Some webmasters are afraid to link to their own content, for fear of Google penalizing them. This isn't exactly new, but the point is being emphasized lately (ironically by Google itself).
Has Google ever worried you about your own linking practices? Let us know in the comments.
This past week, Google Google's Matt Cutts addressed the following question in a Webmaster Help video:
Suppose I have a site that covers fishing overall (A) & I make another fishing site that solely focuses on lure fishing (B). Does linking to A from B violate guidelines? I'll make sure both have high quality content & disclose that they're both owned by me.
"Just linking from A to B is not a violation of our quality guidelines," says Cutts. "If you only have two sites, they're thematically related, a person on A would be interested in B...then it makes perfect sense to link those two sites. The problem gets into [when] you don't have two sites, but you have fifty sites, or eighty sites, or a hundred and fifty sites, and then suddenly linking all of those sites starts to look a lot more like a link network and something that's really artificial, as opposed to something that's organic."
"So if you really do have just a small number of sites - you can count them on one hand - and they're all very related to each other, it can make perfect sense to link those together," he continues. "It's when you start to get a lot more sites - you know, you don't need 222 sites about car insurance. It looks a little weird if you have howdoigetmycarinsurance.net and wheresthecheapcarinsurance.com...I'm making these domain names up, so I'm not saying these particular site owners are bad - maybe they're great. Who knows? But if you have 222 different copies of that, usually you're not putting as much work into each individual site, and so as a result, you'll end up with shallow or superficial sites, lower quality content, you're more likely to see doorways...that sort of thing."
It says something about Google's power over webmasters (at least those that depend on it too much) that people have to check with Google to see if Google is okay with them putting a link on their own website to another of their own websites.
And this isn't the first question Cutts has addressed regarding people linking to their own content in recent days. In another video, the user asked about internal links leading to lower rankings because of the Penguin update. The exact question was:
Do internal website links with exact match keyword anchor text hurt a website? These links help our users navigate our website properly. Are too many internal links with the same anchor text likely to result in a ranking downgrade because of Penguin?
So here, the person knows that the links are used to help users, but they're still concerned how Google will view them. In other words, regardless of whether or not it's actually good for people who visit the site, they need to make sure it's going to be okay with Google, because presumably the users will never find it in the first place if they can't find it in a Google search. Here's Matt's response to that:
“My answer is typically not,” says Cutts. “Typically, internal website links will not cause you any sort of trouble. Now, the reason why I say ‘typically not’ rather than a hard ‘no’ is just because as soon as I say a hard ‘no’ there will be someone who has like five thousand links – all with the exact same anchor text on one page. But if you have a normal site, you know…a catalog site or whatever…. you’ve got breadcrumbs…you’ve got a normal template there…that’s just the way that people find their way around the site, and navigate, you should be totally fine.”
“You might end up, because of breadcrumbs or the internal structured navigation, with a bunch of links that all say the same thing, that point to one page, but as long as that’s all within the same domain, just on-site links, you know, that’s the sort of thing where, because of the nature of you having a template, and you have many pages, it’s kind of expected that you’ll have a lot of links that all have that same anchor text that point to a given page," he says.
So basically, this isn’t an issue you should have to worry about, but if you abuse it, it could become an issue. The problem is that clearly well-intentioned people are still worried about whether their practices will be considered abuse by Google, even if they think they're just doing what's right for the user.
After the Penguin update, we saw a lot of overreaction in link removal requests by those who were afraid links from other sites were hurting them. In the process, because of their fear of Google, some requested the removal of links they would have otherwise found valuable. Google has since offered the Link Disavow tool, but Google even suggests that most people don't use it.
It will be interesting to see how people continue to approach links moving forward. This week marked the one-year anniversary of the Penguin update, and a big update to that is expected in the near future.
Are people worrying about Google too much when it comes to links? Let us know what you think in the comments.