1 – They won’t penalize you over one tiny thing
With all the technical expertise that goes into creating and maintaining it, it’s tempting to view Google as an unfeeling, unthinking robot – one that responds to certain stimuli in certain ways and can’t be bargained with. In reality, Google is built and used by humans – just like the rest of the internet.
For that reason, the Google Webspam team aren’t going to penalize your site just because one well-meaning webmaster created a site-wide link to your domain without realizing that’s not best practice in the world of search engine optimization.
If you’re taking a responsible approach to link building and SEO you don’t need to worry about attracting a less than ideal link here and there. The Webspam team are here to save us from spam, not make the web a flawless place.
So stop fretting over the occasional bad link and instead channel your efforts into getting more links from quality domains by producing quality content.
2 – They won’t swing by your website just to see if you’re doing anything spammy
Sure, the Webspam team is staffed by fine men and women, not anonymous robots, but you can’t expect them to spend their days manually visiting every website on the net just to check if someone is up to no good. Reports to the spam team still play a big part in tracking down sites that warrant further investigation, while advances in search technology have made it even easy to find domains which may be engaging in dubious SEO practices.
The fact is, if someone from the Webspam team has cause to manually review your site, the chances are you’ve been up to no good. They know it, you know it – anyone who has looked at your domain in Open Site Explorer knows it. All those links with exact match anchor text just scream spam and there’s no point pretending otherwise.
By and large, if you are engaged in any kind of SEO spam and it’s “working” for you, it will only be a matter of time before you’re found out and when that happens, you’ll wish you’d stuck to the guidelines from the get go, because…
3 – When they hit you, they will hit you hard
Once they’ve caught and punished you, you’re going to have to pull out the stops in order to get back into their good books. There’s no point in removing a handful of links and then submitting a reconsideration request. That’s just going to make them even angrier. You have to work on the assumption that the Webspam team know about every single black hat thing you’ve done, because the fact is they almost certainly will. Don’t think you can sneak a few high value paid links past them. Get the bad links removed or disavowed. All of them.
Once you’ve finished that, you might want to think about where you’d be ranking in Google if you’d spent all the time you wasted on black hat techniques and the subsequent clean-up on high quality link building and outreach.
4 – They won’t hit you with an algorithm penalty
“What?!” I hear you cry. “That’s exactly what they do! They penalized my site when they introduced Panda and again when Penguin came along!“
However, a ranking drop because of an algorithm change isn’t the same as a penalty. A manual penalty will see you completely delisted from Google, while a hit from an algorithm change will only lead to a drop. (Of course if you’d been good, you might have seen an increase.) In practical terms, the results of an outright ban and a large ranking drop are likely to be much the same, but the difference is still worth noting.
If you have been hit by an algorithm change you don’t have to worry about applying to get the penalty removed and, as such, regaining your rankings should be easier. If you have a large backlink profile with some strong, naturally obtained connections then it is worth weeding out the weaker, spammy links through manual removal or the disavow tool. If your link profile is small, or mainly spammy, focus your efforts on building quality links, then start to ditch the ones you know you shouldn’t have.
An algorithm change is about removing the benefit from techniques which are against Google’s Webmaster guidelines but still provide a rankings boost. Such changes don’t look to penalize individuals, but instead ensure it pays to stick to the rules. Take it as a warning that what you’re doing isn’t best practice and make amends before it’s too late.
5 – They won’t tell you exactly what you should be doing
The Google Webspam aren’t there for your benefit, they’re there for the benefit of Google’s users. Clearly what’s good for users is good for your site, but don’t expect @Matt Cutts to take you by the hand and lead you to the promised land of top ranking for all your keywords. Google are there to lay down the guidelines, you then need to make sure you stick to them while carrying out SEO in an innovative way. Obviously, that’s easier said than done, but it is what will get you the big wins in the long run.
At the very least, you need to pay attention to everything Google says and does, but in reality you’re going to have to keep abreast of best practice across the board – from on-page SEO to the latest developments in outreach. Sticking to the rules may seem like hard work, but consistently doing so will build up long-term benefits, ones that won’t disappear when the Webspam team catches you out.