Unnatural outbound links. It kind of sounds like some sort of communicable disease – “Oooh, did you hear? Melissa has unnatural outbound links. UOL. Ewww.”
And the truth is that it is kind of an icky thing. It feels like I’ve been caught doing something dirty, and that I should perhaps hang my head in shame. And Google doesn’t make the notification a pleasant one:
Google has a long list of things deemed “linking schemes.” Things such as:
- Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link.
- Excessive link exchanges (“Link to me and I’ll link to you”) or partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking.
- Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links.
- Using automated programs or services to create links to your site.
- Low-quality directory or bookmark site links.
- Forum comments with optimized links in the post or signature.
- Advertorials or native advertising where payment is received for articles that include links that pass PageRank.
If this happens to you, don’t sweat (like I did). It can be fixed. Webdesy has a good explanation of the Google penalty and how to go about fixing it (probably the right way).
I was lazy, and just installed the WP External Links plugin, which allows you to add the rel=nofollow tag to every link on your site automatically. If you don’t want to add the tag to everything, there is also the Ultimate Nofollow plugin, which adds a little checkbox when you create a link asking if you’d like to add the rel=nofollow tag. Good for adding the tag when you’re writing a new post… not great for fixing previous mistakes all in one fell swoop.
Well, I certainly haven’t been making any real money from this site, and I never intended to manipulate my PageRank by having guest posts or anything like that. SocialAmateur.com was my first website. It was my baby, and like any parent, I’m sure I made a lot of mistakes when it was young. But then I kinda got the hang of how to handle raising this little website, and more baby sites followed. As all my little sites grew, SocialAmateur.com is still kicking – the often-neglected apple of my eye.
Google is questioning my skills and I’m forced to say, “Yeah – I probably had no idea what I was doing – but I didn’t MEAN to hurt the site or manipulate my PageRank. And the site turned out ok, right? Isn’t that what counts?”
Something tells me Google doesn’t care much about intention, only application. So I’ll fix it. And apologize. And promise to be better.