Google’s webspam guru Matt Cutts has hinted that websites ranking prominently in the search engine using link networks may not last much longer. The outspoken web search expert announced that link networks would be Google’s biggest target during the year 2013 at a panel during the annual SMX conference in Las Vegas.


It’s an interesting target for Google, and one that the search giant hasn’t pursued in a long time. Previous Google search policy updates have targeted mass automated link building, particularly using software such as xRumer and Scrapebox, as well as high-volume, low quality links from ‘article dumps’ and free blogging websites.


In fact, the last time Google launched a formal crackdown on link networks was in the early years of search: 2006. Since then, the search provider has taken a relaxed stance on small link networks, taking relatively little action to combat SEOs using a mix of high-PageRank domains and personal blogs to build search authority.


For SEOs using link networks to prop up their websites, it might be worth thinking about long-term ranking strategies. Google’s eyes are generally set on the biggest or most egregious offenders – in this case, the most visible link networks. While a small link network may not be targeted this time, it could shortly end up in the firing line.


Attendees at the conference viewed Cutts’ warning as something of a hint to SEOs that have historically relied on link networks. Given the announcement of serious crackdowns on link networks, SEOs that are relying heavily on obvious networks for their rankings may want to dismantle many of their links before the ‘hit’ occurs.


As usual, it’s a crackdown that’s targeted primarily at the black hat end of the SEO spectrum. While some webmasters may need to worry, the vast majority of online publishers and SEO experts should be able to weather this ‘war’ fairly unscathed.