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Google: Spammy Widget Links Violate its Webmaster Guidelines

     
11:54 am on Sep 8, 2016 (gmt 0)

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As if you didn't know this already, Google has now made it abundantly clear that spammy, keyword-rich, hidden, or low quality links in widgets violate Google's Webmaster Guidelines. The result of that violation we know could mean a penalty, or worse.

[webmasters.googleblog.com...]

Obviously, it's finding more an more and felt that it was worthwhile publishing a confirmatory message.
3:21 pm on Sept 8, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Thank you for posting this.

I have a couple of widgets that I offer to other webmasters in my niche.

It's all on topic widget, animated educational videos, educational games, and a educational calculator.

As part of the widget code i have included a nofollow textlink to my website Example.com.

The widgets include my website logo inside - not a link- it's for branding.

"Example.com" is the link anchor-text shown below the widget.

I make it very clear that the widget code do contain a link and that this link is nofollow out of the box.

Users are welcome to remove the link if preferred.

However I also ask the webmasters to change the link and make it a regular follow link - explaining what removing the nofollow code part does.

I am wondering if I am walking on thin ice by asking users of the widgets to change it to a follow link -> place a vote on my website.

As long as it's an on topic widget, not-including keyword-spam in the code. I really don't see the different from a regular link.

In my opinion It's a VOTE on the content - on topic content.

I am wondering if I should now demand that people keep the link as it is provided - a nofollow link.
6:31 pm on Sept 8, 2016 (gmt 0)

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IMHO a simple "powered by example.com" link should be ok, even without nofollow.

People use the widget - thats a vote for the widget and it should link back home.

If you go overboard and include all kinds of unrelated links, thats another story.
8:54 pm on Sept 8, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Logged into Facebook and Twitter and got a big laugh at the expense of all the well known (but crappy) SEOs who are complaining. Badges are a lazy shortcut used by SEOs who don't know how to build links. Their excuse is that their badges are ethical and relevant and because of that their clients shouldn't be penalized.

Get this straight: There is nothing ethical about requiring someone to link to you in exchange for content, whether it's a badge, an article, an infographic or a donut. The only ethical link is the one given without coercion. Badges that require a link do not fit that definition and are unethical.

I spit on your badges and hope your clients get penalized. Have a nice day. :)
3:39 am on Sept 9, 2016 (gmt 0)

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A badge that requires a link is given without coercion.... no one is forcing you to use their widget, content, etc. Don't like their terms, don't use it --- no one is entitled to someone else's work outside of the conditions they give.
4:00 am on Sept 9, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Don't like their terms, don't use it --- no one is entitled to someone else's work outside of the conditions they give.


You speak of "terms" and "conditions," both of which, by definition mean that those "terms" and "conditions" compel others to link. Being forced to link is not a freely given link. Being forced to do something is the very definition of coercion.

One would have to be <snip>in denial to not see how "terms" and "conditions" preclude a link from being defined as freely given.

<snip>

[edited by: The_Shower_Scene at 4:06 am (utc) on Sep 9, 2016]

[edited by: goodroi at 9:00 am (utc) on Sep 9, 2016]
[edit reason] Let's keep the language on a professional level :) [/edit]

4:02 am on Sept 9, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@motorhaven, OK< so it is not coercion, but it is a reward for linking (link, and you can use it), making it little different from a paid link.
4:15 am on Sept 9, 2016 (gmt 0)

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You speak of "terms" and "conditions," both of which, by definition mean that those "terms" and "conditions" compel others to link. Being forced to link is not a freely given link. Being forced to do something is the very definition of coercion.

One would have to be <snip>in denial to not see how "terms" and "conditions" preclude a link from being defined as freely given.

<snip>


Self interest based delusion? Fooling?

I neither use widgets with links nor make any, and yet you resort to insult because someone doesn't agree with your assessment. It tells me all I need to know about your professionalism.

[edited by: goodroi at 12:53 pm (utc) on Sep 9, 2016]
[edit reason] Cleaning up unprofessional language [/edit]

6:30 am on Sept 9, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Wondering if the use of an <iframe> with a widget inside is not a link to a website in itself - and a given vote on that websites content.
2:26 pm on Sept 9, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Why does google say dont do something and then on the page thats giving us this rule they do it ?

<snip> feedburner.com follow link in side bar...

These are your rules people but we do what we want.

[edited by: goodroi at 5:25 pm (utc) on Sep 9, 2016]
[edit reason] Language [/edit]

2:31 pm on Sept 9, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Are the people commenting on googles blog really humans or robots?
@30K_a_month your right.. looks like one rule for google and another for everyone else. Id also say that blog should be penalized for garbage content.. its like reading the terms and conditions of a website over and over again.
3:32 pm on Sept 9, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Maybe Google should just ignore links from widgets unless they're obvious spam. Some widgets are useful (weather reports and stock prices, for example), so why discourage them? Just don't let them transfer "link juice."
5:15 pm on Sept 10, 2016 (gmt 0)

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If I look to the examples google gives,... all widgets that has a link back to the widgets site is spam for google, and I have seen almost no widgets without some links back. Also I wonder how many widgets providers would provide their widgets if there is no link back to them! ¿Only the big providers who use it for data-mining?

And again they ask the webmasters to remove the links or make it no-follow (what is most of the time against the widget providers TOS), not that I use any widget on my sites but I found that google has to do there own job and don't ask the webmasters to do the job for then!

I wonder if that is what google really want... to scare the people so they don't use widgets on there sites, because from this day most widgets are poison!
10:15 am on Sept 11, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Umm, don't the links on G's own Adsense publisher ad banners fit this profile? The ones we have no control over and say "Ad Choices"? Or other provider PPC ads.
2:21 pm on Sept 11, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Umm, don't the links on G's own Adsense publisher ad banners fit this profile? The ones we have no control over and say "Ad Choices"? Or other provider PPC ads.

A more relevant example would be the Google Translate widget. Still, Google can easily ignore Google Translate links, AdSense links, and links from other known PPC providers. (Ditto for things like Amazon and Commission Junction affiliate links.)

I'd imagine that the problem with widget links is that there are countless widgets (just as there are countless infographics), so an easier solution for Google is to discourage "dofollow" widget links altogether. (Obviously, a better solution for everyone else would be for Google to recognize widgets and simply discount any links in them.)
12:28 am on Sept 12, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I never did understand this one. If a website is using your widget and if the widget points back to the website which is providing the information then what is the problem? The webmaster is endorsing the content by using the widget. They don't have to use the widget and as long as the link is visible and points back to the provider then this should be valid.

@Balle I agree with you but unfortunately Google can be ... well Google. If there automated system thinks you are violating the Webmaster Guide Lines it might take you a while to undo the damage. If not many users are removing the nofollow then you probably don't have anything to worry about. If you are still worried maybe just from this point forward tell your widget users to use nofollow. Maybe just approach the good traffic sites that use your widget and ask for a dofollow link.
7:12 am on Sept 12, 2016 (gmt 0)

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So the ghost town of Google Plus will lose more links a webmasters remove these widgets? The Facebook widgets seem to be the most popular ones on Western websites.Then there are Social Media links. Another great idea from the minds that brought us Animal Farm?

Regards...jmcc
11:03 am on Sept 12, 2016 (gmt 0)

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If a website is using your widget and if the widget points back to the website which is providing the information then what is the problem? The webmaster is endorsing the content by using the widget. They don't have to use the widget and as long as the link is visible and points back to the provider then this should be valid. 


But the widgets i have seen in my niche are loaded with links that are not visible and were obviously created to spam the search engines. A link to pull the info is one thing, but when that link is followed by anchor text links that contribute nothing, it becomes spam.
I am guessing that since we were warned not to use them it must mean they, spammy links, still work?
11:35 am on Sept 12, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@toido: I thinks thats really the point: The spammy, non-visibile, unrelated links are the issue. Not the links simply pointing back to give credit or pull more info. I think thats what the Google post actually says.
2:47 pm on Sept 12, 2016 (gmt 0)

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As if you didn't know this already, Google has now made it abundantly clear that spammy, keyword-rich, hidden, or low quality links in widgets violate Google's Webmaster Guidelines.


And they finally admitted it. Google Adsense - a spammy, keyword-rich, low quality links (when was last time you saw an Adsense ad that matched your site's content and wasn't some algo's failed guess at your personal browsing history?) in "widgets" (places for Adsense ads fits perfectly) - violate Google's guidelines.

Priceless.

Googleheads, seriously. Next step in cleaning up the mess is a need of "turn off algo guesses based on visitor browsing history" button in Adsense. Very much a long overdue. So webmasters themselves can decide whether they want your algo guesses on or off. And ads can finally match content again.
3:07 pm on Sept 12, 2016 (gmt 0)

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But the widgets i have seen in my niche are loaded with links that are not visible and were obviously created to spam the search engines. A link to pull the info is one thing, but when that link is followed by anchor text links that contribute nothing, it becomes spam.

That's a good point. Trouble is, the average site owner or blogger isn't likely to know about such things. If Bud and Buddi want to put a weather widget on their blog about Widgetville, they probably don't have the technical knowlege to dig through a mass of code in search of hidden links.

I am guessing that since we were warned not to use them it must mean they, spammy links, still work?

That could be a risky assumption. In any case, there's no reason why Google can't encourage good behavior while punishing bad behavior. The two approaches aren't mutually exclusive.
3:09 pm on Sept 12, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Today we would like to reiterate our policy on the creation of keyword-rich, hidden or low-quality links embedded in widgets that are distributed across various sites.


So based on this quote from the Google Webmaster Blog then a dofollow link back to your website using the website name or domain name should be fine then.

Most Widgets supply content as well so I would think, for example, a weather widget which shows a summary of todays weather and contains a link back to the content provider to a page about today's weather but with more detailed should be fine as well.
7:52 am on Sept 13, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Why would anyone use Social Media, G+ and FB widget in 2016? I for one welcome this. Seen plenty of non tech savvy website owners falling for the widget-link-scheme thinking they are actually doing something useful for their viewers, while in fact is 99% of the widgets are created for the sole purpose of acquiring easy links (be it optimized or not).
8:38 am on Sept 13, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Nice to be reminded by Google itself of how important links still are in their algorithm. Good to know we're still doing it right.
1:58 pm on Sept 13, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Seen plenty of non tech savvy website owners falling for the widget-link-scheme thinking they are actually doing something useful for their viewers, while in fact is 99% of the widgets are created for the sole purpose of acquiring easy links (be it optimized or not).

Sure, but the widgetmaker's motive doesn't change the fact that the widget may be useful. The "non tech savvy website owners" who use such widgets are using them because they add value for their visitors.
7:18 pm on Sept 13, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Sure, but the widgetmaker's motive doesn't change the fact that the widget may be useful. The "non tech savvy website owners" who use such widgets are using them because they add value for their visitors.


Exactly - so in some cases it's a vote on the content, just like a regular link.
7:27 pm on Sept 13, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Seen plenty of non tech savvy website owners falling for the widget-link-scheme thinking they are actually doing something useful for their viewers, while in fact is 99% of the widgets are created for the sole purpose of acquiring easy links (be it optimized or not).
Very clear that you don't know where you are talking about
Google+ button, Facebook button, Twitter button, reCAPTCHA, AddThis,... and you can go on for a long time are there for the sole purpose of data-mining, and not for easy links. You can better say that 99% of the widgets used on the net are those data-mining widgets, and from the 1% left there is a part that use it for acquiring easy links.

Also the most of the links that you get from those 1% widgets are from a so low quality that the change is bigger that it is going to hurt your rankings than the change that you are going to profit from them! I provide those widgets for a long time on my site and got millions of backlinks from them, but when I removed the widgets from my site and lost those millions of backlinks.... my rankings did not changed! Google knows to filter those links without a problem!
7:33 pm on Sept 13, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@Libre Good point about data mining.
9:16 pm on Sept 13, 2016 (gmt 0)

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in some cases it's a vote on the content, just like a regular link.


A link that is forced by "terms" and "conditions" is never "just like a regular link." That is not a vote for the content of the site that makes the widget.
9:45 pm on Sept 13, 2016 (gmt 0)

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A link that is forced by "terms" and "conditions" is never "just like a regular link." That is not a vote for the content of the site that makes the widget.

In that case, the easy solution would be not to require a link (or a dofollow link, as the case may be) in the terms and conditions. I suspect that most site owners, bloggers, etc. are just going to paste in the code without modifying it.. If a few people add a 'rel="nofollow",' no harm done.
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