A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Google released their Penguin update to tackle link-spam and a few months ago, they sent warnings to hundreds of thousands of website owners through webmaster tools, stating that their algorithm identified them as likely to be buying links, and that they need to take steps to get these links removed. Some websites dropped in rank and some fell out of Google completely. One of the bigger “link-building-scandals” was when Google removed iAcquire from their index for buying and selling links (looks like they got the sucky end of the bargain when they picked up this business from Conductor), and punished Dun & Bradstreet for soliciting bloggers to sell them links.
I’ll give you an example.
I have a website that has links and content that benefits users based on their intent. For example, if a user is interested in lawnmowers and lands on my website, they will see articles about lawnmowers, some advertising I get paid on (affiliate links & PPC), and then related links to other websites about lawnmowers that I don’t get paid on. All of the links are nofollow since I didn’t want to deal with this Google nonsense. Since Penguin, I’ve been getting weekly emails from webmasters asking me to remove their links. They are in a complete panic over this crap that is destroying the very essence of the web because one company sets the rules according to their own ethos.
Here are a few recent email I got from companies that I link to. I’ve edited them down and removed names and website addresses for obvious reasons. Typically each company will have links on 1 to 5 of my many 1000s of pages (my replies are below their letters):
Penguin Panic Letter #1
I hope this emails finds you well I am webmaster of XXXXXXXX and I am working towards cleaning of all the links that has been created around to your website XXXXXXXX.
I make to ensure that our website adheres with Google’s Quality Guidelines. If possible then remove all the links ASAP.
I would appreciate if you can please get rid of this and update me as soon as its done so I can update my records.
I really appreciate your help in helping me with above.
Thanks & Regards,
These links are all nofollow (look at my code). Since they are nofollow, they will not hurt your SEO. In fact, they will help your SEO with the current algorithm as you need a good ratio of follow:nofollow links to have a natural backlinks profile or your SEO will look artificial. There is nothing that can possibly hurt your SEO here, and there is nothing against Google’s terms of service or quality guidelines and you’ll probably even get some free traffic out of it.
It really bothers me that so many webmasters are paranoid and in a panic because of the Penguin update.
Again, nofollow links do not hurt you, in fact they make your backlinks profile look more natural. In fact since I’m linking to you with your URL and not an optimized keyword, it makes your profile look even more natural. Even further, I have you listed on maybe 5 pages of my site, not 1000s of pages.
I’m sure you’re great at what you do, but seriously you should do a bit more research before getting into a panic.
Penguin Panic Letter #2
My name is XXXXXXXX and I am the webmaster of XXXXXXXX. I recently came across your website, and I saw that XXXXXXXXX is linked to from this page: XXXXXXXXXXXXXX.
I am reaching out because I found your contact information associated with this site.
Would you be able to remove the link pointing to XXXXXXXXXXXXX? The link is located at the bottom of the page and uses the anchor text http://www.XXXXXXXXX.com.
I’d appreciate your assistance with this request. Please reach out if you have any questions.
If your concern is related to SEO in that you could possibly be flagged for buying links, you have nothing to worry about. The link is nofollow. There are no trademark issues either as “WEBPAGE URL” is a generic term, and I link to your website.
Why on earth would you want people to remove links to your website? I’m not copying your content, I am giving you a free link with free traffic and my site is not offensive in any way.
Sorry I couldn’t be of more help, but I felt that your request deserved a response.
Am I Being a Prick?
Some people might think so. But I look at the bigger picture. If I enable this ridiculous behavior, I will have an even bigger headache on my hands because people are infected with this Penguin Paranoia or whatever you want to call it. Right now, people are scared and they’re doing ridiculous things. What’s the result? The complete breakdown of the infrastructure of the web. Someone needs to take a stand here and educate people on how silly they are being.
What Can You Do?
Some webmasters are signing a petition to kill the Penguin. Others like me are doing our best not to give in to the paranoia. My personal belief: whatever you decide to do, or not do, put some thought into your actions first. Too many people take action without thinking, because someone told them to do so.