Links are a topic on the mind of every webmaster, search marketer and entrepreneur, especially as it relates to ranking in Google search results. The funny thing is, Google really, really doesn't want you to worry about links, because of course, that wouldn't be natural.
I thought it interesting to raise up a few comments Google Webmaster Trends Analyst, John Mueller made during his latest Google Webmaster Central office-hours hangout, that illustrate how much Google doesn't want us to worry about links.
One hangout participant stated that as a teacher he gets a lot of links from random places, some that might even be considered bad neighborhoods and asked; Are these kinds of links good for me or bad for me? Is Google giving me credit for them? Is Google penalizing me for them? Is Google discounting them? Should I disavow them? Should I not worry?
"I like that last option," said Mueller. "In general, if these are normal links, organic links, that are happening that are pointing at your content, then I would just let them be. That's the way the internet works, people link to your content."
He added, "If your students have blogs and they think, oh, this is actually a teacher that knows what he's talking about, then that's a good link. That's not something you need to disavow just because maybe it's a sitewide link or in the blog role. I wouldn't worry about where people are linking from. If these are organic links that are at your site, that's perfectly fine."
The caller stated, "So in best case scenario, I get credit for them. In worst case scenario, Google will discount them. But nothing to worry about being paralyzed or anything like that?" Mueller answered, "Exactly."
Another person asked, "Are you ever going to create an episode just for the discount of links? Like a hangout just for that kind of subject, because I still feel like it's discounted. If you had, let's say, five bad links, and that link-- I think there was an example there from the "New York Times." So that "New York Times" link will also be discounted by accident, or no, it won't? It's just still a gray area there with this whole discounted link thing going on."
"Yeah, but in general, that's not really something you need to worry that much about," answered Mueller. "That's kind of the way our algorithms are picking up these links and trying to figure out, how should we treat these links? And that's something that we've been doing in the past as well. That's even in the basis of PageRank, in the sense that not all links are the same, and we need to figure out how to value the individual links."
"But that's not something that as a webmaster you really need to worry about, because you can't really control that," he said. "From that point of view, it's hard to say we could do a whole Hangout just on links, because ideally in the background, there is this big, big sign saying, you shouldn't be playing with links. And if we're talking the whole time about how to make links look natural, then that's essentially contradicting the other one."