Matt Cutts Talks About When You Should Worry About Your Links

By: Chris Crum - October 19, 2012

Google’s Matt Cutts is back to posting Webmaster Help videos rather frequently. In the latest, he talks about whether or not a site should worry about their links if they have not been participating in link schemes.

Cutts speaks in response to the following user-submitted question:

If I haven’t bought links, participated in any linkwheels or schemes, or spammed links, should I spend time analyzing my links and trying to remove ones I didn’t create that look spammy?

“My simple answer is no,” says Cutts. “If you haven’t been going way out there, playing toward the gray hat/black hat edge – if you haven’t been pushing the envelope, participating in paid links…all that sort of stuff, in general, you know, you get a mix of links from all over the web. Some of them are going to be higher quality (Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, whatever). Some of them are going to be lower quality, including some random people who happen to scrape other people who link to you.”

“If you haven’t been pushing the envelope, it’s not the kind of thing where I would worry about looking at your link profile, carefully pruning, and trying to figure out each individual link that you think should count,” he continues.

“Now, if for example, you have gotten an ‘unnatural links’ warning because maybe you were doing some paid links or you paid someone to build links on your behalf, maybe they were pushing the envelope, and you didn’t realize it, then you can download links, sorted by date,” Cutts says. “Hopefully we’ll give you some examples of the sorts of links to look at. Then it might make sense to look into that, but otherwise, your average mom & pop – your normal business (someone who’s not just trying to place number one for ‘poker’ or ‘online casinos’) is not the sort of situation where you need to worry about looking at your individual link profile in my opinion.”

Google has actually penalized itself in the past for some “pushing of the envelope” that was done on its behalf without the company realizing it. You may recall that the company’s Chrome browser landing page was penalized after a paid link scandal. Of course, after the penalty wore off, the page was able to climb back up in the search results.

Google, of course, has launched a new Link Disavow tool, which lets webmasters tell Google links it would like to be ignored, but Google has cautioned that this should really only be used as a last resort if you have had actual warnings, and have done all you can do to get the questionable links removed.

Most sites should not use it, according to Google, and the comments made here by Cutts kind of back up that notion. Here, he’s basically saying that most sites probably don’t even need to worry about their link profiles (provided they’re not doing anything spammy), so these sites certainly wouldn’t want to mess with the Link Disavow tool, which when used improperly, could come back to haunt webmasters.

If you’re unsure about what all Google considers to be link schemes, read this section from Google’s Quality Guidelines on the topic.

About the Author

Chris CrumChris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.

View all posts by Chris Crum
  • Nick Stamoulis

    If you haven’t been completely in control of your link building since day 1 then I would recommend a link audit, especially if you purchased the domain from someone else or paid a grey hat SEO firm to handle it for you. You don’t want to get taken unawares.

  • kit

    Everyone in top 5 of many Keywords , i believe they are working with link building .

  • Guy

    lets matt cutts tell it to our rankings!!!

    • Tony

      Who likes Matt Cutts or Google for that matter?

  • Paddy O’Door

    I’d be interested to hear Cutts’ opinion on negative SEO, especially now that he’s made a night vs. day comparison between artificial and natural links.

    For less than $5 an hour, I could hire people halfway around the world to spam the heck out of a competitor. Sure, some of it might not stick, but if X% did register on Google’s radar as spam, then my effort has been fruitful when they start to lose rankings. It will take them time to disavow suspicious links because they will have to review them manually.

    Yes, I’m an angry casualty of the animal updates, but that’s part of the game.

    Honestly, I wouldn’t spam against a competitor, but what’s stopping someone else from doing it to me?

  • Tony

    Lets face it google’s link policy has only been put into action to benefit google adwords not webmasters.

  • Pete

    This is great news, while we see some mom and pop sites ranking well, others are not doing so well so this tends to show some link building issues just like Matt said. Someone probably was using black hat and the owner didn’t know it

  • Egan Rao

    Hearing “pushing the envelope” several times for Matt, it might replace paid links term soon.

  • Prescription Safety Glasses

    Wow Matt. Quoting the text you say “someone who’s not just trying to place number one”, what? What is the purpose of keyword research? Having an online business? Trying to make money online? To rank position 637? That is the goal of everyone online, to rank 1 or as close to it as possible.

  • Alan Robertson

    It won’t be long before organic links will become a thing of the past. Currently Google is upsetting those that have “overly optimized” their sites but how long before they just target all web sites? Let’s face it, how long will it be before all first page links are all paid for?

    I mean if it was just a quality issue then why are so many good quality sites demoted in the index and so many poorer quality sites promoted? I would argue that those websites that have put the most effort into promotion are far more likely to be better quality than those that do not actively promote themselves because they are actively selling online and their site layouts and quality are far more considered.

    It just doesn’t make sense until you realise that it is far easier to pick on the websites that could be considered to have done self promotion in the past (be it spammy or not). Obviously these people will pay Adwords to gain back their positions or face going under. Once they get used to paying the next step is to keep them paying….

    Again, if your site gets a sudden boost and business suddenly improves from Google you start to wake people up to the idea that Google can drive business to you. Suddenly you are a convert from traditional advertising to Adwords. Hence why unknown sites start ranking better.

    Smart thinking from Google under the disguise of spam prevention – the trouble is it won’t stop there. Considering Samsung will most likely pressurise Google after the recent Apple v Samsung battle using the Android operating system and also having to buy loss making Motorola, Google will look to recoup these losses any way that it can. That means you and me.

    The next step in the index will definitely be aimed at more commercial practices. Let’s face it Google is already shaking up the way in which it is displaying the results to obtain a more random approach to get everyone used to constant change. One minute shopping results, the next a picture. Sometimes sitelinks, sometimes not etc. This is merely preparing everyone for constant change. How long before organic and paid Adwords are randomly distributed across the search results? How long before Adwords links are no longer obvious to the end user? How long before first page results can only be guaranteed by paying?

    I would be very wary right now of the future direction of Google – it’s clearly going down the pay per click route for all links. Then again Bing has suddenly started to look less amateur these days – it’s not hard to change the default browser settings and Chrome isn’t exactly flying out the Windows….

  • West Valley High

    I can make a family blog talking Mom and Pop, and talk about poker if I like to play it with friends on thursday nights. Why would it be “unnatural links” ?

  • Marc

    I’d like to know what happens if you don’t use it and some of the inbound links are disavowed by other websites. How will that impact your website.

  • Mike Budd

    Come on… Playing toward the gray hat/black hat edge: I can tell you that most sites ranking in the top 5 for the main keywords are there only through backlinking strategies. The results compared to the efforts for them are apparently so high that they don’t even try to work on their content, in some cases it is only a few pages, amazing. ANd they do that with many sites, pushing progressively the new ones when the old ones decline. Don’t tell me that the importance of backlinks has decreased, I have too many examples showing it’s not true.
    Cheers, Mike