Those who have been around over the past 5-10 years, will likely remember when it was possible for a competitor to harm your rankings, by bombing your website, with masses of links. Just as you could rank a website by stuffing it with keywords.
To counter this, Google employed a kind of "links can do no harm" philosophy. So questionable links were simply discounted.
Over the years, it's become accepted that competitors cannot harm your rankings with links. This had always been my experience too. For years my website has been victim of various malicious campaigns. Links to our website and several other competitors appeared on hacked Wordpress websites along with viagra/pharmaceutical type websites.
But despite the efforts, our rankings remained unaffected, which is the way it should be. A competitor should not be able to harm you. A competitor should not be able to undo your hard work.
Unfortunately, in recent months, post Panda, more and more webmasters have received messages from Google, alerting them of unnatural linking practices, followed by drops in SERPS and traffic.
Google have made a complete u-turn and now rather than discrediting links it deems unnatural, it instead penalises the websites receiving them.
Since Panda, all of the talk and focus has been on on-site factors, such as ad placement, thin content etc and most websites have failed to bounce back. I'm wondering whether that's because, it's got nothing to do with their website, but their link profile?
A couple of months ago, I did a test on a page, of a website I wasn't too concerned about. I chose a page, that had a first page rank for over a year, for it's target term.
I purchased 150 links, using 3 variations of anchor text, to see if it would harm the rankings. Within a week, the rankings were gone. They remained AWOL for 6 weeks. I eventually managed to get the links removed, and the rankings recently returned.
This was a little too easy, for my liking. Actually it's disturbing and a huge step backwards.
Google needs to seriously reconsider the choice to penalise websites, with questionable links pointing to them.
But I am not reading much discussion about the subject and hoping we can generate some interest and awareness of the problem here. Google needs to address this problem.
I believe my main website, has been victim, WebmasterWorld supporters can read more about it in the Google SEO forum. I haven't received a message to inform me of an unnatural link profile, but looking at my inbound links, there are some questionable links there. And after 6 years or so of success, on January 21st, my traffic has dropped significantly.
What are your thoughts on this?