Matt Cutts Likes Duane Forrester's Example Of Good Links: Unknown Links

May 14, 2014 • 8:51 am | comments (63) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

Google LinksOn Monday, we shared a bold example from Bing's Duane Forrester about what good links are versus bad links.

It was bold because Duane from Bing basically said the only real valuable links are the ones you don't know you are getting in advance. Meaning, the other links you get, can maybe get you in trouble or not help you. So if you write a good article, maybe something a little better than this article, and you know you'll get links out of it, then that is bad? If you build a useful and fun tool and you know you'll get links out of it, maybe that is bad?

Of course not. But Duane is making a point. And I think we all get his point.

Google's Matt Cutts, the head spam man in the world of search, said on Twitter that he liked or "enjoyed" his definition. That maybe pre-knowledge of links is by definition, an unnatural link.

Is Google endorsing the definition of an unnatural link is a link that you know you will get before you get it? Then does it mean, if you know you are getting a link from source X or does it mean that you know that an effort will result in getting links in general? I'd assume source X would be a better definition?

Forum discussion at Twitter.

Previous story: Would A Domain Like Trigger A Google Penalty?



05/14/2014 01:31 pm

Googles fear mongering of giving editorial links has taken its toll. My company has had three articles written on us by different newspapers over the past two months and not one of the articles has bothered to give us a link. It wasnt asked for and we were approached first for the writeup. Thinking about it now we probably would have been better off if it was published to print... I actually think print might have had more value to us now :/ Citations are crap and have zero value from what I can tell. Yeah we got some traffic and got our name out there but the link would have been nice for our time. Thanks Google, giant waste of time.

Toni Anicic

05/14/2014 01:41 pm

Source X off course.


05/14/2014 02:18 pm

So content/blogger outreach is bad? By all means create great content, but don't tell anyone about it.


05/14/2014 02:19 pm

While I agree a truly natural link is one that you don't know is coming - there's a naivety about this view. Do we really think that sites like Overstock or JC Penney have naturally amassed 500,000 inbound links because of their top quality content - of course not - but this is the playing field that we're all competing on, so focusing on developing the best content, and then waiting for other sites to find it, see its value and then link to - just isn't realistic. Would be wonderful if this were the case, but its not, and we need to compete in the real world, and aggressively seek out link opportunities. Frankly I think the inbound links have been so manipulated that they no longer serve their initial purpose as votes for a sites content.


05/14/2014 02:31 pm

I think you just nailed the whole dilemma here, Bob. Create create content and hope to the eternal someone sees it and links to it. I think this is the beginning of the end of links being useful. Setting the stage, if you will.


05/14/2014 02:40 pm

No you need to tell people about it on Google+ and then when you get a link it is fine. I think that is the direction this is going.


05/14/2014 04:12 pm

Waaaaaaaaa, I'm am amateur and I don't know what to do without a link.


05/14/2014 04:40 pm

they keep coming up with little analogies, but they aren't in our shoes. The whole concept of negative SEO is "unknown" links. I've disavowed thousands of links I didn't know I had, but they were all spam.


05/14/2014 04:54 pm

OH MY GOD!!! Then...does it mean a link that was originally going to be good, because I didn't know about it, become bad because someone told my PR team that a link/mention was going to appear in an article? Do I have to have a sign that says "please do not tell me about any links you are going to post" or some kind of link "spoiler alert." Maybe it's like Schrodinger's Cat in some way. The link in the box is good or not good...but only becomes not good when I acquire knowledge of its existence. NEWSFLASH: Google develops way to determine a priori knowledge of link aquisition...only accepts link for which a company's SEO Manager has a posteriori knowledge. I could do this all day...


05/14/2014 05:11 pm

It's not like that it all. When you put a website inside "Google's Box" statistically its always dead.


05/14/2014 05:13 pm

Thats exactly why Cutts is full of sh!$. Its the unknown links that hurt the most. Maybe he is talking about the Google he wants, but it sure isn't the Google we have.


05/14/2014 05:14 pm

What is going on? Many people have been struggling to come up with a perfect formula for an SEO Strategy that could allow them to get rated in search engines without any problems, and I would like to tell you something today there’s no such thing as a perfect SEO Strategy except no SEO. why would I say this when you get people lie Matt Cutts from Google saying that the only good link is the one you do not know about, well he did not actually say this, the guys at Bing said it. But what Google does and not Bing actually supports this statement so maybe those guys at Bing where actually talking about Google and not Bing. What I fail to understand is how he expects small guys like us to raise above obscurity if we can’t be doing a real nice thing by building up our brands by ourselves. There was once a time when all you need to do to refer someone to your shop was give him a street address and phone number so in case that person is lost they can always call you. People never got penalized for giving out too many business cards and the economy went up like crazy. Well now the only thing you have to refer someone to your shop is your URL address and how are you going to refer your customers in a way that they can understand faster if you can’t link to your home page without creating a situation where you get penalized for working real hard every day and create your own links and articles all pointing back to your website. I think the link thing has gone far enough what’s with Google creating a situation where they seem to be more interested in spammers than the ordinary webmaster like you and me. We are stuck sometimes with really good websites that can’t get traffic if we don’t build links and if we build links ourselves we get penalized for having too many articles pointing back to your domain with a single keyword this guys would say this is unnatural linking strategy. Why can’t it be just a guy that works really hard to create their content and links? Well I forgot Google treats everyone as spammers first and then real hard working people never. What is unnatural is having to adopt to Google’s Algorithms so they can work better. What happened to simply switching on a computer and create a killer Algorithm that solves real problems. If you were me, and real hungry and need to be successful then it is not unnatural for you to write all night, maybe matt cuts should ask the programmers at Google if they can write Algorithms all night, they can and they are not hungry they just love their jobs, and nobody tells them it’s not natural, we just enjoy their products and go home and sleep. Wait nothing real good has been coming from Google lately maybe even the programmers are getting penalized for Unnatural Programming. Do we need to remind Google that our Computers still work, and they do not need to control what people do, but write good algorithms that can recognize good guys from bad guys based on what they write. And I am not talking about spelling errors that is not a measure of how well someone can write that is a measure of how well they can use the spell checker. Is Google still interested in Search Engine and Search Engine Theory? Google’s Algorithms are outdated they need to wake up and realise that people cannot work like it is ten years ago, there’s more pressure and ever more competition than there was ten years ago, so those guys have to forget the link building strategy and get out of their comfort zone it does not work and it will get them in trouble, so wake up Google it is 2014 already not 2004. Is the guy that developed the first Algorithm that Google was based on dead or is he simply asleep? When a man having a website cannot write his own articles to promote his own business then we are in big trouble. What are we supposed to do go home and work (naturally) like we are not really hungry where else we are? Are we supposed to pretend that we can really compete with companies with unlimited budgets to buy Google AdWords. Without being able to write articles to promote our own brands. Its me My websites gets penalized every month, My webmaster tool cannot Fetch my pages anymore. And my error was to assume that Google is still interested in good content and real hard working people I was wrong.


05/14/2014 06:00 pm

Great, I love it. So I guess those 7,000 spam forum links that a competitor built for us were good links because I didn't know about them! YAY, oh wait...

PM Fiorini

05/14/2014 06:35 pm


PM Fiorini

05/14/2014 06:36 pm

I think these guys have control issues. Don't ya think?

Friday feeling

05/14/2014 08:18 pm

If it makes you feel any better Matt is a millionaire who doesn't need to worry about if he is going to get to eat tonight.....

Jon Cooper

05/14/2014 11:52 pm

I enjoy the assumption that all webmasters & bloggers with the potential to link are aware of the content you published. What if they don't know about it, but if they did, they would be happy to link; that's unnatural? If so, then maybe asking the question of if a link is "natural" is the wrong question to ask.


05/15/2014 04:38 am

Yeah. My site has been destroyed by several thousands of unexpected very bad links. Thanks for this bullshit.


05/15/2014 06:46 am

so adwords would be a link that you know you are getting in advance?


05/15/2014 10:26 am

very bad linking Strategy then!


05/15/2014 10:31 am

Sometimes solutions to a problem is just to bypass the problem altogether like just to avoid it if you know what i mean. What i find appaling is an assumption this people makes they seem to think we can all play with the exact same set of rules and this is not reality, but then who knows this guys have to deal with the fact that their clients who pays them millions a month in adwords accounts cannot handle it if a guy with a single computer can beat the hell out of them without even having to spend a single dollar in adverts.


05/15/2014 10:37 am

They still penalized you for them, even if it would be really simple to write an algorithm just to analyse relationships between webmasters, if they can do it with links they can do it with webmasters and owners, we are all using their email addresses. but noooo its easy for them if they just penalize you. the thing is if those very same links where created say for a very famous company they would not penalize them, We are just the nuisance in their empire only there so they can show the number of result on their SERPS not really there to make business for them now are we, so if you are showing up on page one you are disturbing the big guys my friend and a sinlge mistake will see booted out of Google.


05/15/2014 10:46 am

Do you think matt cutts can get a website rated in Google without Links that he knows about.

Yo Mamma

05/15/2014 12:41 pm

yes, adwords is a paid link, but Google is above the law and common sense

Yo Mamma

05/15/2014 12:43 pm

This guy got a BSc degree and says this much crap? Seriously Matt, run from Google


05/15/2014 01:05 pm

buck up little one, dont cry... keep studying and you will learn some real skills. keep trying and maybe, just maybe you too can have people interested in what your doing. links arent everything, theres always ppc. maybe you should try the facebook or tweeter or whatever the kids are calling it these days.

Matt Cutts

05/15/2014 02:02 pm

Hell of a thing to send millions of small businesses into financial ruin, makes a man feel big :)

Durant Imboden

05/15/2014 02:30 pm

AdWords don't pass PageRank. They aren't "links" (paid or otherwise) from a PR or ranking perspective.


05/15/2014 03:17 pm

Adwords doesn't pass any link value for organic ranking. So, no it is not a "paid link" in regard to SEO.


05/15/2014 03:29 pm

I think what a lot of people seem to be missing is that knowing someone somewhere will link is not necessarily the problem. But when you know that a certain site is going to link to you because of whatever arrangement you have made like paying for it, exchanging something, or hitting that Submit URL button - that is not likely to be natural. Duane & Matt should both know by now that many webmasters are unable to understand subtleties & nuances like that. Instead, we have all these confused webmasters who now think it is a problem if some blogger emails you saying "I'm going to link to your article". I would say that they should advise that common sense should be used, but not many webmasters who think they are good at SEO have that.


05/15/2014 03:39 pm

Well... technically they are links according to the HTML standard. And they are paid... they may or may not provide SEO effects (positive or negative).... the rest is your opinion.


05/15/2014 03:39 pm

JC Penney & overstock both were penalized.


05/15/2014 03:40 pm

Ok mate, not all people .. BUT many of us haave worked hard in the REAL world to earn less that some of you have earned over the internet doing absolutely f all.. yourve had an easy life.. now work like others


05/15/2014 03:42 pm

No it's actually Google's opinion. Adwords "links" are indirect, pass no pagerank and are not used in organic ranking. You don't have to believe that, but you'd be pretty thick if you don't understand that by now.


05/15/2014 03:44 pm

They are still links according to the HTML standard and they are still paid for. Whether or not they have positive or negative effects doesn't change that and Google's honesty and your opinions are theories that do not redefine what a paid link is.


05/15/2014 03:50 pm

for all of a couple days :/


05/15/2014 03:51 pm

Actually they are redirects which pass no link value as per Googles guidelines regarding paid advertisements. If you want to play dumb and pretend you didn't know that, enjoy yourself. Since we are discussing SEO, and Google is who has defined what is a "paid link", html standards are irrelevant. If you have some proof that Adwords "links" do influence organic rankings, please share it. Otherwise, enjoy your tinfoil hat and paranoia.


05/15/2014 03:54 pm

redirects occur when the LINKS are clicked... you can't change the HTML standard.. it is how it all works. Only tin foil hat is denying the HTML standard.


05/15/2014 04:01 pm

Try to comprehend this time: HTML standards have nothing to do with how Google handles Adwords in regard to link equity. Google decided long ago that Adwords does not pass any pagerank. Google does not care if links are paid for as long as they are nofollow, or are redirected in a way that does not directly pass that pagerank value. That goes for Adwords, or any other paid ads, sponsor links etc. SEO 101.


05/15/2014 04:36 pm

After remedying the problems, and not exactly back to where they were, if I recall correctly. Just like everyone else - except they had the resources to fix the issues. Some people lack the time or money to undo their own mess.


05/15/2014 04:43 pm

It isn't google who is running around saying the sky is falling and scaring people about editorial links. It is misinformed or dishonest blowhards on blogs and forums. Citations are indeed good. May not be the immediate gratification you might get from a link, but in a long term branding strategy linkless citations are helpful and do give you some credibility with readers as well as Google, provided you don't have a lot of sketchy links or content out there that would cancel it out.


05/15/2014 04:55 pm

agreed. and it would be nice to see the effects. but an aged backlink would be more valuable (potentially) than a article written a couple years ago (that gets buried) is what i was getting at. cutts did say to use your better judgement and common sense, but as we all know... common sense isnt so common anymore.


05/15/2014 05:23 pm

They are still links according to the HTML standard and they are still paid for. Whether or not they have positive or negative effects doesn't change that and Google's honesty and your opinions are theories that do not redefine what a paid link is.

Yo Mamma

05/15/2014 06:59 pm

I think Jerry and Durant need to get a room together and give each other a reach around

Art L

05/15/2014 07:05 pm

I don't know what you or Jerry are reading, but when it comes to how Google ranks sites, HTML standards don't have much to do with paid links. Here is how paid advertising is handled by Google. No theories, no mindlessly repeating a belief that the often ignored HTML standards change how Google treats paid links: "Note that PPC (pay-per-click) advertising links that don’t pass PageRank to the buyer of the ad do not violate our guidelines. You can prevent PageRank from passing in several ways, such as: Adding a rel="nofollow" attribute to the < a > tag Redirecting the links to an intermediate page that is blocked from search engines with a robots.txt file" Adwords and most other ads do fit that piece of the guidelines. Knowledge is power.


05/15/2014 07:12 pm

Why is anyone listening to this Duane guy? So far he hasn't said anything insightful. Spewing out nonsense doesn't help anyone. Just look at the books he wrote: How To Make Money With Your Blog & Turn Clicks Into Customers. I'm sure everyone's all over that blog book. The review quote "There really isn't much substance to this book." make it all worth it.


05/15/2014 07:14 pm

What is or is not a link IS


05/15/2014 07:28 pm

Germany is mulling Internet platform regulation in terms of anti-trust laws Germany's Economy Minister is considering whether firms such as Google are abusing their position as market leaders in the way they display search results. Google you have abused your power for to long and pushed to hard, now reap the whirlwind and kiss good by to the power you have in Europe, you just got to greedy dude, should have been happy with your 54 billion a year!

Art L

05/15/2014 07:33 pm

What does it matter if they are paid for? The reason anyone involved with SEO cares whether or not they are paid for is because of how google handles paid links. Not whether or not HTML standards say it is a link or not. Like it says in that link I posted, if it doesn't pass PageRank, it doesn't matter to google if it is paid. If it does pass pagerank, that isn't something they are going to use when calculating rank and they may even penalize you if you have very many of such rank-passing paid-for links. You can play childish semantic games about what the meaning of Link is all day long. But it won't change that Adwords is not subject to Google's rules about paid links. The links in the ads don't pass pagerank. Everybody keeps telling you that "from a SEO perspective" they are not "paid links". Even google tells you that. But keep on insisting that there is some hypocrisy there since they are links that have been paid for while ignoring all those other details. You know - the details that make it clear that Adwords is not the same thing as a "paid link" when it comes to SEO and organic search ranking. Maybe people who are new to all this will learn from your foolishness.


05/15/2014 07:39 pm

I'm not disputing the definition of link. I'm disputing the claim that Adwords violated Googles own policy regarding links that are purchased. They don't because no pagerank is flowed. Says so right in the guidelines. Get that yet?


05/15/2014 07:41 pm

"semantic games"??? dogs are cats from an untrue perspective. All these unsolicited SEO lectures are the semantic games trying to make AdWords ads be something other than a paid link, which is what they factually are.


05/15/2014 07:47 pm

Then respond to Yo Mamma who made that claim. People should read the threads they are replying to.

Art L

05/15/2014 07:47 pm

LOL - there you go again. You left out that important detail about whether or not these paid links pass page rank. Adwords does not. Google don't care if you paid a million dollars per link, as long as it doesn't pass rank. Why do you care whether or not an ad is paid for? Got something against the advertising industry?


05/15/2014 07:52 pm

Fair enough. I thought you two were in cahoots on that whole "Adwords is a double standard" thing since you didnt want to accept that Google defines what "paid links" means in SEO.


05/15/2014 07:57 pm

No worries. In my opinion Google doesn't define what it means... Just who gets punished.


05/15/2014 08:06 pm

I didn't leave it out. It simply does not change the fact that AdWords ads ARE paid links. In my opinion Google has browbeat thousands of website owners and I don't think it is right or even necessary. It even happened here:

Durant Imboden

05/16/2014 01:54 am

Actually, AdWords are ads. They include links as a response mechanism (in the same way that other types of Web ads do), but they aren't just links, and they aren't the equivalent of paid links that transfer PageRank. No amount of obfuscation will change that fact.


05/16/2014 08:00 am

AdWords links are not the same thing. You KNOW this, everyone knows this, but like others who post here you think you have uncovered some huge hypocrisy / conspiracy. Well, you haven't.

Herman Coetzee

05/16/2014 10:50 am

A classic example of this happening is on fan sites, how to sites and similar. By nature people will start linking toward these sites as a resource and it start snowballing very quickly. If you have content on your website that people will start talking and linking about naturally you have a win win situation for your rankings. This will encourage people to actively update their content

F1 Steve

05/16/2014 12:27 pm

Why do we have this culture of pursuing individuals yet leave the big corporations alone in both TAX avoidance and spam links? Answers on a postage stamp please.


05/16/2014 04:07 pm

The mechanics you describe are in a category of behavior called cloaking. It doesn't change that they are paid links no matter how cleverly you serve them up. (Google has punished cloaking when other websites do it.) Paid links on websites are ads too. The behaviors you describe are just how Google choses who to punish and who not to punish. Does not change the fact that they are all paid links.


05/16/2014 04:24 pm

Not a hypocrisy... an untruth... adwords ads and ads on websites are all paid links... all Google defines is who to punish on Google's websites... nothing more. The sad part is that the Google Fan Club can't even admit that AdWords ads are fundamentally paid links just like ads on any other website. Honestly, who is really the denialist here?


05/18/2014 02:12 am


blog comments powered by Disqus