Google in its fight against webspam has recently unveiled several new changes to its algorithm to combat this. When I refer to webspam this is not the same as email spam but in fact bad link building tactics or unethical “black-hat” SEO. Most people in my part of the industry will welcome any change that inhibits the unethical SEO practices that go on, firstly because it reflects badly on those of us who work to Googles guidelines, but secondly I don’t think anyone would disagree that the Google can always do a better job in improving the search results.

Much like an ill thought-out piece of government legislation, some of these latest announcements appear to have been rolled out with much consideration on the impact of such a move. In the space of about 7 days a phrase known as “Negative SEO” has reared its ugly head and there are numerous blogs and tweets doing the rounds, even SEO industry celebs have got in on the act including Rand Fishkin. This whole situation started about a month ago when some webmasters and site owners started receiving messages in Google Webmaster Tools reporting a warning “Google Webmaster Tools notice of detected unnatural links”. In this message the scant information informed the webmaster that their site had been using techniques outside of Google Webmasters Guidelines. Specifically Google suggested in this message to look at “Unnatural links” designed to manipulate PageRank and suggested paid links or link schemes.

The unfortunate repercussion of this new update from Google is that this is an acknowledgement that bad links can damage a website, moreover it means that a competitor could, if they were inclined build bad links to your site that damage your rankings with your site potentially being penalised by Google. Almost overnight the gutter gremlins in the SEO world started to offer negative SEO services on various webmaster communities on the web. Many proponents to this new penalty have been saying competitors would not build bad links to your site as they would be better off working on their own sites, this is true – however when you can effectively outsource this kind of industrial sabotage for small amounts of money, we are talking 10’s of dollars! Then I think they are talking rubbish. There is not a lot stopping me logging on to one of the more disreputable web forums and looking in a buy and sell section for someone to build spam links to a competitor of mine. This is not the sort of activity I would condone by the way, but it is easily achieved, too easily.

So, as soon as Google indicated that spammy links could harm a site, or even get it a penalty, a new little cottage industry was formed and now we have one more thing to bring the name of SEO industry in to disrepute. Google really needs to think quickly about this, I would suggest that they somehow provide a mechanism within Google Webmaster Tools for webmasters to report on links pointing to their site they want devalued, rather than having to go through a very cumbersome and time consuming reconsideration request process which many companies really do not have time, knowledge or resources to deal with efficiently.

If Google is admitting it has lost the battle with paid and spammy links then perhaps they could throw genuine webmasters a bone and equip them with tools and a process, also they now need to think about this new industry they have created!