There are new reports from website owners that Google has started a new notification campaign. Previously this year, it was widely reported that Google was notifying website owners who were suspected of selling links on their websites. They were getting little nasty-grams from the BIG G saying, and I'm paraphrasing,
We are removing you from Google because you appear to be selling links. Please stop and then you can beg for re-inclusion in our search engine index.
But more recently there has been chatter on the major search engine blogs that a new breed of Google webmaster communication has been floating around. Specifically, people have reported getting an email from Google stating that links TO their website look artificial and that a penalty has been applied to their website's search engine rankings. This is an entirely different ball-game.
Google is now notifying website owners if their backlink profile is unacceptable
First off, this is fascinating. Google has made a policy shift in how they treat people whose backlink profiles they don't like. This is definitely new. Before the communications were only for those suspected of selling links. Now they are sending emails to those they suspect are manipulating pagerank inappropriately. In other words, people who have probably bought links.
Secondly, good job Google! You are finally giving people notice of your actions. I have complained for years about how Google seems to be amazingly unfriendly when it comes to webmaster communications. I can understand their hostility to the really bad black hat SEO's of the world, but given their over-the-top 'do no evil' moto, it seems two-faced on their part. So I'm kinda glad to hear they are now notifying. But the more important question for most scared website owners out there is:
What if I missed the email from Gooogle?
The answer here is Webmaster Tools. I am not a huge fan of Webmaster Tools. I have never felt that Google is particularly transparent and the entire push from Matt Cutts seems half-baked. There is much more data I would like to see in webmaster tools, but I won't go down that road. If you are not familiar, here is a screen shot of some of what Google will give you:
Most relevant to today's topic, you will see a link in the upper left of your Webmaster Tools screen that says MESSAGES. If you fear you missed an important email from Google telling you that your backlinks are no good and your rankings are about to drop, check this area out. If there's nothing listed there, your backlinks are probably just fine.