If a link drops on the web, does Google care enough to penalize you?
I receive several link removal requests a month from people who have left legitimate comments on my blogs. These people followed the rules and only embedded links in the little URL field that WordPress provides by default in the comment form. It is not required that you place a link there but most people do it.
The links use the “rel=’nofollow’” attribute and I manually review all the comments. Once in a blue moon a spammer gets past my vigilance with a well-crafted generic comment. I have learned to be more suspicious and to sometimes search the Web for the 1-2 sentences that the spammers leave before approving comments.
The Problem Is Not the Links: It is the Lack of Research
Not every Web marketer has been doing this as long as I have so I try to cut people with less experience some slack when they make mistakes. But the growing number of link removal requests from people who obviously don’t know what they should be removing is starting to alarm me. The requests all come with basically the same explanation: “Google Webmaster Tools shows me that I have 500 links coming from your site.”
First of all, you don’t have 500 links coming from my site. It’s more like 1,000 links. And you should be ECSTATIC that someone with my experience would be glad to hand you 1,000 NoFollowed links. They won’t hurt you in anyway.
Secondly, I removed the WordPress widget that was giving you those links quite some time ago. So when you look in your GWT link report, you need to understand that those links may no longer exist. The widget I used was “Recent Comments”. It’s a standard WordPress widget. It’s a blogger’s way of rewarding people for commenting and reassuring new visitors that real people do read the blog (and leave comments).
The Marketing Web is Changing Because of You, Not Because of the Rules
It’s just a shame that ignorance and paranoia are forcing people like me to change what they put on their Websites. I did not remove the widget for your sake; I removed it for mine. There is no way Bing or Google will care about any link to your site from my blogs. They know my sites, they have known my sites for years, and they know those links are good, safe links.
It’s not the search engines’ fault that Web marketers are starting to run in a panic toward the nearest exit from the Link Building. Web marketers did this to themselves, and to each other. If you read advice on a popular SEO blog it must be good, right? After all, it’s a popular SEO blog. And I am giving you advice on a popular SEO blog. But the difference between my advice and the bad advice out there is that I am not telling you how to run around the Web and build spammy links.
If you see an article on your favorite SEO blog that tells you how to get links from a specific Website, using a specific tool, etc. think of any links you acquire via that method as spam. The search engines may not have a problem with those links today but as more marketers follow that advice all those links will lay down a pattern of obvious manipulation and abuse that becomes labeled as spam.
So the links you should be disavowing are the links you built for SEO, not innocent comment links.
If you cared enough about what I wrote somewhere to leave a comment, to thank me or to disagree with me, and you embedded a link to your site in that comment: you’re fine. If, on the other hand, you used XRumer or some other spam tool to leave a bajillion comments across the Web linking back to your spammy affiliate site or client site, well, you need therapy.
Good comments may be rewarded with links from good Websites.
Bad comments should just hit the SPAM folder and eventually be deleted.
The Number of Comment Links from a Site Does Not Matter
You’re confusing the old SEO practice of asking for/buying sitewide links (which did not use “rel=’nofollow’”) with the Web wide practice of sharing legitimate links. Search engines know the difference.
Comment links hurt you if, unlike a real person, your Website magically appears in comment links on hundreds or thousands of Websites within the space of a day, a week, a month.
Comment links are relatively harmless if, like a voracious normal commenting passionate person, your Website appears normally in comment links on dozens or maybe a hundred Websites a month. If you leave 5 real comments on Websites every day, you can leave 150 normal comments a month.
That should not hurt you. How do I know this? I leave comments on blogs all the time and I have never once received a suspicious links notice from Bing or Google. And I publish thousands of linky comments on my blogs without ever receiving any warnings, penalties, downgrades, or memos from Bing and Google.
The search engines do not care about real-world, passion-driven links. If you’re charging up your blog comments with dozens of links to malware-laden Websites – well, you’re probably not the kind of person who would care about penalties anyway.
The Only Thing You Need to Know about Any Link is WHY it was Left There
If you were not spamming at the time you left a comment on my blog, and if your comment was approved, your links are fine. You don’t need to ask me to remove them. You don’t need to disavow them.
Let your honest intentions be your guide. Your gut instincts will serve you far better in analyzing your link profiles than all the SEO bloggery in the world.
The only good link is the link you didn’t care about when you created it because you were so intent on participating in the discussion.
The only bad link is the link you made because you read on some marketing blog or forum that this was a great link to get.
About Michael Martinez
Michael Martinez has been developing and promoting Websites since 1996 and began practicing search engine optimization in 1998. He is the principal author of the SEO Theory blog.