We recently published an article called "Links Are The Web’s Building Blocks, And Fear Of Google Has Them Crumbling". This was about the panic Google has caused among webmasters with its messages about links. It's a panic that has led to many webmasters requesting to have links removed from sites that they would otherwise find valuable, if not for fear that Google will not like them and hurt their rankings.
Is all of this fear over Google an overreaction, or is it justified? Let us know what you think.
I noticed a post in WebmasterWorld that expresses this point to perfectly. The title of the post says it all: "New link to my site worries me -- but it's a good link!" Senior member crobb305 writes:
Got an unsolicited citation from a media source but they used anchor text that I have been penalized on. FUD! Should I ask them to change it? By doing that I make a natural link unnatural, and Googlebot will detect that change (obvious tinkering). Nevertheless, I do have an OOP and received the infamous link warnings about 5 months ago.
I hate it that we have to live with this type of fear.
This person has been a member of WebmasterWorld since 2002, so they've clearly been in this world for quite a while. Yet here they are concerned that a completely natural link might draw negative attention from Google. The person is even wondering if they should go out of their way to make the link unnatural to please Google. How's that for irony? Sadly, it's highly likely that plenty of other webmasters are thinking similar thoughts.
As shared in the article mentioned at the beginning, there is plenty of overreaction from webmasters out there, and I would say that Google would rather see the link occur in its natural form, but this is the kind of fear people are dealing with to please Google and maintain some form of visibility in search results (which is getting harder and harder for other reasons entirely). Should people have to be this worried about links (the building blocks of the web)?
It probably doesn't help that Google has reportedly indicated that forthcoming algorithm updates will be more "jarring."
Another forum senior member later responded, "But seriously, some of the sites of mine that went down the Google drain were clean, 'link building' was not done, just attracted some real nice ones and yet the project died due to 'penalties'. I went out of answers to this somewhere in the middle of 2011 and focus on cool stuff, HTML5, content (I think some tools can be considered good content) and ultimately ranking solid on Bing. Google does whatever Google wants to do."
Likewise, Chris Lang from Gadget MVP tells me on Google+, "I never have worried about Google. I just do what seems natural. Never been slapped once.... At least not by Google."
WebmasterWorld moderator goodroi tells the user, "One link from a quality, relevant website is not the problem. The hundreds of links with identical anchor text coming from blog spam, directory submission schemes and other short cuts are the problem.'
"I tend to focus more of my efforts on improving backlink profiles by adding quality links instead of focusing on deleting bad links," goodroi adds. "Even if you delete every single bad link (and somehow are lucky not to accidentally delete a good link) you still need to build legitimate links. So if you start working on legitimate links you may end up getting enough good links that it naturally defuses the bad link issues."
Unfortunately, many are seemingly still eager to kill significantly more links than they may really need to. On the flipside, even some publishers are growing leery of including guest content on their sites. This fear, apparently is coming from the Penguin update.
Since Penguin, I am getting a flood of article offers. Most of this content is crap. Some of it is "average" quality (which I don't publish). Some can be excellent, unique, highly desirable. So now I am deciding if I want to accept some of this content, knowing that I could be publishing links to sites that could have past, present or future manipulation.
I have a potential article that I really like and that would be very popular with my visitors. The author's site ranks #1 in a difficult niche and they don't have enough content on their site to hold that position from editorial links (IMO).
I have not seen any articles or discussion about the cautions that a publisher should be following in these days of post-penguin linking.
So, not only are people afraid to have links out there that they would find valuable, if not for fear of Google, but some are also afraid to publish quality content, for fear that it might somehow be connected to something Google will not like. Ironically, quality content is what Google wants from sites above all else.
Are webmasters worrying about Google too much, or are these simply rational concerns, with Google being such a dominant force on the web? Tell us what you think.