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We've detected that some of the links pointing to your site are using techniques outside Google's Webmaster Guidelines.
We don't want to put any trust in links that are unnatural or artificial, and we recommend removing any unnatural links to your site. However, we do realize that some links may be outside of your control. As a result, for this specific incident we are taking very targeted action to reduce trust in the unnatural links. If you are able to remove any of the links, you can submit a reconsideration request, including the actions that you took. If you have any questions, please visit our Webmaster Help Forum.
[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 8:06 pm (utc) on May 17, 2013]
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Google's John Mueller dug into the details and discovered this was a "granular" penalty. John said in the Google Webmaster Help thread:
"Looking into the details here, what happened was that we found unnatural links to an individual article, and took a granular action based on that. This is not negatively affecting the rest of your website on a whole." [seroundtable.com...]
The consequences of Google being vague is that it causes the webmaster to be on guard and take action on all links considered "unnatural" , as at the same time Google likely cannot fully detect all "unnatural links". On top of that Google improves it's data footprint of what is likely to be "unnatural" links via subsequent disavow tool activity, plus provides a widely publicised FUD warning to the SEO community about paid and SPAM links.
But for the site-owner, what if some of the links are undetected or perhaps wrongly interpreted as "unnatural", and removed, causing the site's rankings to bomb by widespread removal?
Some major brand sites I know of did this, and their rankings went rapidly south. It became a can of worms to fix.
With the Penguin 2.0 update coming, webmasters will have the opportunity to reflect better on what they should have done. It may be too late for some to apply a remedy without getting hit in this next update.
Q: I've read the FAQs and searched the help center.
My URL is: sprint.com
I'm Kent Van Deusen and I support the Sprint website. I received a message on 5/17/2013 that "Google has detected user-generated spam on your site." I have run queries against the site, but haven't found the content referred to in the alert. I have read Google's documentation regarding how to prevent this in the future, but how do we find the issue we currently have in order to help us address this as quickly as possible?
A: Matt Cutts :
... , when you see a message like this, it's a good idea to check around for various forums, bulletin boards, and community areas where users can leave comments. We typically send this message when we see a lot of spam in those areas. Rather than Google removing those pages from our index, it's usually better if you can remove the pages on your side so that they don't show up in other search engines either.
I just took a quick look; try doing a Google search like [site:community.sprint.com/baw/message/ watch] to see some examples where spammers are posting a bunch of messages. I noticed that older pages with this sort of spam are mostly gone or removed--which is great. You might just look into some ways to try to catch the spam a little faster or see if there are some ways to make it a bit harder for the spammers to post a large amount of messages on the community pages. [productforums.google.com...] referred to by [seroundtable.com...]
Some similarities to links notices for granular issues and corresponding interactions with Google commenting on big brands Y/N? Anyone else got these messages in addition to link notices?