Google’s recent Penguin Update specifically targeted sites that were using poor quality link building techniques. Those sites saw a dramatic loss in rank positions as a result.
The Penguin Update was part of Google’s assault on websites that are overly SEO’d. This ranking algorithm update analyzed the linking patterns for sites and demoted the rank positions for sites where they found excessive numbers of links from poor quality directories and unrelated sites. That are exactly the type of links that we have been warning people to stay away from for several years. They are also the primary types of links provided by link building services.
At one time every link to a site was considered to be a popularity vote and each link contributed to the rankings of a web site. But several years ago Google started ignoring site-wide links (links on every page in a site pointed to another site) as well as poor quality links, such as links that people add to the tens of thousands of low quality directories found on the web. Since they started doing that, those links were essentially neutered and were useless — but at least they did not harm a site. The change that Google made turned all of that poor quality link building into a double-edged sword that finally struck back at the site.
The problem for site owners who used link building services who set up these low quality links is that it is almost impossible to remove the links. A tool that allows site owners to identify and cancel the negative impact of such links would be useful.
I want to emphasize that Google’s Matt Cutts said that they MAY provide a tool to allow site owners to identify and disavow any poor quality links to their sites. He has not committed to it, but he did say that they were talking about implementing a tool in “maybe a month or two or three.” Matt’s response was in reaction to a strong recommendation from the SEO community to add such a tool. If they do move ahead with the tool, site owners will likely find it in their Webmaster Tools account, which means that if you do not have a Webmaster Tools account and you are concerned about your link building practices, you should set up an account. The account is free and does offer useful insight regarding how Google views your web site.
Several months ago Google started to issue warnings to sites that were identified as using poor quality link building techniques. They issued those warnings through site owners’ Webmaster Tools accounts. As many as 700,000 notices were sent. Those that did not take action to remove the links did see their rankings drop.