Some not-very-funny comedian once said that there are only two kinds of webmasters. Those who have received THE LETTER and those who will receive THE LETTER.
THE LETTER, of course refers to the “death sentence” Gmail Google sometimes, but not by-any-means always, delivers when it has kicked a site down the ranking stairs for allegedly – somehow, someway – violating one or more of Big G’s various webmaster guidelines.
There have been numerous versions of THE LETTER over the years. The content tends to change often … whenever Google tweaks its algorithms, for example. Or when there are changes in the “nasty” section of the e-mail writing department. Or when Matt Cutts takes a … OK, maybe THE LETTER doesn’t change quite that often.
For the record, we’re going to give you some excerpts from the latest version of THE LETTER. But before you read them you should know that virtually every expert who tracks Google’s policing policy, from moderators of webmaster forums to bloggers to e-commerce-oriented social-network posters, agree on one thing: Google has significantly, very significantly, stepped up enforcement of its anti-search-engine spam policies since the beginning of this year.
To put that more simply, they are penalizing more sites for cheating and sending out more copies of THE LETTER than ever before. So here’s some text from the current (as of March) LETTER. followed by some tips on how to avoid getting it.
Dear site owner or webmaster:
We’ve detected that some of your site’s pages may be using techniques that are outside Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
Specifically, look for possibly artificial or unnatural links pointing to your site that could be intended to manipulate PageRank.
Examples of unnatural linking could include buying links to pass PageRank or participating in link schemes.
We encourage you to make changes to your site so that it meets our quality guidelines. Once you’ve made these changes, please submit your site for reconsideration in Google’s search results.
If you’re already a LinksManager subscriber, or a regular reader of this blog, or if you’ve ever read any of the articles in the Linking School, or spent some time in webmaster forums, you already know that non-relevant links, automatically generated links, links from known spam-site hosts (bad neighborhoods), too many links added too fast, and most paid links fall into that great, big cauldron of Google (and Bing and Yahoo and Ask) no-no’s called “Black Hat Search Engine Optimization Schemes.”
But you may not have known that Google has, in just the last two or three months, significantly upgraded the technology it uses to seek and destroy – with or without sending THE LETTER – sites using those techniques.
You may also have never considered that Google’s — and the other engines’ – “courts” have the same philosophy as the rest of criminal justice system: Ignorance of the law is no excuse.
Unfortunately, it is all too easy for most web operators to remain ignorant of some of the finer points in Google’s anti-spamming “penal” codes. For one thing, those codes are constantly changing and many new or revised regulations about what you can and can’t do frequently don’t make their way into the published guidelines until months after Google starts enforcing them.
Sometimes, as many webmasters have found to their sorrow, being totally aware of what’s in the guidelines and trying conscientiously to stay within them still isn’t enough. One contributing factor is that everyone – including, a lot of the time, us – tends to focus overly much on “white hats” and “black hats.”
The truth is that the “pure whites” and the “true blacks” exist only at the far edges of the search-engine-optimization spectrum. The huge part in the middle – say 70 or so percent of the whole – is made up of numerous shades of gray, just a like a monochrome photograph or a faxed image.
Fortunately, the search engines, including Google, don’t really expect sites to live totally in the pure white. They understand how competitive the game is and that success in it requires webmasters to be reasonably aggressive. So what they look for is a site’s position on the continuum … does it sit on the lighter side of the gray area or the darker side.
(NOTE: Sites obviously breaking punishable-by-death commandments such as the ones listed above are NOT judged on a continuum, they are summarily executed.)
Search-engine ranking, as we all know, is based on a multitude of factors – more than 200, Google says – of which links are only one, arguably the most important one, but still only one of many.
Some of the other things are how often you add new site content, whether your blogs and articles are duplicated on other websites, who (and who doesn’t) put backlinks to your site on theirs, the quality of your navigation elements and site map, how well you use (or don’t) “no-follow” tags, etc. etc. etc.
Many of those 200 factors are a.) beyond any webmaster’s direct control or b.) very difficult for someone who isn’t a full-time search-engine-optimization professional to understand and fine tune. Which makes it crucial for webmasters make sure all the elements they can control are pure white-hat to counterbalance any of the non-controllable elements that may be a bit “off-color.”
Of the critical search-engine-ranking elements you can take charge of, linking is by far the most important (in terms of both the emphasis the “engines” place on it and its inherent ability to generate traffic and sales) and the easiest to keep “pure.”
There are essentially two ways to get the full benefit and protections offered by white-hat link pages. The first is to memorize the guidelines, check Google’s webmaster pages for changes regularly, and spend 12 or 20 or more hours per week building and maintaining those link pages.
The second way, the only sane way really, is to subscribe to LinksManager build a link presence that is better, more effective, and more search engine and end-user friendly than any do-it-yourself effort.
– LinksManager’s patented technology and proprietary system processes make it impossible for anyone using it properly to inadvertently, accidentally or unintentionally violate any Google (or other major search engine) webmaster guidelines about linking.
There are no gray areas in the LinksManager spectrum. The system is 100 percent pure white. The truth is, LinksManager is so heavily armored against “black-hat” operations that it is difficult for anyone using it improperly to deliberately violate Google’s guidelines.
Since the best we can do on that score is make it difficult but not, sadly, impossible for really stubborn scammers to misuse the program, we rigorously and continuously check for signs of improper usage attempts and mercilessly purge anyone trying it.
– Other so-called link-management systems may automatically, without your knowledge, do things that could get your site de-rated or totally banned by Google and/or other engines. Some of these “things” include establishing links between your site and link farms, affiliate sites, pay-for-play sites and sites existing on known “dark-side” hosts.
You may have never thought of it in these terms, but your website is the vehicle in which your business travels. Where other linking programs can grab the wheel and steer you right into a ditch, LinksManager can’t. LinksManager’s editor-based technology ensures that you remain firmly in the driver’s seat and always get to look before you link.
– The static HTML link pages created when using LinksManager are much, much easier for Googlebot and other search engine robots to access than those created by inferior programs that generate Java, Flash or other non-standard pages.
– Link pages created with LinksManager contain ZERO hidden text or keywords. LinksManager NEVER uses frames or generates DOORWAY or DUPLICATE pages.
– LinksManager as a company and as a product operates under the linking and search-engine optimization industry’s highest code of ethics and dedication to web best practices.
– We have been successfully helping tens of thousands of webmasters drive traffic to their sites, brand their products and improve their search-engine rankings since the dawn of Google time. Or, to look at it another way, for 12 years before Bing was even born. The search engines know us, trust us, and, along with the rest of the web community (excluding black-hat link scam peddlers and our cheesy imitators), consider us good Netizens and neighbors.
– With LinksManager you’ll never have to worry if your linking outreach to other sites will trigger THE LETTER. It won’t.
End of sales pitch. Almost. Except for this link, which will take you to a full list of LinksManager features. And this one, which will let you signup for a full, free and absolutely no obligation 30-day trial