26 Mar 2013

I’m Breaking Up with You and Taking My Links with Me

What happens when you’re contacted to remove a link from your web site because it has cooties according to Google?

It happened to me last week. I suspected the person from the SEO Company who contacted was fairly new to search engine marketing. I could have let the email go and trashed it. But lately it seems as though shady SEO practices are escalating again and I can’t bear to keep silent. I replied to the poor gentleman that I wanted to see the proof of the violations against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines my link broke. If you’re going to accuse me of doing something illegal as per Google, back it up.

linkmanOf course there was no reply. I spent some time trying to find the offending link. That was fun, since the blog post that was causing this tragic disturbance was 8 years old. Since my blog was launched in 2002, there are heaps of posts buried and gone to MySQL heaven. My first attempt to try a plug-in to get to my 2005 posts failed and then I thought, why in the world am I trying to find an 8 year old blog post with a link to an article I wrote about?

Maybe it was the topic I thought. My post was on “booth babes” during an outcry over them being present at a search engine marketing conference. I wrote “How Much Is That SEO Hunk in The Window?” and linked to another blog post that pertained to my post. That’s it. Now, 8 years later and many scary Google algorithms later, I was asked to remove it?

Thinking maybe I was missing something, I asked about this at Cre8asiteforums in a discussion called Asked to Remove Link from 2005 Blog Post – Huh?. One member suggested I do as I’m asked because “If you don’t, they’ll do it with the disavow tool and that could affect the site.”

Google Has SEO by the Throat

On the one hand, I don’t blame Google for defending the Castle at Mountain View. After all, new generations of SEO’s are pulling all kinds of crazy stunts to rip off people who believe early SEO mythology about rank, links and faking it. In fact, I got so fed up with this repeat performance from the 1990’s kind of SEO I created Seo Hall of Shame – Are You Kidding Me? One wonders after all these years of conferences, books, blogs, courses, forums and professional resources, why we still get things like:

“We can make your website on 1st page placement on Google, Yahoo, or Bing in three to six months guaranteed with our “National SEO” package!”

“Cre8Asiteforums.com Team, I thought you might like to know some of the reasons why you are not getting enough Social Media and Organic search engine traffic for Cre8Asiteforums.com”

“…and get the NEW linking service that we have recently developed in response to all the new search engine knowledge and algorithm changes at Google. This service has been thoroughly tested and is getting terrific results. It WILL BOOST your search engine rankings – Guaranteed!”

What I don’t agree with Google on is their approach to managing bad SEO practices. They dole out penalties and change their rules, come up with newfangled ways to let them know who is credible or not until that blows up, and every time Matt Cutts shows up at a conference, he brings down more Sacred Tablets from the Mountain with new Google Laws to abide by.

And of course, from where I sit, being into the human user experience side of web site design and marketing, this is all more fun than watching General Hospital. Nothing ever dies at Google. It just comes back as some other character.
Everyone gets to decide how they’ll handle a link removal request. Barry Schwartz is not giving into the pressure, nor are some members at Cre8asiteforums. Nor am I. If somebody really believes a link from my sites is going to bring them to Google’s knees, they can break up with me. I don’t care. I know I’ve done nothing wrong in our relationship, and when I ignore your request and threats of disavow or whatever, and head towards the door, I’m taking all my cherished links with me.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net


  1. deceth March 26, 2013 at 10:17 AM

    I’m also of the opinion that ignoring the prophecies delegated down from the top of Mountain View is a wise course of action these days.

    Google has a rather large enormous bulbous head growing under it’s even larger ego.

    When Google focuses on innovation, pay attention. Ignore the rest. Your time is better spent developing products and services than trying to bow down to the needs of Google.

    When it comes to SEO, focus on web standards. Make sure your site is valid HTML, CSS, etc… Web standards will survive beyond Google. Any SEO aspects you do for the sole purpose of making Google happy, are flaky at best. You’ll be continually chasing a moving target, it’s a waste of time.

    Create quality content and build a community. A community will survive even when Google has mood swings with your site rankings.

  2. twitter_jillwhalen March 26, 2013 at 10:26 AM

    I don’t personally blame Google. I think it’s about damn time that Google did something about the incompetent SEOs out there who get sites penalized. But it is pretty amusing watching them scramble now to remove the links they spammed for only last year or whenever. I wrote about my experience with a stupid SEO company who wanted me to remove some comment one of their idiots must have made on my blog awhile back: https://www.facebook.com/notes/high-rankings/wasting-client-money-with-some-unnatural-link-removal-requests/453501568027929

  3. Tom Thirsk March 26, 2013 at 10:45 AM

    Interesting post Kimberly. I have written to many webmasters with link removal messages in the last couple of weeks, the affected domain had a real problem with exact match anchor text through blatant paid links generated by an external SEO company. I don’t agree with the “remove the link or I’ll report you to Google” approach, but Google disavow is not a dirty word and I see no reason why it cannot be mentioned in the initial contact for link change or removal as long as it is not used as a threat. I broke the sites into groups;

    Group 1 – “Harmful” links on adult or other undesirable websites. Got a rather short message with a request to remove links, no mention of Google disavow. After 1 week with no response, a reminder with additional message explaining that I had no option other than submit the links to Google disavow if I did not receive a response within a month. Reminded each week before adding to my disavow text file

    Group 2 – Paid directories. Request for link to be changed to domain url or brand name with deep links removed. Asked for a list of their other paid directories for future submission opportunities. Reminder message after a week explaining why (as above). Got really good response rate.

    Group 3 – Links placed in genuine articles with money keyword anchor text. A friendlier tone, brief explanation of why I am asking for removal, mentioned Google disavow and that it would be used as a last resort only. The sites were kind of relevant so where possible I tried to use it as an opportunity to offer something to the owner with scope for working together in the future.

    1. Kim Krause Berg March 26, 2013 at 11:40 AM

      Tom, I don’t object to anchor text or updated domains, like if a company changed its name/domain. As you say, the clearly sleazy links shouldn’t be allowed to breathe. Totally agree. My experience, and that of some others, was being asked to remove innocently placed links to point readers to something you like. The fear of angering Google has created a new SEO “strategy” and allows punishment (disavow) for innocent sites.

    2. Tom Thirsk March 26, 2013 at 12:12 PM

      Kim, thanks for the reply. Funny you say that because a number of the sites I had initially flagged for removal had placed genuine innocent links. Where I could I avoided dealing with these because people will link like this sometimes even if the official line is “these links are unnatural”.

      I’ve dealt with some requests on the other side, not as many as I’ve sent but there has been a spectrum of nice and not so nice requests, and some hilarious ones too.

  4. Middlesbrough March 28, 2013 at 8:28 AM

    I don’t think a link can affect your SERP… Anyway great article on SEO, thanks for sharing…

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