fathom - 7:22 am on Apr 12, 2012 (gmt 0)
1. Google has no clue who builds the links and they state they don't care in their guidelines/reconsideration process, they just have an issue with certain types/velocity used and want those issues addressed as much as possible. Fact is, most people will not be able to remove the majority of "unnatural" links from their overall site portfolio, as we've already acknowledged most websites out there pick up tons of "shady" links along the way through no fault of the owner.
What Google can and can't do isn't something you can claim you know much about.
Fact is... most people that buy links... are actually buying links.
Fact is... if you have proof that you paid for links that is proof that you did that not someone else. (I tested the competitor theory on my own website isn't a valid test)
Fact is... "shady links"... where did Google claim anything about shady links? Unnatural links as Google claims manipulate PageRank and/or results... which competitor wouldn't intentionally develop either of these for you on the off chance they may get you banned, penalized, etc... what if the competitor doesn't get you banned or penalized... would that campaign be a success or failure?
Fact is... you have no facts... and that makes for bad SEO observations.
2. Just in my own experiences the past year helping clients out, we've seen specific examples of spun blog posts, article directory posts, forum profile links, blog rolls and others shown directly to our clients directly from Google. Google shows you some of these types of links as an example of what they are having an issue with.
You helped clients get banned or penalized?
Not harming clients is not evidence of harming anyone.
Google showing an example of a link isn't an example of a profile.
If this works are easy as you claim wouldn't this be the PERFECT business model for you? You don't need to compete against the competitive landscape results... and surely there is no question that you delivered results.
Just about every single response I've seen directly from Google showing these types of "unnatural" links they have an issue with, shows types of links that can certainly be pointed to your competitors, typically en masse, and very easily/affordable at that.
The problem with the unknown is the fact that you just don't know and you are grasping at straws in an attempt to recover. Not knowing doesn't translate to knowing because you don't have a clue.
3. Not sure exactly what you want here, as backlink graphs and logs of onsite/offsite changes across all types of verticals and competition-levels are a start, and about all that those of us on the other side of the curtain can compare/contrast experiences with. What "proof" could we demonstrate to you in this regard? The volume of webmasters noticing these similar issues and sharing their experiences within their industries leads me to believe something strange is afoot.
Volume? A few thousand websites, or even a few 10s of thousands of websites all having similar issues and all are caused by malicious competitors without a single false positive?
Interesting... no false positives? Is there a percentage of false positive or does it even matter?
I find it odd in a few thousand websites, or even a few 10s of thousands of websites that no one can conclusively show who did what?
That's unbelievably obscure for something that is so prevalent.
Correlation is not causation, but when enough people report similar things and you see it repeatedly over and over testing and isolating the variables as much as possible...it is clear that there is an issue of some sort.
Link building for the sake of developing ranks is the clear issue... the competitor isn't required in this... it's just a nice way to say "honest, I didn't do a thing".
edit: The site(s) mentioned in the Google thread(s) aren't mine, but as I've mentioned, I've been following this issue very closely the past year as I believe it is only getting worse out there, so it was interesting to finally see SOME type of public response from a real live Google employee
Did you review their backlinks? It would be worth the effort.
They still have paid links in their profile and they were not paid by a competitor... and the website owner clearly suggests an SEO did it without their permission (not a rogue SEO either). An SEO developing ranks the only way you can (at the low-end of no WOW content budget) isn't a competitor and as for permission... that is quite debatable.
Customers want results... not excuses.
Customers don't understand that most link development is manipulative... purpose-driven to artificially make their domain appear more important than it really is so to provide that which they desire... ranks, traffic, sales.
If you are the decision-maker of the domain and you outsource your responsibility to someone else... it is still your decision. Not reviewing the tasks you assigned in where you 'ere.
That said, before you can conclusive blame some unknown 3rd party you must refute the owners involvement... then you must identify the precise links causing the issues.
I cannot prove a third didn't do something anymore than your prove they did which is why I find it bizarre this is part of the discussion.
So instead let's deal with likelihood.
1. It is more likely you don't know what you did that would be considered as unnatural as oppose to knowing precisely what you did. (your exact actions here)
2. It is more likely you don't what is being classed as unnatural as oppose to knowing precisely what is unnatural. (the exact links here)
3. It is more likely between the unknowns of #1 & #2 you don't have enough evidence to support any conclusions as yet so adding in an addition unknown - a 3rd party does not improve any understanding it merely makes the waters murkier.
In the great scheme of all those websites being affected means "no one cares" what's the cause... the only thing that matters is "what's the fix".