Don’t Let Negative SEO Fears Discourage Linking
In pretty much the strangest example of an SEO misconception, a lawyer recently threatened to sue the webmaster of a blog called Big Pink Cookie. Her crime? Linking to one of the lawyer’s clients.
The lawyer claimed that the link from her site resulted in financial damages. Supposedly, the link caused their site to be hurt in the search engine rankings. The link was eleven years old, and it linked to a site about eyeglasses. It was a link from a review of the actual eyeglasses in question.
In other words, it was pretty close to the perfect link, and there’s almost no chance it could have harmed their client’s rankings. In fact, the sudden removal of a bunch of longstanding links pointing toward a site is more likely to indicate to Google that the site has taken a turn for the worse, and all the sites that once endorsed it have now decided it reflects badly on them to link to the site.
While the webmaster, Christine, obliged by happily removing her contextual, relevant, authoritative link, she was under no obligation to do so. In fact, this is how her hosting company responded to threats from the lawyer:
“We’ve had this discussion with you before: there is no infringement of anything in merely linking to one site from another — case law exists on this. We absolutely will not instruct our users to remove links that violate no statute or our terms of service. Whether they choose to do it on their own is entirely up to them.”
We find this incredibly bizarre. There are actually people out their who believe that a link is a form of copyright infringement, and are settling out of court. The lawyer very well may be earning money with these threats. Whether or not the lawyer in question actually believes this nonsense is questionable, but clearly they are succeeding in frightening webmasters into believing this nonsense.
Let there be no question. A link to your site is almost always a good thing. Circumstances when it can actually hurt your site are very rare, generally if the links come from obvious link farms that make money by selling links. Even then, “bad” links are typically ignored, rather than used as justification for an all out penalty.
We’re not claiming that negative SEO is impossible. Yes, it can happen, but if you are going out of your way to get rid of links pointing to your site, your priorities are screwed up. You should be focused on finding ways to attract and build contextual, relevant links from authoritative sites with social activity and traffic. The more of these kinds of links you have, the harder it is for any “scummy” link to do damage to you.
The only time you should consider removing links is if you have actually been penalized. Unless there’s been an algorithmic update, this also only happens when a new link is indexed, so old links rarely have anything to do with penalties, unless it is a manual penalty.