Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Blog*
People who don't know or don't pay attention may think the web has gotten to some level of maturity and development, but I keep getting reminded that things are still in their infancy. For those that don't know I have a smattering of web sites. A lot of them are just there without a lot of promotion or development. I have a full-time job and a family among other stuff, so I don't devote a lot of time to all of these sites. One of them is Arconati Kid Korner, which I built ostensibly for my kids to share cool stuff with them, but also to showcase kid friendly websites.
Recently I received the following email.
date: Sun, Jul 22, 2012 at 12:29 PM
subject: Links removal request
My name is Michael Jonson, I work in the Anti Piracy Department of Guardlex (http://www.guardlex.com), we provide anti-piracy and Intellectual Property protection services for our clients.
We represent allkidsgolfclubs.com company which is currently experiencing problems with search engines because of the penalties. Our client has received an “unnatural links warning” which says that they need to remove some links pointing to their website from other web resources.
It has come to our attention that your website (or website hosted by your company) contains one or more links to the allkidsgolfclubs.com company website (http://www.allkidsgolfclubs.com) which may be causing this issue.
I kindly ask you to remove from the following website http://kids.arconati.us all links to http://www.allkidsgolfclubs.com website as soon as possible to help us deal with the search engine penalties and restore our client’s website in search engines index.
Please see the list of website pages in question:
In order to find those links, please do following:
- If this is an online website directory. Use directory's search system to look for "http://www.allkidsgolfclubs.com" links.
- If there are any hidden links in the source code of website. Open the website's home page and view its source code. Search for "http://www.allkidsgolfclubs.com" in the source code. This will reveal any hidden links.
It is our understanding the links in question may be authorized for use by our client or its agents, but now needs to be removed in order to restore our client’s website from search engine penalties.
Please do not hesitate to contact us if you are unsure how to remove those links. We will be happy to assist you in any way to resolve this issue as soon as possible.
Looking forward to your positive reply.
Anti Piracy Department Specialist
2820 West 8-th str,
Brooklyn, NY, 11224
This smelled a bit like crap to me. Sure, my website may not be the best in the world, but I find it hard to believe that it could actually negatively impact this site. In fact, my immediate reaction is that it would be darn near impossible for a link to a website to have a negative affect. This makes no sense to me.
Still, I feel obligated to at least check out the facts. Additionally, I had to think back a bit to why I linked to them in the first place. And after spending a few minutes looking into it, I decided to reply. Note that I also included the first email I could find for the site owner.
from: James A. Arconati email@example.com
to: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
date: Tue, Jul 31, 2012 at 12:04 AM
subject: Re: Links removal request
Hello Michael Jonson,
I am the blogger at KIDS.ARCONATI.US, among other sites. I've looked over your request for removal of the link / post to ALLKIDSGOLFCLUBS.COM. I am not sure when and why that link was originally posted but based on the timing and the details of their site, I'm guessing that I created that post when I worked in ecommerce support at their host, Network Solutions. I was in charge of intro consultations for all new clients at the time. Most likely, I saw their site and target market and added them to my blog regarding kid-friendly websites and stores. My link was not authorized or requested by the client, but was posted only with good intentions. For review, the post is here:
Your email was very detailed and outlined the request clearly, however you failed to properly explain exactly how my direct link to their home page could actually hurt them. Whereas I may not know everything about online marketing, I'm from the school of thought that just about any inbound link is better than none. In fact, in my research on the matter, the worst that an irrelevant inbound link could do to a site is to have zero effect. Perhaps in very, very rare circumstances a very spammy site could end up hurting sites they link to with no relevance, but I can't find any actual proof of this ever occurring.
Let's look at two industry leading resources on this subject.
There are few certainties in SEO, but you can stamp this one in steel: An inbound link from an evil or spammy website cannot hurt you, unless you’re dumb enough to link back.
This post did get updated with a reconsideration based on feedback and comments the writer received regarding the possibility that there may be a small rare possibility that it could happen.
Funny enough, this article mentions your company specifically.
Saying an inbound link isn't good for a website is different than saying it's bad for a website. There are inbound links that don't provide value for a website -- those that are contextually irrelevant, from domains with low authority, or contain poor anchor text, for example. We've written about it in full in our blog post "Deconstructing the Qualities of High Quality Links" if you'd like to learn more. But those links don't actually hurt the website that's being linked to. In other words, just because someone doesn't provide great anchor text doesn't mean your website will get dinged by Google for it.
The HubSpot post is more recent and I trust their experience.
All this being said, I could understand the link removal request if I was infringing on the intellectual property of ALLKIDSGOLFCLUBS.COM, but in my opinion this is not the case. The heading tag links as follows:
<h3><a href="http://www.allkidsgolfclubs.com/">All Kids Golf Clubs - Junior golf clubs and equipment</a></h3>
And the body of the post contains some content from their site at the time, but it's properly cited in a blockquote.
<blockquote cite="http://www.allkidsgolfclubs.com/"> <p>Providing high quality, unique junior golf products so kids can have more fun learning the game of golf!</p> <p>Just arrived...Rising Star Junior Hybrid Sets...Now kids can get better quicker by benefiting from the same over-sized Drivers, soft face Putters and the latest Hybrid club designs adults have used for years!</p> </blockquote>
This is only two paragraphs of content and I feel that this falls within the definition of "fair use".
In conclusion, Michael, considering the open question of whether or not irrelevant links can actually harm a legitimate site in a measurable way, and considering the fluid nature of these search engine variables, it seems questionable to have a business model solely based on seeking these links out and asking them to be removed while charging your clients for the service and time. I'd seriously reconsider your process and methods.
To whomever it may concern at ALLKIDSGOLFCLUBS.COM, if after reading this far and carefully weighing both sides, you feel you'd still like the post and/or link removed, it won't take me very long at all. I only wrote this long of an email to help benefit you. Despite the fact that I haven't worked at Network Solutions for the past three years, I still have a great respect for my former clients and coworkers. I work with a few of them to this day on a consultation basis. A better idea might be for us to work together to alter the post a bit with inbound links you'd find relevant. In fact, I'd be happy to offer a guest blog post to you OR perhaps a permanent relevant link in the sidebar or footer. If you are curious, the site only gets about 100 unique visitors a month all total.
Regardless, best of luck and success to you in everything you do. Let me know if there's anything I can do to help.
I haven't heard back at all, but I did get a bounce on my initial email to the golf web site. It would seem that they are in the process of switching hosts or something and all of the public email addresses I'd found for them bounced. I did a quick whois search and forwarded my message on to the domain owner, so hopefully it gets to the right place.
To keep on top of this concept, I did research it a little further the next day. It seems the most recent authoritative article on the subject came from SEOmoz, specifically regarding Google's Unnatural Links Warnings. The TL;DR is that you may seen an unnatural links warning, but unless your traffic has taken a big dip, you should be fine. But I don't see how this can work in the long run. Google can't tell the difference between spammy links that a business owner set up themselves versus spammy links set up by their competition. Additionally, I should be able to link to whomever I want to link. If you have spammy links, don't chase them down. Build up your high quality links and improve your content. If I'm wrong, someone let me know.
Note: Since you asked, the answer is no, I have never seen Dr. Strangelove. It is on my list and I'll get to it when I get there.