From the data I have, raising your hand and telling Google that you’re manipulating your link-profile may result in penalties being applied for real. And from my experience, creating a link profile with an unnaturally low percentage of trashy links can work against you too.
I spoke with a previous client last week who’d had a message in webmaster tools that unnatural links to his website had been detected. He was concerned about that, and also believed that the site was being penalised in search results because it didn’t appear on page one for the word Rightside, which was part of the domain name.
Note: Regarding appearing on page on for a single word, the competition is extreme and requires a VERY well-established website which he and most of us don’t have.
I’d investigated this about 6 months ago in August & found that all was in fact well. Today, nearly all these terms are still on page one. Most have slipped a few places as expected, since all SEO actions ended about a year ago. The website has moved up to #2 for one term for searchers in Melbourne as search has become far more localised ( info in Lisa’s recent post ). So there’s no indication of a penalty.
The client wanted to remove all the mentioned backlinks and had started contacting the owners of hundreds of websites to ask them to remove them. Then he was going to tell Google he’d done this and use their Disavow Link Tool for any remaining bad links to be discounted.
But asking for links to be removed and using the disavow link tool is actively engaging in the link manipulation Google says they don’t want per their guidelines.
The solution to improving standing in search results it simply to continue natural promotion on the internet and build and build and build attention. More info about what we can do here.