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Outbound Link Penalty Guest Blogging

     
1:39 pm on Mar 31, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Last week 3 of my many site got an outbound link penalty probably based on guest blogging.

But what I found interesting is this.

Blog 1: To be fair the poportion of guest posts to my own is high (lack of time). all posts were aquired from that well known guest blog site that has now been penalised by Google.
So that is the bad news and I should be put up against the wall shot for that.
But I would argue, that I was very careful to only choose posts that were 100% on topic for my readers and written to a good standard ( I refused many, after reading through them fully). I don't have a lot of time for this blog, so it will now become defunk, unless someone is still prepared to contribute with a nofollow link.

Blog 2: This is a different story in that the percentage of guest blogs is very low, ceratinly under 5%. That is because there is only one type of subject matter, I would allow guest posts for. I have to guess that the penalty was not applied because of quantity but because of the google profiles of the writers. My contribution to that blog is much much higher.

Blog 3: There are no guest posts at all on here, did I say zero. I was just very happy to link out extensivly whilst writing the posts. This blog is more of a hobby than a business, I write about what I enjoy and link to anything I think is relevant without thinking about SEO, bad neighbourhoods and that kind of stuff. But I got an outbound link penalty. It is true a few sites there are lots of links to ( I have no connection to them). But I do that because it is relevent to that post. not because of any foresight to penalties.

I have now nofollowed all links and all penalaties have been revoked.

But I say this to the whole world. I will never give a dofollow link to anyone from any site I own.

The advice I will give to any other webmaster is, never link out to anyone with a dodollow link. It doesn't matter what your opinion of the content or site. You have no guarantee that search engines will see it in the same light, it now been proven to be too risky.

I know a few people who run big branded sites with authority. I can tell you, no matter how hard you work, they will never give out a dofollow link. its just too risky for them now.

The fact is Linking is no longer a natural process and any site worth its salt will put its own priorities first.

I accept that exchanging money etc is not right for attainling links, but good fresh content, I think should be should have been accepted. Its a shame, that search engines can't tell the difference between good quality guest blogs and spam.

I predict in 5 years time there will be no link spam team , because links will no longer be counted and will be replaced with something else (is anyone brave enough to do this? Make their spam departments redundant and replace them with "content quality advisers".

We don't need external links anymore. We all add our site to WMT, use authorship etc. Search engines can find our pages, without external links. So much time is spent by trying to prove, that there is link spam out there, that you have to wonder why bother?

Stop counting links and the spam goes away.
2:37 pm on Mar 31, 2014 (gmt 0)

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But I would argue, that I was very careful to only choose posts that were 100% on topic for my readers and written to a good standard...


Someone tried to sell me a link from their site via a multi-million dollar venture funded link selling site. I told the publishers that it was a link selling scheme and contrary to Google's policy. The site publisher contacted the venture funded link seller and was told something along the lines that the venture funded link seller's crap did not stink because it was matching up quality publishers with quality sites to link to. The emphasis on quality made it Google friendly because Google wants sites to link to quality sites.

That line of reasoning was also used to justify high volume reciprocal link schemes. Publishers said that because they only linked to quality sites their crap didn't stink.

Only linking to quality sites is an old, old justification for link schemes. The reasoning that "quality" makes a link scheme not a link scheme is false. It's still a link scheme.


I will never give a dofollow link to anyone from any site I own.


I'm not saying this is you, but it sounds like resigning oneself to assuming it's all a mystery. It's not a mystery. It's important to understand REAL metrics for determining if a site is poisoned. It's important to understand where the line is so that you don't unintentionally cross it.

Clearly, you did not know where the line was. Understanding and acknowledging that your knowledge was incomplete is a good first step. The next step is to seek to improve your understanding because it does need to be improved.

[edited by: martinibuster at 2:48 pm (utc) on Mar 31, 2014]

2:44 pm on Mar 31, 2014 (gmt 0)

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The fact is Linking is no longer a natural process and any site worth its salt will put its own priorities first.


Unnatural link schemes come and go, but natural (a.k.a. "organic") linking is still the most fundamental principle of the World Wide Web.
3:15 pm on Mar 31, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I wonder, if everyone no follows everything, (and it seems to me many sites are initiating a site wide no follow policy to be safe), at some point G may well have to start counting no follow links and ignore the attribute?

I feel they have gone too far with scare tactic around links and tipped the balance of what they hoped to achieve. The consiqueses of everyone nofollowing everything could potentially be an even bigger headache for G down the road donít you think guys?

If everyone nofollows everything what does G do, ignore the attribute or remove links from the ALGO? IMO they will have to start ignoring the attribute and factor in many of these links are still genuine citations but people are scared to dofollow!

[edited by: CaptainSalad2 at 3:24 pm (utc) on Mar 31, 2014]

3:22 pm on Mar 31, 2014 (gmt 0)

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The issue is guys, I don't want to resign myself to using metrics, everytime i want to link to someone, or someone writes some great content for me.

This control, stops the real contribution. I don't care about gaining rankings, but i do care about being punished for it, when the intention was always just to have good content for my readers.

As far as organic linking is concerned I disagree that it is the fundermental principle of the world wide web. It is old hat prior to social media.

Why would any busines or webmaster want any vistor to leave their website to go to someone elses? I want them to stay forever.

If something is so good, then I want it on my website.

Can you imagine CNN news stating there was a great news item on ABC news and they should turn the channel over?
Of course not, its just not natural.
If the news story is really good, then CNN will go out and get their own version and broadcast it themselves, no links.

One of the reason why social media is so popular, is you never need to leave your social page. Whatever you follow is shared to your page. If we had to follow a link from our social page to someone elses, social media would never had grown to what it is.

Its not natural to point people away from your business in the real world, so I disagree that in most cases it is a natural thing to do online. (OK there may be some cases, but not sufficient to make it a major ranking factor)

My opinion only, not trying to preach.

Mark
3:22 pm on Mar 31, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Yep. I'm still linking out like crazy; hundreds of links per site, and only one nofollow on an affiliate link for each site. No penalties here.

It's not a mystery. It's important to understand REAL metrics for determining if a site is poisoned. It's important to understand where the line is so that you don't unintentionally cross it.


This is really important - and not just for linking, by the way.
3:24 pm on Mar 31, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Well said Captiansalad2.

My opinion is though they will give up on links altogether, or another search engine will come along re-inventing search.
3:36 pm on Mar 31, 2014 (gmt 0)

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>>>Yep. I'm still linking out like crazy; hundreds of links per site, and only one nofollow on an affiliate link for each site. No penalties here.<<<

I was with you on this one and a staunch supporter of not nofollowing links, but for the sake of safety im initiating a nofollow policy on all clientsí sites as of today. I cant police what they link to so its safer for them to nofollow everything from a programming point of view. Shame but "better safe than sorry"
3:46 pm on Mar 31, 2014 (gmt 0)

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My opinion is though they will give up on links altogether


Or they could follow Yandex's lead and give up links as ranking signals for commercial queries.

I can't see Google giving up on links altogether, though, because real citations (which is what links are supposed to be) still have meaning.

It's also possible that automatically "nofollowing" all outbound links could backfire, if Google were to use (or does use) outbound links, anchor text in outbound links, etc. as relevance or quality signals in the ranking algorithm.
6:01 pm on Mar 31, 2014 (gmt 0)

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"It's also possible that automatically "nofollowing" all outbound links could backfire, if Google were to use (or does use) outbound links, anchor text in outbound links, etc. as relevance or quality signals in the ranking algorithm. "


While that could happen (or is already happening), it seems that would be crazy of google to implement that.

I think that some CMS's already implement an automatic nofollow tag when using their built in editors to create links (if I remember correctly).

Also, if the goal is usability / usefulness to the visitor, I don't see how google could say that Site A is MORE useful to the visitor because the outbound links are dofollow, while Site B is less useful to the user because the links are nofollw.

Wikipedia (if I remember correctly) only has nofollow outbound links. Maybe that IS harming / could potentially harm their rankings, but I don't think their users are affected negatively in any way by the fact that it uses nofollow links.

So while you can never tell with google, I would certainly hope that a site isn't demoted because it decided to nofollow its outbound links.
6:09 pm on Mar 31, 2014 (gmt 0)

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@ flanok:

Regarding blog #3:

What is the relationship with the other blogs that google could easily spot?

Do blogs 1 and 2 link to blog 3?

do you have the same GWT and Analytics account for blog #3 as you have for #1 and #2?

Is contact information the same? Registered under your same name?

It might be that google spotted your guest blog site and using other, off-page connections, lowered the bar to penalization for your other sites.

My guess would be that blog #3 was penalized due to guilt by association.

Also, what are your user metrics like for blog #3? I would imagine that if people love your site, you can get a way with more things than if people do not love your site.
6:47 pm on Mar 31, 2014 (gmt 0)

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The advice I will give to any other webmaster is, never link out to anyone with a dodollow link. It doesn't matter what your opinion of the content or site. You have no guarantee that search engines will see it in the same light, it now been proven to be too risky.


I've been saying this for at least a year now. There's no good reason to ever give a followed link - nofollowed ones work fine for users and are (relatively) risk-free.

In future, Google may penalise sites whose outbound links are all nofollowed - (but not for a while - Wikipedia links are all nofollowed - and it HAS to be in the top 10 for EVERYTHING :-)
7:03 pm on Mar 31, 2014 (gmt 0)

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In future, Google may penalise sites whose outbound links are all nofollowed - (but not for a while - Wikipedia links are all nofollowed - and it HAS to be in the top 10 for EVERYTHING :-)


I'd be less worried about a penalty than about losing whatever credit I might get for relevant links. (There's more to ranking than avoiding penalties.)

In the past, we've often heard suggestions that Google looks at outbound links when calculating relevance. Example: If an article about Widgetology at Wendys-blog dot com links to the Church of Widgetology, a Wikipedia article on Widgetology, and an academic paper in the Journal of American Widgetology, that can't hurt (and might help) Wendy when Google is trying to figure out whether her page about Widgetology is genuinely relevant to a search on that topic.

As for Wikipedia, who's to say that its pages might rank even better if it didn't nofollow its links? (Contrary to popular belief, Wikipedia doesn't rank No. 1 for everything. In any case, discouraging link spam is likely to be more important to a UGC megasite like Wikipedia than squeezing every last drop of "ranking juice" out of its pages.)
8:39 pm on Mar 31, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Most of our editorial links use nofollow. I guess the website owners want to preserve their precious pagerank. Meanwhile, poorly informed/configured scrapers don't use nofollow when the copy our pages.

Under these circumstances, it's hard to believe an algorithm can figure out what is legit and what is not. This may be why brand bias is so common these days; because it's too difficult for an algo to figure it out on the many smaller sites.
9:07 pm on Mar 31, 2014 (gmt 0)

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However... the more we nofollow links, the more nodes are expunged from the Web graph.

Something in this trend suggests that Google is tending towards an elitist kind of web search.
11:55 pm on Mar 31, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I guess the website owners want to preserve their precious pagerank.


PageRank is still lost to the no-followed links. Not preserved.

Something in this trend suggests that Google is tending towards an elitist kind of web search.


SEOs might self-select themselves out of Google's algorithm, leaving only legit publishers linking out normally. That sounds like a good thing for Google.
12:36 am on Apr 1, 2014 (gmt 0)

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"I'd be less worried about a penalty than about losing whatever credit I might get for relevant links."

While I agree that is a concern for me, too, I still don't see it as helping the VISITOR to your (or my) site.

I don't see that the user's experience is hampered in any way - whether the link has been gelded or not.

So maybe google does give a boost to sites that have relevant outbound links that do not have the nofollow attribute. But it would be silly, IMHO, because the visitor to a page derives the same value.
1:15 am on Apr 1, 2014 (gmt 0)

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So maybe google does give a boost to sites that have relevant outbound links that do not have the nofollow attribute. But it would be silly, IMHO, because the visitor to a page derives the same value.


Sure, and the visitor derives the same value from the page regardless of the page title, the use or non-use of H1/H2/etc. tags, how much PageRank or link authority the page has, and so on. Ranking signals aren't limited to signals that involve "visitor value."
3:11 am on Apr 1, 2014 (gmt 0)

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"Ranking signals aren't limited to signals that involve "visitor value."

I believe you are missing my point completely.

Nowhere did I say that google DOESN'T give pages with followed outbound links a boost. Nowhere did I say that a ranking boost is not missed because a site uses nofollow links.

I did not speculate whether they are, or are not, a ranking signal. I did state that it would be particularly silly for google to use them as a ranking signal IF their main concern is visitor value, as the value to the visitor is the same.

Think of it this way using the heading and title tags that you mentioned. What if google purposefully gave a boost to sites that used an upper-case H in their H1 tags but gave a negative mark to sites that use a lower-case h in their h1 tags. Would that not be silly for google to do?
3:12 am on Apr 1, 2014 (gmt 0)

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It's not a mystery. It's important to understand REAL metrics for determining if a site is poisoned. It's important to understand where the line is so that you don't unintentionally cross it.

Worth rereading several times. Great post, mb.

Let me add that I believe that when the line is intentionally crossed frequently enough, there are patterns left that are statistically detectable. That's why it's a good idea not to cross it.

So maybe google does give a boost to sites that have relevant outbound links that do not have the nofollow attribute. But it would be silly, IMHO, because the visitor to a page derives the same value.

IMO, that's taking a limited view of the benefit which the visitor to either the link source page or to the link destination page derives. For the assertion to make sense... ie, for Google to be "silly" if it algorithmically boosted the linking page... you've got to be assuming that it would be also be silly for Google to take a broad, overall view of the value of links in its algorithm.

Google views freely given, editorial links as references. It's to Google's benefit that relevant, high quality pages send relevant and detectable signals to other high quality pages. This isn't to say that Google is going to give pages an automatic boost when they point a dofollow link at Wikipedia... that would be just plain simplistic... but it certainly makes sense to me that visitors overall benefit from relevant linking signals, and that Google would want to reward this.

I don't want to rerun the above discussion again... but I do want to counter the very limited view of user-friendliness expressed. The algorithm is many-leveled and recursive, and can't be reduced to the value you assume that a single visitor derives from a single click in isolation.

Application of an algorithm that rewards useful linking is likely to change the value that a visitor would derive.

SEOs might self-select themselves out of Google's algorithm, leaving only legit publishers linking out normally. That sounds like a good thing for Google.

;)
3:30 am on Apr 1, 2014 (gmt 0)

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"Ranking signals aren't limited to signals that involve "visitor value."

I believe you are missing my point completely.

"Missing my point completely" is often the case AFAIK and sometimes [many?] it seems to be done purposely. Of course, I could be mistaken and "missing a point" might simply be due to being closed-minded or "having an agenda" and refusing to consider outside input, rather than being "open" to other ideas and giving them thought -- IOW some may be "editorial" rather than "factual" purposely, or they really might "just not get it", but who knows?

I've decided to try and stay out of most threads due to the preceding -- "Editorial" may be a great *opinion* but "factual, impactful, actionable & result-oriented" comments are always better, imo/ime. Arguing with those who "can't see past the blinders", yet dominate threads, just isn't worth my time bothering to correct -- Sorry, for being as "editorial" as some who post opinion as fact in *way* too many threads.

The "factual/actionable" part of my post is to *read and review* all opinions/ideas about what "could be", then make an informed decision from there, but don't "just believe someone" for any reason, because they could easily be "editorial and opinionated", rather than "factual and accurate", and there's a big difference between the two.
11:24 pm on Apr 1, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I will not no-follow my outbound links. Most of the time, if I give a link, it's either a citation for something I'm discussion, or because I like the site. That's editorial, and if I get a penalty because of that, it's a failing on Google's part, not mine.
11:32 pm on Apr 2, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Google invents "rel=nofollow"(to fix their other invention "pagerank") and then bullies the internet into implementing it. It just doesn't site well with me.
1:24 am on Apr 3, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I will not no-follow my outbound links. Most of the time, if I give a link, it's either a citation for something I'm discussion, or because I like the site.


Yep, that's how it's supposed to work. Just because misinformed lemmings nofollow editorial links doesn't mean the rest of us should. Google, Bing, and other search engines certainly aren't encouraging us to do so.
2:32 am on Apr 3, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Lemmings? I would appreciate a little more courtesy to those who express a contrary opinion. It's a form of bullying to name call those who don't agree with you.

Yes, it can be quibbled that the comment was not aimed at anyone specific but it does cover all in this discussion who expressed the opinion that they intended to no-follow their links. They have a right to that opinion and to take that action. We can present logical reasons why that might not be a good idea. That's fair and healthy.

Nobody "wins" or "loses" in these discussions. They're not debates. They're simply discussions.

Thanks in advance for your consideration.
;)
3:45 am on Apr 3, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Excellent Post & Well Said MB!
10:56 am on Apr 3, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I will not no-follow my outbound links. Most of the time, if I give a link, it's either a citation for something I'm discussion, or because I like the site. That's editorial, and if I get a penalty because of that, it's a failing on Google's part, not mine.


That's a fine and principled position - with a lot to commend it. After all, why should we let what Google may or may not do, affect our linking decisions?

Because, if you run a commercial site, a Google penalty can destroy your business very quickly (I speak from experience). And don't forget you have no right of appeal, or even to know what the evidence is against you, there's no judicial oversight, and therefore no need for any attempt at fairness or due process.

And if you do get a penalty because Google misunderstood or mis-interpreted your editorial links - your Bank Manager won't accept "But they're genuine editorial links" instead of your mortgage payment.

Sometimes it's good to be cautious - even if it appears to others that you're being over-cautious.

And yes - as someone who's been building websites since before Google existed - I HATE nofollowing editorial links to high quality sites - it goes against everything the web should be - it feels wrong - but I think it's a considered and pragmatic response to the situation we currently live in - one penalty-happy search engine with 90% market share (UK) and 0 accountability.
1:26 pm on Apr 3, 2014 (gmt 0)

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@ Editorial Guy:

Google, Bing, and other search engines certainly aren't encouraging us to do so [nofollow editorial links]."


On the contrary, the penalizing of the original poster's third blog (which had only editorial links) would, in my opinion, seem like "encouragement" to nofollow those editorial links, whether that "encouragement" was intended or not on the part of google.

"Yep, that's how it's supposed to work."


How is it possible to talk in such absolutes about the algo when even Messers. Cutts and Mueller avoid talking in absolutes?

I would guess (and that is all anybody can do, really) that there are some sites that would see a rankings increase if they nofollow some / all of their editorial links and that some would see a decrease, but it would be nearly impossible to pick and choose which ones to nofollow because the links are taken in context with a large number of on- and off-site factors and then matched against a profile (or number of profiles) that google believes the site fits into.
2:58 pm on Apr 3, 2014 (gmt 0)

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For the record, I understand why some people are going with an abundance of caution on their outbound links.

That said, I have been more choosy where I link when I link out. We do accept guest posts on our blog, and it's now gotten to the point where I'm checking the backlink profile of a site's self-serving link before I'll allow the post.

I think that's kind of insane. If it really is all about the quality content, we should be able to accept it and not have to worry about the site or no-follow it. That is, unless it's obviously bad from a visual inspection, in which case it'd be bad to link to it despite Google.

That's where we are now, though.
3:23 pm on Apr 3, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I understand why some people are going with an abundance of caution on their outbound links.


Links have always been "citations," so it stands to reason that site owners or editors should exercise a reasonable amount of judgment when linking. And protecting the integrity of links as citations was the reason why rel="nofollow" was introduced back in 2005.

Initially, rel="nofollow" was intended to prevent comment spam. Later, it became a way to indicate that a link was purchased (e.g., a "sponsored link" or a link from an ad) or that the target page or site wasn't trusted. But it was never intended to be the default for outbound editorial links, and using it for that purpose sends the message that "All of the links from our site are paid links or links to sites that we don't trust."

What does that message say about the quality of your site? Megasites like Wikipedia and Tripadvisor may have enough authority to nofollow everything, but if the owner of a small to medium-size site really wants to be cautious, wouldn't it be more sensible (and cautious) to use rel="nofollow" as it was intended to be used?
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