Webmasters Fear Linking Out After Google's Warnings

Aug 14, 2013 • 8:35 am | comments (100) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

scared penguinA WebmasterWorld thread has some fears that I see are beginning to worry some publishers and webmasters - the fear of linking to external sources.

With Matt Cutts and the Google spam team pretty much saying you need to nofollow everything out there, well, with the exception of real editorial links (who is to decide what is editorial), webmasters are simply scared.

I see questions popping up left and right. Can I link to this site? If so, should I nofollow it anyway? Should I make sure to not use keyword rich anchor text when linking.

These are the type of questions coming up.

It is making natural linking unnatural because of the fear of linking is now killing natural links.

Publishers and webmasters are less likely to link out because of that fear.

Do you fear linking out? Are you more likely to nofollow links you would have not nofollowed a year or two ago? I know I am nofollowing links more often these days.

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

Image credit to BigStockPhoto for scared penguin

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Juggernart Games

08/14/2013 12:55 pm

Google is going the wrong way, it's pure DESPOTISM! Webmasters get more and more paranoid. I nofollow links to affiliate programs or on advertisements only. I put links to sites which I find useful and which I think my users may find useful. I do not nofollow them, why should I? I use keyword rich anchors if I feel they are more suitable than "click here" or using URL in the whole context. Do not care too much what Google says. Google can kill your site whether it follows all their rules or wether not. Who should build the web? Webmasters or Google?

Megan Pritts

08/14/2013 12:56 pm

I definitely have been concerned about linking out and how to go about it. However, I remember that the internet has to thrive on links. If you are linking naturally to something relevant, you should be okay. There is no way to know without experimenting.

James Hobson

08/14/2013 01:34 pm

It would seem to simplify things if Google just decided to diminish the value of any links. If it's "about the user experience" and a site owner feels the need to add a certain link then having to worry about possible negative implications is ridiculous. It's getting to the point that the average person, acting in a reasonable manner, can get penalized for trying to make a user friendly site.


08/14/2013 01:37 pm

Just raises the potential for Negative SEO. This creates this bizarre scenario: Not sure if you should link SEO to your SEO site or Hotel to your hotel site? Just link it to your competitor


08/14/2013 01:45 pm

Why did you no-follow your Sponsored links on right side menu?


08/14/2013 01:50 pm

Google value links. They don't believe there's another way and they know that Social links/validation isn't the way because they have no spam control there at all.


08/14/2013 01:53 pm

It was only a matter of time before this topic was going to come up. How long is it going to be before you really can't link anywhere without being told 'no, that's not allowed unless you no-follow it' or you just accept a penalty on the spot?


08/14/2013 02:05 pm

This is timely because, yes, I do have a fear of linking to "lower" quality sites.

Michael Martinez

08/14/2013 02:16 pm

I don't. ON EDIT: I don't fear linking out to "lower" quality sites. This new paranoia arises from the way SEOs overthink and mismanage Web marketing.


08/14/2013 02:21 pm

Such questions will not rise, if the website owner cares about the visitors ONLY. She/He acts according to the simple rule "I will do the way, so my visitors will be satisfied". If the owner cares mostly about the FREE TRAFFIC from Google, then she/he will be scared. Psychologically these are master slave relations. Slave always will be anxious.


08/14/2013 02:40 pm

The biggest question SEO's need to ask: What if a webmaster, with no shared IP or owner details, places an optimised link to you. Is Google going to penalise you? => end of Google search! So no.

Stephane Brault

08/14/2013 03:14 pm

I've been "nofollowing" all external links for over a year now.


08/14/2013 03:19 pm

One of my websites has tons of links to me from a big-brand website. Yep, Livestrong. They copy my content, give me credit for it, then use a 'no follow' so that Goog doesn't give me credit. Go figure....


08/14/2013 03:22 pm

It's funny that webmasters are expected to do Google's job on anything except for paid advertisement/links. Any link to a helpful, non-paid link shouldn't be expect to carry a nofollow tag. If anything Google should be punishing sites that don't cite sources where appropriate given that that is proper and beneficial for many web users performing research. Oh that and Google's academic origins which requires such citation for very good reason. In the end though, webmasters are over thinking this situation and not using good judgement.

Michael Merritt

08/14/2013 03:25 pm

Only in the case of receiving guest post requests am I especially wary, but have not nofollowed them specifically. Otherwise, if it's a site I'm linking out to myself, I'm happy to give my vote to it.


08/14/2013 03:40 pm

Exactly. They made their money off Pagerank defined as the links from one page to another: are they now saying they *will* follow nofollow links? Or that pagerank is of minority importance? Or do we want a web where only the most-paying advertisers link to each other? Either way, it's a fail and worthy of being ignored.

Jim Christian

08/14/2013 03:43 pm

I FEAR NO LINK! Honestly though... Google will figure this out, it'll be a combination of looking at your natural links, social profile, and an myriad of other things.


08/14/2013 03:44 pm

I am nofollow everything these days, facebook/twitter W3C, everything that's in the footer and links to an outside site. OTT sure but yes the fear of linking is driving this..

Josh Hamit

08/14/2013 03:45 pm

This is getting rather stupid.... I feel for the business owners who have no knowledge of SEO. What are they supposed to do?

Ralph Tegtmeier aka fantomaste

08/14/2013 03:57 pm

Fully agree. And it's the same old sorry situation as it was back in '98 when people got their knickers in a twist about "automatic submissions" and whatever was considered (utterly cluelessly) the "unethical behaviour" of the day...

Mark Andre Yapching

08/14/2013 04:12 pm

I write posts for a blog on behalf of my employer, an Irish SEO company, and I link out to external sources as well as our internal posts. I think as long as the landing page is trusted (has a good PR) or is authoritative, I wouldn't be afraid of linking out. I wouldn't "nofollow" a link to this post if I wrote about it, because SE Round Table is a reputable site about SEO and is related to our niche, and thus deserves the vote.


08/14/2013 04:44 pm

By putting fear into webmasters about linking to each other, that leaves ordinary users more dependent on a search product. Google used their market dominance, brilliantly I might add, in a way to combat that threat that referral traffic poses to their profits.

James Hobson

08/14/2013 05:07 pm

My point exactly. Why doesn't Google simply arrive at a point to ignore links as value. Anything further is an arbitrary assignment of value to one site over another; and whose to say what is truly valuable to "Joe User"?

James Hobson

08/14/2013 05:08 pm

Obviously they should spend tons of money on paid advertising, lol


08/14/2013 06:20 pm

Better to pay for advertising, rather than for questionable SEO service with unpredictable results. Advertising can't harm business anyway. SEO will harm sooner or later for sure.


08/14/2013 06:58 pm

google make havoc in the net, and now enjoy it. All links must be nofollow, only links to google sites must be follow. Only google deserve right to get traffic from your site and from other search engines. They will manipulate even organic results in other search engines like bing/yahoo to get more traffic. See how google creating own internet - where people worry to link out, don't know what the anchor text to use, don't know how to not get under panda, penguine and negative seo, etc. Is it natural? NO, It totally unnatural.


08/14/2013 07:08 pm

also webmasters must explain to google why site get that link, when inbound links is not under webmaster control. Sort of government or internet police? Will google ask us to pay taxes to this company? Or what more we need to expect from "not evil" google?


08/14/2013 07:12 pm

penalties for everything, no traffic, google horror, easy to understand why they over thinking.


08/14/2013 07:14 pm

livestrong is content farm. google has a crusade against "content farms" at last year. But they here. Using blackhat as expired domains redirecting to get traffic & ranking. But their top positions in google show what google accept and love blackhat with expired domains & content farms. Ehow also do it, as i know. I not think it even possibly to find anybody "clear white hat" in internet marketing in this days, no matter what google think and what the manual penalties it issues. Yesterday get email from answers [dot] com about broken link, please may be you replace it to link to our site. ;-) haha


08/14/2013 07:24 pm

but they not cares, because it real world. Not a idealistic place.


08/14/2013 07:26 pm

exactly. Google trying to fix their 'links as votes' idea, but everything they do - is to destroy it totally only.

Patrick Sexton

08/14/2013 07:56 pm

link to stuff, dont be scared. I aint.


08/14/2013 08:01 pm

google rules only for matt cutts!

Dave Davies

08/14/2013 08:53 pm

A link is a vote. If you'd vote for the target site, you don't need to nofollow it. If you wouldn't vote for it, why are you linking to begin with? :)

Sam Fletcher

08/14/2013 09:52 pm

If that were actually true then why would Google be including social signals in their algorithms? And anyway, nofollow links still actually work as links so there would be zero effect on referral traffic. Backlinks were only ever used as a tool to get higher in SERPs.

Emory Rowland

08/14/2013 10:12 pm

This stuff has gone too far. It's pure absurdity now. When does this backfire on G?

Russ Page

08/14/2013 10:37 pm

Just do what you would naturally do.


08/15/2013 12:31 am



08/15/2013 02:06 am

i agree i am nofollowing every link now even editorial links, it's just too risky now for my sites with google changing the rules every month and also not grandfathering in old rules (i haven't got time to clean up after fickle ex's :) ). it's better to just nofollow everything and a lot easier to manage too (i don't need to look for rule changes anymore or look at daft matt cutts videos every day)


08/15/2013 02:13 am

but why should webmasters even need to "overthink" links? its not my job to clean up the serps or worry about other sites ranks. nofollow everything, weighing up risk/reward it makes sense


08/15/2013 02:16 am

You just defined over thinking the situation. You should be actively punished.


08/15/2013 02:18 am

point was raised earlier better google say what we CAN dofollow link too.. well for now anyway, until they bring in new rules and expect us to clean up their mess again


08/15/2013 02:22 am

and its impossible to use social signals on sites about "sperm testing" or other similar secretive niches, i mean who writes about that on facebook?


08/15/2013 02:33 am

why? i didn't create the situation i'm just adapting to it. as the situation stands right now the lowest risk action is to nofollow all links. external sites still get referral traffic if they deserve it and i don't need to worry about following google's ever changing whims.


08/15/2013 02:34 am

I guess what Google is really trying to say is, don't do SEO, sign-up for an Adwords account now.


08/15/2013 02:41 am

When you add a tag to a link with no purpose other than SEO concerns you deserve the punishment. I very rarely, if ever, see an undeserving site get punished yet I see link sculptors punished day after day which is what you propose. You're only adapting to making your crap avoid punishment


08/15/2013 02:41 am

Broad and overly generalized. Most of the punished sites in the last 2 years have more than deserved it.

Scott Hartley

08/15/2013 02:52 am

If it is a link from a popular post widget. Good Link from a third party widget that has no real purpose. Bad Explaining what your site was built with Example (Built With: HTML5, Javascript, etc etfc) Good they have a purpose Links to previous post to explain a topic. good Think about it logically if the links have a purpose then you are fine if they don't or are not placed by you get rid of them.

Jodie Peg

08/15/2013 06:57 am

So, friends tell me-- what can i do in OFF page to increase traffic -- and website rank == directory submission, classified ads, bookmarking only -- because now i can not do article, forum commenting, blog commenting and more there we use Matt cuts keyword :(


08/15/2013 08:01 am

Just a few years back I remember webmasters willingly nofollowing external links for pagerank sculpting.


08/15/2013 08:14 am

i not agree with you. Lot of good sites was penalized, but google not cares. Shoot and forget, it their tactic. But soon will no sites to penalize.

Josh Hamit

08/15/2013 08:54 am

Hmm it will always be better to appear organically in the SERPs though?

Josh Hamit

08/15/2013 08:55 am

To add to this, hasn't it been found linking out to high PR sites can actually help your page rank?


08/15/2013 09:42 am

Well, fake accounts do - there are literally millions of them!


08/15/2013 09:43 am

i have just read at forums how it easy to penalize any site using just few links (negative seo). And how easy every webmaster can do it for anybody who have article with link on his site (or just place article with link himself and wait until google index it). Check what article with link indexed in google, and change anchor to exact match. It enough. If 2 articles with link to same url hosted, it give near 100% guarantee of penalization of that site. Looks like we live in crazy times, even people who host your article (guest post for example) can destroy your site with such easy thing.


08/15/2013 10:00 am

Why are people spending so much time thinking about this?! A link is a vote, if you dont want to vote for a site but still want to mention it, then nofollow it. That's all there is to it. In the vast majority of cases, if I'm happy to mention a site in an article then I'm happy to give it a vote. Get a grip and stop Google-bashing. It's their search engine; they're there to run a business, not create an industry for SEOs to make money.


08/15/2013 10:02 am

they actually created headaches for all webmasters, created negative seo, and unable to tell us exactly what they want (not what we cannot do, but what we CAN do). And it not search engine, it some hybrid of everything together. Even google pre-2012 was better at billion times.


08/15/2013 10:11 am

So I assume you use Bing to find things online? If you were Google, how would you do things differently? Would you publish the algorythm so we all knew exactly how to rank no1? They didn't create negative SEO; it's an unfortunate bi-product of trying to create a fair algorythm, which is also a mechanism for generating revenue for their share-holders.


08/15/2013 10:20 am

no, duckduckgo. but sometimes bing. sometimes i even try google, but for any query with php error (for explanation), it return wikipedia article on what is php. if i searching how to wash the cat, it return me wikipedia article on what is cat, etc. Sure, but i am not google. People not asking about algorithm, they see what they get less and less traffic from google, less and less money from adsense, etc. What every thing they do decreased ranking in google. And listen only "you must not do it, you must not place any follow link" and things like it. So easy question - why ranking go down and what i can do if want to get traffic from google. What I can do??? If google not will explain it, I not sure what anybody will follow their guidelines. Why to follow some google rules if no traffic? May be better to ignore it, use recip links, follow links and use seo for bing/yahoo and other search engines? Also get rid of this google headaches. So I think google will grow next with spammers, wikipedia & youtube and negative seo, it their destiny until they not understand what they really do for own search engine and for own reputation.


08/15/2013 10:28 am

Everybody can't be getting less and less traffic, if someone goes down, someone goes up. Its abouut serving the most relevant information - Google doesn't care about how much traffic you get, they care about providing a service to users, so Matt Cutts isn't going to tell you how to get more traffic. So you stick with Duckduckgo and Bing, and see how much traffic you get.


08/15/2013 10:34 am

it easy to see what goes up - wikipedia, youtube, ehow, livestrong, gov sites, etc. Top queries are moderated, it easy to see. It not about serving most relevant information, it just vanilla authority serp. May be it useful for newbie, but not for people who using web since pre-google time. Google not care about users at all. They meet user with unrelevant ads above fold, broken serp (see my examples at prev message). Also google not cares about content. Just a small example. The best of best article become available at new blog. What the results? zero. The bad article become available at wikipedia, and get Top1 ranking. Where content is king in this formula? I not tell what i will stick with bing/yahoo. I will find the ways. But I hate see direction where google go today. Before this company has near perfect search engine and perfect reputation, see what happen with it today - evil, devil, havoc, anarchy and dictatorship. And I sure it not end of animal kingdom to make more money.


08/15/2013 10:43 am

most funny here what ehow/livestrong is redirecting expired domains, wikipedia is in google white list, gov sites (gov domain special treatment), youtube is google property. But where search engine here? Looks like it searching only white-listed and premoderated content.


08/15/2013 11:35 am

If you are the sort of person who is worried about Follow or Nofollow then you are exactly the people Google are targetting - its worked !


08/15/2013 11:55 am

This is new way you HAVE TO FOLLOW when creating a Website, according to Google, of course. 1. Do NOT use links of any kind, you will be marked as a spammer. Try to go back to Flash menus, so your own links won't be tracked, they also can be targeted as a spam. 2. Do Hyper Duper Super Mega Woki Choki Ultra FAST Websites to get ranked higher. What these means: Do NOT use Javascript, Do NOT use images, Do NOT use CSS, Do NOT use jQuery, Do NOT use any kind of widgets. Pure HTML only, and there you have the Hyper Duper Super Mega Woki Choki Ultra FAST Website that Google wants. 3. You HAVE to do them RESPONSIVE and they have to be Hyper Duper Super Mega Woki Choki Ultra ***AWESOME****, so that everybody loves the site and will link it, BUT WAIT? how to do it without using all the tools that make a site AWESOME, but slower? Tell me Google. Anyway... Pure 'HTML only' are the future of Websites appearing on Google SERPs, remember it. Bastards!


08/15/2013 12:23 pm

it google future. but trouble is one, it not help. google need good link juice & trust juice to even start think about ranking your site.


08/15/2013 12:34 pm

Too right, how can they police the whole net! I mean directory link building still works in Australia which is supposed to be advancing quickly, don't listen to their crap!

Andre Buxey

08/15/2013 12:50 pm

Page Rank is as useless as having a blown up doll at a Playboy mansion!

Andre Buxey

08/15/2013 12:51 pm

Jim, I can agree with you on that point, i reckon they have already been doing this but shifting more weight over to the "other" signals now. As we "know" there are over 200 signals on which G bases there ranking algo on.... which i think is bullsh!t

Andre Buxey

08/15/2013 12:53 pm

do tell, has it helped on your seo journey to enlightenment?


08/15/2013 01:22 pm

As Paul Gogarty once said in the most unparliamentary language, fuck you Google!

Genda Dunmatta

08/15/2013 01:45 pm

Good bye, Google. I am leaving you. The past year I have diversified my traffic and your organic flow is only 20% now. I don't love you any more. Take your links and shove them up Matt Cutt's ass for all I care. I'm doing what I want.

Genda Dunmatta

08/15/2013 01:46 pm

A link isn't a vote. A link is a link.

Genda Dunmatta

08/15/2013 01:49 pm

It's already backfired. Just look at all of the negative SEO services on Fiverr. They don't care about nofollow. Soon all crap links will be do-follow, and then once the spammers figure out that do-follow are being written off as crap, then they will start to no-follow all their links, too. Just do what you want and ignore Google.

Genda Dunmatta

08/15/2013 01:53 pm

A link is a link. Not a vote. No-follow originated as a way to manage links in for comments (like this one). Also consider---very few bloggers and most normal people who might submit content to the web really have no freakin' clue about the follow/no-follow debate. They are not concerned about it. They are just doing what they want. They're not voting... they're just linking out because it makes sense for what they are writing. If you do this stuff, then Google knows you're playing their game, and you are now a separate herd of sheep that they can manage apart from the herd. They don't like you because you are an SEO. So don't act like an SEO. Non-SEO is the new SEO.

Genda Dunmatta

08/15/2013 01:56 pm

When you no-follow links, it tells Google you are an SEO. It flags you. It sets you apart in a bad way that Google can easily quantify.

Genda Dunmatta

08/15/2013 01:57 pm

If I am writing an article about bad web sites, it makes sense for me to link out to those sites, too, as legitimate examples.

Josh Hamit

08/15/2013 02:00 pm

SEOs such as Glen Aslop and Brian Dean have gone on record to say that linking out to high PR sites can be of help http://backlinko.com/google-ranking-factors. Although I haven't seen any conclusive evidence.

Stephane Brault

08/15/2013 02:08 pm

I've attained a level of SEO spirituality you'd never imagine.

Stephane Brault

08/15/2013 02:09 pm

I'm just saying I'm not taking any chances...

Andre Buxey

08/15/2013 02:12 pm

as i do agree with you, however FOLLOWED links WAS working very well, these days not so much, however a person should try and find a quicker way to generate "authority", that is what we do ;)

Andre Buxey

08/15/2013 02:13 pm

hahahaaa, comical...


08/15/2013 04:56 pm

Yes that's true, a link will always be a link. But we're talking about links within the context of an algorythmic ranking system, in which case, it's a vote. Thanks for coming.

John Britsios

08/15/2013 05:08 pm

I personally do not fear linking out without the "nofollow".


08/15/2013 07:03 pm

And what social signals are these? Please quote your source for us. Matt Cutts has previously said "social signals" are unreliable. In fact, Facebook and Twitter block Google to some degree. The only reason why social signals might carry some weight is because of Google's late entry into the social scene. Google understands the threat that social networking poses to search, and they did not want to be left out. Once again, this is a smart move by Google. Many webmasters, such as yourself, have embraced G+ in the belief that it may help their ranks in search. This may or may not be the case as we know how Google likes to use search to leverage their other properties. The issue here is not about follow or nofollow but instead how Google instilled fear into webmasters for linking to someone or being linked to by someone. This fear knows no follow or nofollow and threatens the very core of the internet.


08/15/2013 07:53 pm

Matt Cutts will be dribbling at the thought of that, looking at those lovely eyes :)

For I am Weasle

08/15/2013 07:55 pm

A link is whatever google wants it to be on any day of the week. If you think a link is something else you are delusional.


08/15/2013 10:42 pm

you can put such button on your site if not have a google traffic. It good way to tell people what something wrong with google.


08/16/2013 08:56 am

A parked domain, error in site page, local classifieds with many URLs of same classifieds, keyword rich domain, etc are all only thinking about visitors


08/16/2013 08:57 am

Are you from Google? Anti-SEO is a supporter of PPC.


08/16/2013 03:58 pm

Are you saying that the main ranking factor for Google is something other than backlinks?

Catt Mutts

08/19/2013 05:17 am

Google keep changing the rules. The idea that great content brings traffic is bull! Someone will steal your great content or plagiarise it and rank above you.


08/19/2013 06:05 am

Hey SneakyMedia ! as I think every-bodies knows Google better than you and this 100% correct, whatever you have discussed here about Google's ranking algorithm this is completely bullshit ! I have remember when Google was firstly introduced in 1998 with its search engine ...I would say I was not expecting such a scrap from Google.


08/19/2013 06:14 am

Yes ! I am agree with you Genda ! Link is only a Link and it depends from which resources we are getting. Link is just like a real world linking like...someone has connection to a politician, criminal, or a honest person, people or community....so it depends us means which type of vote we need ...and it doesn' matter it is do-follow or no-follow and Google must accept this. If Google can't understand about this fact then it would be negative seo algorithm from Google. I am not enemy of Google or its team member. Sergey Brin....I admire this man too much...so whatever I feel I am just saying Cheers !

Gracious Store

08/20/2013 04:11 am

Webmasters have no reason to be scared. Google is clear on its regulations on link building, all webmasters need to do is play by the rules


08/30/2013 01:13 am

Well noted Dave and Google warned about it then! They go around in circles because the seo`s are smarter than their dumb algo and get nasty when they are playing catch up. Webmasters and SEO must try find some way of hurting Google hard.


08/30/2013 01:17 am

Doesnt do wikipedia any harm Josh? Thatsgot you thinking eh!


09/18/2013 11:52 am

Whats the point of no-follow if every single link is no-follow?


10/23/2013 07:02 am

I used to be scared. Now I'm at war. With Google, of course. ;) Unless I have to write a blog post for a client (and my client makes the rules in that case), Google is no longer in my book for SEO. Bing, DuckDuckGo, Yahoo!, Ask... anybody, but not Google.

Lisa Buben

04/18/2014 09:29 am

I am now, just got my warning from Google this a.m. Looking at changing all mine to nofollow now. Has anyone else?


04/22/2014 01:26 pm

It is obvious that we have entered now stage 2 of Google's world domination plan: stage 1 was to make everybody dependent on Google; stage 2 is now to have everybody sign up for Adwords or other paid services if they want to have a guaranteed flow of referrers.

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