Last month we saw Interflora get temporarily savaged by a brutal penalty showing that no brand is above Google law. Now it’s the BBC that are having their pants lowered and cavities searched for signs of unnatural link activity.

“My URL is: www.bbc.co.uk

I am a representative of the BBC site and on Saturday we got a ‘notice of detected unnatural links’.

Given the BBC site is so huge, with so many independently run sub sections, with literally thousands or agents and authors, can you give us a little clue as to where we might look for these ‘unnatural links’.

Nick”

Why is this surprising?

  • What shocked people about the Interflora episode was that it happened to an absolute Goliath of a brand. Google like brands because people like brands, and much of its work is aimed at promoting those with real brand signals over small and untrusted alternatives that just know how to run affective SEO. Well if Interflora is Goliath, the BBC is his much bigger, steroid-packed older brother. Brands literally don’t get bigger than the Beeb.
  • Interflora deserved it – I’m not one for passing judgement in SEO. You spend your time in the way that gets results. But given the developments with panda and penguin over the last couple of years, Interflora probably had it coming; over optimised internal linking, paid and incentivised link schemes …. they were doing anything and everything to swamp the market. The BBC, on the other hand, is a public broadcaster with no commercial agenda. It’s very difficult to imagine them wanting (or indeed needing) to artificially inflate performance.

So what was going on? David Naylor thinks it may have been RSS related. Whatever the cause, Google’s John Mueller has confirmed only the one page was affected:

“Hi Nick

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.

Cheers

John”

I’d really like to know what that one article was. An article on one of the largest brands on the planet, whose mission is almost entirely about serving the public. Either someone on the BBC was doing something very strange or Google have been seriously overzealous in their self-prescribed role as internet police.

Dan