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Asked to remove outbound "unnatural" links from my site
robster124




msg:4603676
 10:02 pm on Aug 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

I run a informational site for certain business types. For some business pages I link to the business myself and also allow the business in question to submit a manually-reviewed link to themselves. As a large (mostly) dynamic website I code for each link and link the business with anchor text "Business name widget seller".

For the last week since the manual penalty notice has come out in WMT I have received a handful of emails from business owners saying they have been told by Google that they have "unnatural" links from my site. I removed the 6th link to a business today as any good webmaster would after being asked to do so. But if I receive a torrent of requests then a) it might become too much for me to do and b) destroy a lot of value I have put on my site.

To me this is absolutely bonkers. The links are clearly 100% integral to each listing just as a phone number or email is and I can see a situation where I start removing them in droves in the not so distant future. This destroys not only value on my website but well directed traffic to the business!

If this becomes a big problem my only thought is to change the anchor text to the URL itself but that seems a pretty dramatic step. After all the anchor I'm using at the moment is accurate and a help to my users.

Has anyone had similar experience? And can I expect a penalty on my site (the site is currently doing very well and no sign of that at all)?

My personal opinion is that this is a really sad state of affairs for the web in general and not to mention a massive waste of my time.

 

aakk9999




msg:4603695
 10:34 pm on Aug 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

You could link with a business name only.

Is "wiget" the same for all businesses or does it represent different business types? If it is the same and you rank for this business type, then removing this word from your anchor across your site may result in your rankings being impacted.

How many requests to remove a link did you have all together? Maybe instead of removing the link you could just change the anchor for businesses that contact you?

And lastly, how many businesses all together are listed on your site?

robster124




msg:4603700
 10:47 pm on Aug 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

Widget is not the same for all businesses. It describes the business and what will be at the link well. My only hope is that this doesnt become a torrent. There are about 20,000 links on the site that have taken ages to create. Only 10 links so far. But most of these businesses are mom + pop type businesses, and I'd wager 95% of those businesses are not yet aware of this manual penalty notice thing.

Is the safest thing to just turn the link anchor into the url? Ive noticed some of my competitors linking solely with urls with no problems.

The trouble is, as has been alluded to elsewhere in this forum a few times before, I now seem to be heading down a path where I'm purely pleasing one search engine. (How ironic given Google always talk about code for the user and not for a search engine). It all feels very instinctively wrong. I do get the bulk of my visits from Google but with such a drastic measure I worry about my impact on Bing and Yahoo and of course, not to mention, the users themselves.

robster124




msg:4603702
 10:48 pm on Aug 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

Only 10 links so far = Only 10 links so far have been requested to be removed.

aakk9999




msg:4603705
 11:09 pm on Aug 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

Why don't you nofollow a link for links where you get link removal request, and just reply to the person requesting removal that you have nofollowed their link?

This way you can keep your anchor and the site from the visitor's point of view looks the same.

FranticFish




msg:4603713
 12:41 am on Aug 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

... or change to 'url only' link when requested - or perhaps even display an unlinked url if people are concerned about the link?

Either change could be coded into your system so that you could flick a switch to change if asked to do so.

Planet13




msg:4603717
 12:56 am on Aug 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

Why don't you nofollow a link for links where you get link removal request, and just reply to the person requesting removal that you have nofollowed their link?


+1

You will probably have to educate them that nofollow links do NOT count toward any penalty or negative algorithim factors.

If all else fails, just keep a linkless citation (i.e., www.theirdomainname.com without a link to it).

~~~~~

I think the bigger concern is finding out whether your site was actually listed in the penalties section of WMT as a sample of links that actually are unnatural, or whether they were ntified that they had some unnatural links (not necessarily yours) but then they downloaded all their links in WMT, noticed yours as well, and decided to throw yours in as well.

crobb305




msg:4603738
 3:22 am on Aug 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

I have received some of those emails, requesting that I remove perfectly natural links (unpaid, unsolicited) from my sites. They are usually worded something like, "it has come to our attention that you are linking to our site... blah blah blah... which is causing financial losses due to ranking demotions... blah blah blah." I figure, if they have suffered a penalty for bad linking, then perhaps I am linking to a bad neighborhood and I'm better off removing the link. Who knows. I just remove the link and politely tell them to go away.

jmccormac




msg:4603753
 4:42 am on Aug 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

I ran across a similar problem with pseudo-SEOs spamming directory owners because their victims/clients got an "unnatural links" warning from Google that didn't provide any examples of these unnatural links. Two of them even used what they thought were disposable and untraceable e-mails for the spam run.

The big problem is not unnatural links but rather Google's FUD buddies who scare gullible victims/clients with talk of all links being unnatural whilst pretending to be SEOs. Good links are the very life blood of the web. The simplest reply to some of these companies would be to ask them for proof that your link is actually listed as an unnatural link before doing anything.

Regards...jmcc

CainIV




msg:4603759
 5:21 am on Aug 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

Unfortunately, this is just another example of how Google's lack of a coherent linking policy has essentially scared many businesses and webmasters to freely link to other great resources.

Whitey




msg:4603766
 5:56 am on Aug 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

@robster124 - Why don't you follow aakk9999's advice and no-follow? What benefit is there to you otherwise?

Better to be cautious for your own sake in this and the future environment. I can't imagine Google relaxing with it's strategic objectives.

bluntforce




msg:4603780
 7:19 am on Aug 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

Doesn't anyone else see how bizarre this has become? We have to remove links that may not be appropriate, unless they are appropriate and you just screwed yourself over by trashing your links.

Screw Google. Do what makes sense for you.
If you actually read their guidelines, that's exactly what they say.

jakebohall




msg:4603826
 1:36 pm on Aug 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

Would definitely recommend you just adjust your site to no-follow the links, and only link out with the business owners company name, URL, or "company website" style phrase as the anchor text.

It is likely that you are being flagged by SEOs doing link removal because you are using keyword specific anchor text on a followed link, and since you are a directory of sorts, it appears unnatural despite however natural the links may be.

If you have no-followed the link, you have taken care of any issue that could potentially cause an issue for the webmasters writing to you. I don't foresee your mass no-following of these outbound links causing any issue with your own rankings, etc.

atlrus




msg:4603841
 3:12 pm on Aug 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

And can I expect a penalty on my site (the site is currently doing very well and no sign of that at all)?


These guys are doing you a favor. Google will not send unnatural links warning for just one link, chances are those 10 websites have rather shady link profiles, so linking to them is not beneficial to you at all.

I am personally advocating against using "nofollow" in any and all cases.
No one really knows the full extend of the attribute, among other things Google is advising to be used on paid links and you don't want your website to be associated in any way with paid links, advertorials, etc. If you still want to link out to such websites - just use a redirect script through a folder in your website and ban search engines access to that folder.

Planet13




msg:4603846
 3:32 pm on Aug 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

Of course, it would be a good idea to ensure that those link removal requests are actually coming from the owners of the sites.

Could be the removal requests are coming from a competitor of their sites...

LifeinAsia




msg:4603878
 4:50 pm on Aug 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

The simplest reply to some of these companies would be to ask them for proof that your link is actually listed as an unnatural link before doing anything.

I tried that for a while. The problem is that most of the requests I get are from sheep who only hear what they want to hear. Easier to just remove the link and not look back.

Of course, if/when they reverse direction and come begging for their link back in the future, I'll send them a copy of their de-link request and an invoice to add it back.

I actually had one offer of $10 to compensate me for my time to remove a link. I removed the link, not expecting anything to come of it and actually had $10 (minus the transaction fee) in my PayPal account the next day.

robster124




msg:4603888
 5:39 pm on Aug 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

I am going to wait and see whether I do indeed get a torrent of these.

I have checked a few of the sites that have asked me to remove the link to them and arguably they do look a bit keyword stuffed and over-seo'd so perhaps that fact COMBINED with my link is tripping the filter.

I can definitely do nofollow but I've always been a big fan of keeping things as simple as possible and this just introduces a whole new layer of complexity that can be hard to keep track of. I've had a very stable and good SERP ranking for years now and my philosophy is not to try and rock the boat with large search engine targeted changes.

And FWIW @bluntforce:

"Doesn't anyone else see how bizarre this has become? We have to remove links that may not be appropriate, unless they are appropriate and you just screwed yourself over by trashing your links.

Screw Google. Do what makes sense for you.
If you actually read their guidelines, that's exactly what they say."

- I couldnt agree more wholeheartedly. I made a new years resolution this year to concentrate entirely on content generation and building out my websites rather than fiddling with design and coding - this whole mess has the potential to suspend all of that and drag me down a hole.

I'm not as stupid or stubborn to say to just ignore google but as far as I can see this is real sad and rather boring state of affairs.

Robert Charlton




msg:4603938
 8:15 pm on Aug 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

I have checked a few of the sites that have asked me to remove the link to them and arguably they do look a bit keyword stuffed and over-seo'd so perhaps that fact COMBINED with my link is tripping the filter.

That's an interesting point. It's a good idea, if you have what amounts to a mini-directory on your site (and effectively it sounds like you do), to routinely check where your outbounds are going anyway.

...and also allow the business in question to submit a manually-reviewed link to themselves.... I code for each link and link the business with anchor text "Business name widget seller".

The anchor text, I'm sure, is one of the things that jumps out at Google. It could look like a bought link, intended to influence organic rankings.

Also... with regard to the listings the business submit to you, "manually reviewed" is not the same as edited. It may be that you need to edit your listings more. This might be a helpful wakeup call. I'd take pains to make sure that you are not simply using boiler-plate content that businesses submit. Possibly, Google is viewing these as cookie cutter listings intended to get self-placed backlinks. Look at the sites, evaluate them, and curate and edit your listings. Uniqueness is a sign of manual review.

Acceptable directory style generally means that you use plain-vanilla business names or canonical urls as your anchor text. You can always have a non-linked short additional "Business type:" description identifying the business as a widget seller.

All this isn't any different from the way Google has looked at directory links for years. What's crazy about it is that many people who don't know what they are doing suddenly reacting to the alerts. That said, it's probably better to have the alerts than not.

So you might want to get rid of listings that are to sites of low quality and keep only the good ones, and to do enough editing and curation that Google does not consider the links to be self-placed. There might be a grey area where you'd want to nofollow some links and keep those listings, but I'm not a fan of nofollowing links I myself place and then send visitors to.

FranticFish




msg:4603945
 8:45 pm on Aug 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

I'd echo Robert's point about unique listings. Here in the UK, the best (well, pretty much only) free general directory are super-hot on original content on their site. They've even written a wizard/widget that helps you write your listing and have disabled 'paste' into the text editor.

Most people simply paste a standard wording into all their online listings but I've seen rankings improvements from policing up old, duplicate listings for SME clients and re-writing so that each one is unique.

As a business owner a listing with a cookie cutter description will (IMO) help you less than one with a unique description. As directory owner, a site full of duplicate content could become a problem.

bwnbwn




msg:4603947
 9:07 pm on Aug 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

no follow doesn't work either. All our links are nofollow and I still get request daily. I have a prepared email on the links are nofollow and are not a problem.
Sent to an SEO company the other day and got back that a nofollow is still a bad link.
Not wasting my time sending a response. Just re sending the same prepared email.

ZydoSEO




msg:4603952
 9:36 pm on Aug 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

I would NOFOLLOW all such links and tell anyone requesting additional takedowns to take a hike.

If you document anywhere on your site that the businesses can submit their own "manually reviewed links", I would HIGHLY recommend you remove any such wording. That in itself is "unnatural".

If you want to create an editorial link to another web site because it's good for your visitors, YOU should decide on the link text that YOU feel is most appropriate. The minute you let the site being linked to pick their own link text, title attribute value, etc., you've changed that link from a natural, editorial link to an unnatural link (similar to the way the target site picks their link text on other unnatural link building techniques where they "plant" links on other sites via directory submissions, article submissions, blog commenting, forum signature links and spamming, etc.)

robster124




msg:4603969
 10:39 pm on Aug 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

Thanks for all the responses. All suggestions sound sensible. Given I've only had a handful of requests I'm going to hold back doing anything drastic until or if the requests pick up.

LifeinAsia




msg:4604199
 7:06 pm on Aug 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

Ooooh, in a request I got today the person actually used "cease and desist" with regards to linking to their site.

I replied that we promise NEVER to link to their site ever again from any properties we own. I can't wait to attach that in the future if/when they (or an agent of theirs) comes asking for a link. I'll tell them I'll need at least $100 to go back on my promise. :)

swa66




msg:4604395
 12:26 pm on Aug 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

Are you 100% sure it's the site owner asking the link to be taken down ?

If you reply to confirm is the email answered ?
Does the email come from the domain itself ?

If not I'd answer you only respond to requests that are confirmed by webmaster@example.com.

Competitors (and their shady SEO), might well be using the "Google is evil" umbrella to mask their own evil side in destroying incoming links to competitors.

LifeinAsia




msg:4604405
 1:02 pm on Aug 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

Yup- always confirm.

Webwork




msg:4604420
 2:34 pm on Aug 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

Is compliance an admission that your site IS __________(fill in the blank / "useless, search engine spamming garbage") to assent to such a request?

What if said requestor reported to Google that you complied? What if "the machine (G) observes" that, following its assessment your sites unnatural linking you started dropping links? What does the machine conclude? Do you know, for certain? Does it keep a record that you were bad? Does compliance bind your hands?

What if someone started posting that they successfully had "their unnatural link(s) removed from Site-Y" (your site)?

IS G's SERPs in all ways materially better than the index your site provides? Your site offers NO value added? Is that what you are, at least implicitly, admitting by compliance?

IF YOU don't firmly believe in the added value of your site then what?

IF YOU feed the FUD by removing a natural (human reviewed and crafted) link, then what? There's less FUD? Really? G has a history of clarity and transparency . . . 'cause that's the antidote to FUD? And, so, G was so kind as to say exactly what made the link your crafted "unnatural"?

Robert Charlton




msg:4604492
 8:12 pm on Aug 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

IF YOU feed the FUD by removing a natural (human reviewed and crafted) link, then what?

The question I brought up in my post above is whether in fact it was apparent that it had been reviewed, or whether it has the footprints of being a self-placed link.

To use the word "law" loosely here, I think we also get into the question of whether "ignorance of the 'law'" is an excuse.

turbocharged




msg:4604547
 11:42 pm on Aug 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

Most of the removal requests are nothing more than spam. At first I spent a bit of time asking people to confirm their request, and almost nobody responded. I have better things to do with my time, so I setup an E-mail filter that catches and discards most of the requests. This is something one must do if you built and manage many websites. I know who put the links on the sites, and they are quite relevant.

Most of the link removal requests seem to be originating from competitors trying to dismantle the competitions links or from people that have nothing better to do then run an automated bot spamming webmasters.

ogletree




msg:4604599
 3:38 am on Aug 24, 2013 (gmt 0)

I would just remove the link. I would be embarrassed to endorse somebody this stupid. Of course I have an SEO blog and mostly link to SEO's.

On a client site I would just ignore the emails as spam. I think the whole Disavow links and penalty notices is just Google messing with SEO's. It is just a busy box to keep idiots running in circles. Of course it has created even more ways for SEO's to blik customers for stupid services.

I can't wait for Matt Cutts to post a take down notice he got from some moron SEO.

Dinkar




msg:4604622
 6:04 am on Aug 24, 2013 (gmt 0)

Ask for $29 for each link removal request and Bank ;)

This 59 message thread spans 2 pages: 59 ( [1] 2 > >
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