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The dangers of link building (and requesting link removal)

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The dangers of link building (and requesting link removal)

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As Information Architecture and Content Management are two of my core skills it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I have worked with improving on-site search as well as organic search. One thing I have learned about SEO is that it really comes down to two things:

  1. Having something of value to offer the visitors  
  2. Playing by the rules of the major organic search engines. 

If you have something of value to offer visitors, such as a services or products that they might want to buy, as well as a great user experience and content, you will likely be rewarded with visitors that convert into customers or even advocates. You will also likely get inbound links from other sites that will help to increase both domain rank and page rank. Actively hunting for, or even buying, inbound links (link building) is IMO risky business and should be avoided if possible.

That being said, a couple days ago I received the following email from projectplace.com:
”Thank you for linking to www.projectplace.com and that you like the company and our service. At the moment we are going through all incoming links and are asking for removal of some. This because we have got a warning from Google that we have to many unnatural links coming to our site (links that don’t follow the policy Google has for a link) and our page rank are now affected. 
Unfortunately your links can be considered unnatural and therefore I would like you to remove all links to projectplace.com coming from: 

I couldn’t see how these links coming from one of my blog posts could be considered unnatural given Google’s own definition of unnatural link:
“Any links intended to manipulate a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site, or outgoing links from your site. Manipulating these links may affect the quality of our search results, and as such is a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines”
Besides containing a false accusation, I also perceived the email from projectplace.com to be pretty aggressive in its tone. And why ask me to remove the links since the links obviously aren't unnatural? My guess is that they for some reason they considered the link as unwanted. But why? There are plenty of reasons why they should want me to link to their web site, such as:
  • I believe my blog can be considered a high-quality website. It is up and running and I actively update it with new content. 
  • My blog has a page rank is 5 of 10, with is well above average and means that some posts appear on the first page of some searches.
  • I’m using Blogger with a standard Blogger template, so I certainly hope it complies with Google’s policies and guidelines and fulfills all their technical requirements. 
  • The post that links to projectplace.com “Web 2.0 Beyond the Organizational Walls” is relevant and positive of projectplace.com.
  • The blog and post is written by a person who is by some considered as an expert or even thought leader in the field of social collaboration - it shouldn’t be too bad if I’m in some way associated with projectplace.com, described by themselves as “Europe’s leading online project collaboration tool”.
The only thing I can think of why they wouldn’t want the link is that the post is that it is rather old, from May 2007. So, my guess is that the SEO agency used a tool to identify unwanted links based on some criteria, such as how old the link is. My link happened to get on their auto-generated list and they didn’t manually check where these links came from. If they had, I am sure they had removed from the list that they sent to their customer projecplace.com for further action.

After some emailing back and forth with projectplace.com, as well as a discussion on Twitter with Martin Edelström ( see story on Storify) projecplace.com came with an apology via Twitter, but not from their active account. By then, I had already removed the link. Now the only link to projectplace.com from my blog comes from this post. Congratulations, well deserved! :-)

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