Between Google’s latest round of penalties, and Matt Cutts’ new outspoken stance on guest blogging for the sake of link-building, many SEOs have been spooked to the point of actually refusing voluntary, natural links. Companies are asking hobby bloggers to remove links, or at least embed nofollows on them. This is defeating the purpose of Google’s actions against unnatural link building.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with accepting links from hobby bloggers who happen to think your company retail site is Aces in the particular subject they blog on. In fact, this is why inbound links became such an integral part of SEO to begin with: Google decided that links like these would count as “votes.” Unfortunately, this led SEO to largely became a game of seeing who could “buy” or “negotiate” the most, largest, and most relevant votes. Google’s algorithmic updates, manual penalties, and Matt Cutts’ warnings have addressed the manipulative voting schemes, not the traditional and voluntary voting (linking).
If blogger A has a website about trendy apparel and happens to think that your apparel site is the greatest gift to all who shop for apparel, there is nothing wrong with him/her adding a followed link to your apparel site in his/her blogroll. This is a completely natural vote. Asking a blogger who naturally decided to link to your site to remove the link or embed a nofollow is not only defeating the purpose of Google’s stance on unnatural link building, it’s also, well, unnatural in itself.
When should you be worried about natural blogroll links?
Are there ever causes for concern when a blogger naturally links to your retail site? Possibly. For example, if this blogger happens to link to 20 other retail sites. Even if you are the one natural link in the list, and the other 19 are paid links, this could send some negative signals your way. In this case, you would probably want a nofollow in the link.
Another potential problem: if you happen to have built a rather suspicious link profile and your inbound links already comprise overwhelmingly of shady blogroll links. Having yet another (followed) blogroll link probably isn’t the best idea.
Keep your link profile clean, but don’t drown it in bleach
It’s important to be careful not to “over correct” for the sake of avoiding link penalties. These penalties are designed to clamp down on link purchases, not to undo the natural “voting” signals that helped make Google search results more relevant than their competitors at the time Google began counting links as votes. At the end of the day, Google needs to continue to display relevant search results in order to continue to dominate the search industry and sell display ads. It’s simply not in their interest to do away with the natural linking signals that helped make them the dominant search provider in the first place.