What Are Your Obligations On Removing Links?
At the beginning of the year I ended the accepting of guest posts on my finance blog. It was because of more than one reason, but one of those reasons stood out more than any other – the requests to remove links.
This one was irksome because one, I never asked anyone to guest post for me on that blog, two, I never told any of them to leave links in those guest posts, and three, all the other links were in comments that someone was obviously paid to leave and the requests to remove the links didn’t come from any of the people who actually wrote the comments.
Why are people requesting links be removed? Almost all of them either got some kind of notification from Google or had a SEO assessment done of their sites after they lost ranking where they were told that they had too many bad links on too many sites that weren’t related to what their business model is. That’s one of the dangers of hiring someone else to leave comments on other blogs; if they’re not all that savvy they’ll leave comments just passable enough to go on any blog they decide to leave them on without regard for their sites not having anything to do with their business.
Here’s two things to think about before I answer the question in the topic.
One, if your commenting strategy is for SEO purposes you get what you deserve.
Two, if your commenting policy is either to try to get more visitors or just because you like commenting on other blogs, then you’re fine, even if you get a letter, which you probably won’t. That’s because there are few individuals who could keep up with the commenting frequency of someone being paid to leave comments.
Try to think of how many comments you believe you could leave on blogs on a daily basis, and then how consistently you could leave that many comments everywhere. While you’re at it think about the quality of the comments you leave; are you leaving one or two line comments or at least a paragraph’s worth of a comment that’s on topic and meaningful in some fashion?
That’s why bloggers in general aren’t receiving these notifications; the number of outside links you could have possibly built up, unless your business is SEO (and truthfully, most SEO sites have rankings that are pretty bad), probably isn’t all that great even if you consider yourself a prolific blogger. In times when I wasn’t working as much I might have been able to leave upwards of 10 comments a day on blogs, but that would be a top number; often I’d be lucky to get to 3 a day, and those were usually on blogs I’d visited before.
Let’s get back to the question of the day; just what are your obligations to those who request that you remove links from your blog?
Based on the answer, I probably could have said “is” instead of “are” because you’re really under no obligation to remove a single link. That’s right; even if some of these folks try to threaten you with a “disavow notice” to Google, all that means is that Google will, if they so choose (there’s no guarantee here by the way) ignore the links from those companies that put your blog or website’s name on their list; that’s it. You suffer no consequences whatsoever, especially if you didn’t put those links there.
What if you did put a link in? For instance, what if you wrote a negative review about someone and you put their link in your content?
Once again, you’re under no obligation to remove a single thing, although if you’re someone like me you gave it a rel=nofollow attribution so that site didn’t get any benefit from your linking to them in the first place. In that case if someone came to ask you to remove their link you’d know they were just puffing (does anyone use that term anymore?) because Google would have pretty much ignored it anyway (actually it turns out Google doesn’t ignore those links, they just don’t count them for anything).
You have to ask yourself two questions.
One, are any of those links hurting you or possibly hurting you? Well, it’s possible, but if you were savvy you didn’t allow any bad links on your site to begin with. As much as I love poker, unless my blog post is about poker I’m probably not allowing any links to any poker sites in the comments to remain, even if I keep the comment, unless I know that person well already.
Any time you get comments on your blog you should take a look at the links to see if they’re going back to a quality site. They don’t have to be in your niche at all, which means if you get a comment from someone and they’re linking to their business site then it’s all good… even if it’s paid for and you don’t know it at the time.
Two, do you have the time to keep going in and removing all those links? One of my blogs is 6 years old, another 8 years old, and out of all my blogs I have close to 3,000 posts. Frankly, I don’t have the time or the inclination to remove all those links. I do my own cleaning of links periodically by seeing if they’re still going to current sites or not; that’s just a smart thing to do.
Now, when it’s been to the benefit of someone else via a guest post, I have gone in and removed them, and because I allowed so many guest posts on my finance blog I’ve had to remove lots of them (which is why I ended guest posting there). Since I approved the posts initially, my blog will still get the benefit from the article and I can go with a clear conscience in letting people think I wrote it, although I do still leave “guest post” in the title.
There’s one thing you can think of doing, which I’ve done and many of my blogging friends have done. You can answer the request by telling them they can pay you to remove those links. I started doing that last October, charging $5, which they’d have to pay me through Paypal before I’d remove the link. I had two people decide to pay for it at $5 and I removed them. This year I’m charging $10 to remove links; hey, my time is more valuable now. Sure, overall it’s chump change, and most of those folks aren’t going to want to pay anyway, but it’s not my fault, and it’s not yours, that they paid someone to come trolling in your space and leaving comments that they now are trying to tell you they’re not responsible for; the nerve!
With Matt Cutts recent missives about guest posting and SEO, many of these people are scrambling because on one level they didn’t understand that he was totally against guest posting, and on another level companies whose SEO strategy has surrounded guest posts everywhere they can think of are hoping clients haven’t heard about this because it can be quite the cash cow. That spawned the latest rash of link removal requests, but it certainly didn’t start it.
Not your problem if you don’t want it to be. You get to decide how you want to manage your space, so breathe freely.