which ones are getting hit now, it seems pretty clear that this is not an algorithmic update, but instead is a manual review. The presence of BuildMyRank supports this theory pretty well, in that they required unique, non-spun, human readable content — meanwhile some other networks with spun content and an otherwise similar footprint have not been hit.
The thing in common of these private blog networks is that they were all relatively well-known in the paid link communities, and were used to boost the rankings of sites in competitive niches. It’s a simple enough task for Google to sign up for the service, publish a bunch of posts to find the blogs, and put them on a de-index list. Further there have been reports of sites receiving unnatural link warnings in Google Webmaster Tools and reconsideration requests are met with requests for information about exactly how paid links were acquired — suggesting that Google is continuing to compile lists of blog networks to take down.
What This Means for You
If you do not use private link networks — networks of blogs that you can pay to post to with the anchor text of your choice — then this change is nothing but good news for you! Many of our clients, for example, are seeing rankings increase as the link-buying competition falls off the top page. Rejoice as Google’s webspam team does its thing!
If, on the other hand, you have been paying for links in private networks, you may be concerned, and you have good reason to be. While there are still many, many unaffected networks out there, Google’s tactics seem to be designed to target and uncover more and more of them. Unless you own your own private network, the days of those easy juicy anchor text links may be numbered.
What to Do if You Buy Blog Network Links
If you have been buying links, either on these networks or others, the first step is to check your rankings. If you rankings are unaffected, odds are you haven’t been hit (or the links you’ve been paying for were ignored anyway). If you’re rankings have dropped, you’ll need to check and see if those blog posts you’ve been buying are still indexed.
You can also check your Google Webmaster Tools to see if you’ve gotten a warning about having unnatural-looking links.
However, it’s extremely unlikely that Google will penalize you for having these links, even if you do get the Webmaster Tools warning. It may feel like you’ve been penalized because the benefit of those links has been removed when they were de-indexed, but in fact that’s just the way you’re rankings should look without those paid network links. The reason you’re unlikely to receive an active penalty is that Google can’t know that it was you who built those links… after all, if the recipient of these network links were all punished, the new blackhat SEO move would just be to keep buying the links, but point them at all your competitors!
So if you have been using private blog networks for paid linkbuilding, you probably aren’t going to be penalized. But even if your preferred network has not yet been de-indexed, you may want to be very careful about spending more money with them — Google appears to have been de-indexing more every day and their tactics are well-designed to keep uncovering them in the months to come.