I received an interesting email the other day from a company we linked to from one of our websites.
In short, the email was a request to remove links from our site to their site. 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.
Apparently Google convinced them, via their Webmaster Tools portal, that the link looked “unnatural”, and that they should use the Link Disavow Tool to discredit the link. Furthermore, they thought it necessary to contact us to manually remove the link, which is something I’m not going to do (out of principle).
For the last 10 years, Google has been instilling and spreading irrational fear into webmasters. 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.
Site owners and publishers are now afraid to link to each other because they don’t know how Google might respond to that link. For example, Wikipedia and the New York Times have added the “nofollow" attribute to most of the links outside of their editorial control.
This is bad for the Internet for a few fundamental reasons…
First, publishers aren’t getting the credit they deserve for their original content.
Second, webmasters are going out of their way to control the flow of page rank from their site to other sites.
Both of these irrational behaviors contradict the underlying foundation of the web and the concept of hyperlinks.
It’s bad enough that Google has made web publishers afraid to link to each other, but they’re also making them repent for past misdeeds (perceived or real), which is what prompted me to write this post.
This has to stop. As a web publisher and author you have a right (and an obligation) to naturally link to resources that you find valuable for your audience. It’s not just about giving your readers what they want, but it’s also crediting the original source for their efforts.
As a publisher I refuse to nofollow any links, outside of banners and advertisements. I implore you to do the same.
Remember, Google doesn’t own the Internet, they just crawl and index it for profit.
We own the Internet, and it’s up to us to decide when something is link worthy or not, regardless of Google’s webmaster guidelines.
I attached a copy of the email (with personal details removed) to this post, so you can see how ridiculous this has become.
Subject: A Request For Your Help
Dear Website Owner:
We have discovered that a company we hired to help promote our website (DOMAIN REMOVED) have used a variety of questionable techniques to secure links to our website. These links were placed purely for SEO purposes, with the intention of manipulating search rankings.
It appears that there may be links like this that have been placed on your site.
The presence of these links is harmful to our site’s good standing with search engines, and unfortunately, retaining them may also be potentially harmful to your own website’s reputation.
We would ask that you please remove any links on your site that link to (DOMAIN REMOVED).
So far as we are aware, there are (or have been) links at these URLs:
We would greatly appreciate your help with resolving this problem.
You can also let us know once the links to (DOMAIN REMOVED) have been removed either by return email, or using the link below.
If you need any more information from us, please email me and I will be happy to assist.
We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused you and do appreciate your help.