As I've mentioned before, Google uses incredibly complex algorithms to figure out where websites belong in the search results, so it's a good idea to make every effort to give the search engine giant what it needs and stick to the rules.
The problem is, the rules are never 100% obvious. Google doesn't publish specific 'how to' guidelines about what it does and doesn't approve of. It's mostly guesswork, usually based on testing, trial and error by SEOs working at the uncomfortably sharp end of online marketing, out in the badlands!
In reality, it's hard to imagine search engines going about life any other way. But it's also clear that the online landscape is so competitive that if there's a means of circumventing the accepted way of doing things, SEOs will take it.
That's exactly what seems to have happened with a certain link network, which has recently nosedived in Google's rankings, taking the links its customers created with it. In real life, this means sites that placed too much reliance on the network to build inbound links have lost their search results positions.
At the moment many SEO agencies are running around like headless chickens trying to resolve the situation. Because Google has sent out a load of emails telling businesses that their back link activity is suspect, agencies are fielding some pretty serious client complaints.
But take a step back and it's an opportunity to educate customers in the hard reality of SEO. Any agency worth its salt will try its level best to stay ahead of the game. SEO is a moveable feast and some link building methods inevitably come close to the edge of what's generally regarded as legitimate. SEO is always risky per se. Wise SEO experts aren't silly enough to put all their eggs in one basket. But others obviously have!
If I was an SEO expert I'd be explaining exactly that to my clients rather than trying to whitewash the issue, make excuses or dodge responsibility.
It's caused such a hoo-hah in the industry that some hysterical folk are saying it's the end of search engine optimisation as we know it. But that's just silly. Less panicking is in order, and more thinking things through intelligently.
If your site has suffered a drop in its search rankings recently, knee-jerk reactions are not going to help. Your best bet is to overhaul your content so it's as best it can be, and remove any links you think might be causing you grief. It isn't an easy task. But it's the only real way. Just bear in mind for the future that this kind of thing is practically inevitable.
There's one thing you can do to safeguard your site's positions in future: check your SEO agency is building links using a nice, broad variety of methods and tools, not just a handful. And not, god forbid, just the one!