People continue to needlessly ask sites that have legitimately linked to theirs to remove links because they're afraid Google won't like these links or because they simply want to be cautious about what Google may find questionable at any given time. With Google's algorithms and manual penalty focuses changing on an ongoing basis, it's hard to say what will get you in trouble with the search engine down the road. Guest blogging, for example, didn't used to be much of a concern, but in recent months, Google has people freaking out about that.
Have you ever felt compelled to have a natural link removed? Let us know in the comments.
People take different views on specific types of links whether they're from guest blog posts, directories, or something else entirely, but things have become so bass ackwards that people seek to have completely legitimate links to their sites removed. Natural links.
The topic is getting some attention once again thanks to a blog post from Jeremy Palmer called "Google is Breaking the Internet." He talks about getting an email from a site his site linked to.
"In short, the email was a request to remove links from our site to their site," he says. "We linked to this company on our own accord, with no prior solicitation, because we felt it would be useful to our site visitors, which is generally why people link to things on the Internet."
"For the last 10 years, Google has been instilling and spreading irrational fear into webmasters," he writes. "They’ve convinced site owners that any link, outside of a purely editorial link from an 'authority site', could be flagged as a bad link, and subject the site to ranking and/or index penalties. This fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) campaign has webmasters everywhere doing unnatural things, which is what Google claims they’re trying to stop."
It's true. We've seen similar emails, and perhaps you have too. A lot of sites have. Barry Schwartz at Search Engine Roundtable says he gets quite a few of them, and has just stopped responding.
“We typically receive a few of these requests a week," a spokesperson for the company told WebProNews last year. "We evaluate the links based on quality and if they don’t meet our user experience criteria we take them down. Since we drive a lot of traffic to sites all over the Web, we encourage all publishers to keep and add quality links to StumbleUpon. Our community votes on the content they like and don’t like so the best content is stumbled and shared more often while the less popular content is naturally seen less frequently.”
Palmer's post made its way to Hacker News, and got the attention of a couple Googlers including Matt Cutts himself. It actually turned into quite a lengthy conversation. Cutts wrote:
Note that there are two different things to keep in mind when someone writes in and says "Hey, can you remove this link from your site?"
Situation #1 is by far the most common. If a site gets dinged for linkspam and works to clean up their links, a lot of them send out a bunch of link removal requests on their own prerogative.
Situation #2 is when Google actually sends a notice to a site for spamming links and gives a concrete link that we believe is part of the problem. For example, we might say "we believe site-a.com has a problem with spam or inorganic links. An example link is site-b.com/spammy-link.html."
The vast majority of the link removal requests that a typical site gets are for the first type, where a site got tagged for spamming links and now it's trying hard to clean up any links that could be considered spammy.
He also shared this video discussion he recently ad with Leo Laporte and Gina Trapani.
Cutts later said in the Hacker News thread, "It's not a huge surprise that some sites which went way too far spamming for links will sometimes go overboard when it's necessary to clean the spammy links up. The main thing I'd recommend for a site owner who gets a fairly large number of link removal requests is to ask 'Do these requests indicate a larger issue with my site?' For example, if you run a forum and it's trivially easy for blackhat SEOs to register for your forum and drop a link on the user profile page, then that's a loophole that you probably want to close.
But if the links actually look organic to you or you're confident that your site is high-quality or doesn't have those sorts of loopholes, you can safely ignore these requests unless you're feeling helpful."
Side note: Cutts mentionedin the thread that Google hasn't been using the disavow links tool as a reason not to trust a source site.
Googler Ryan Moulton weighed in on the link removal discussion in the thread, saying, "The most likely situation is that the company who sent the letter hired a shady SEO. That SEO did spammy things that got them penalized. They brought in a new SEO to clean up the mess, and that SEO is trying to undo all the damage the previous one caused. They are trying to remove every link they can find since they didn't do the spamming in the first place and don't know which are causing the problem."
That's a fair point that has gone largely overlooked.
Either way, it is indeed clear that sites are overreacting in getting links removed from sites. Natural links. Likewise, some sites are afraid to link out naturally for similar reasons.
After the big guest blogging bust of 2014, Econsultancy, a reasonably reputable digital marketing and ecommerce resource site, announced that it was adding nofollow to links in the bios of guest authors as part of a "safety first approach". Keep in mind, they only accept high quality posts in the first place, and have strict guidelines.
Econsultancy’s Chris Lake wrote at the time, “Google is worried about links in signatures. I guess that can be gamed, on less scrupulous blogs. It’s just that our editorial bar is very high, and all outbound links have to be there on merit, and justified. From a user experience perspective, links in signatures are entirely justifiable. I frequently check out writers in more detail, and wind up following people on the various social networks. But should these links pass on any linkjuice? It seems not, if you want to play it safe (and we do).”
Of course Google is always talking about how important the user experience is.
Are people overreacting with link removals? Should the sites doing the linking respond to irrational removal requests? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Image via Twit.tv