The Penguins are coming! The Penguins are coming! The Google Penguin update may be the next Orson Welles’ 1938 invasion of the Earth by Martians or maybe penguins.
Chris Crum, part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications, wrote about some website owners threatening other website owners with legal action if they refuse to take down links to their website. Please read his article, “What If The Google Penguin Update Inadvertently Killed The Web As We Know It?” (Notice that I have just provided three links to another website).
Chris Crum wonders, jokingly, whether the update could kill the Internet. There have been numerous recent articles about website owners panicking to the point of threatening legal action. I also wrote an article about a company demanding that I remove links or threatening legal action against me (see Are Directory Listings Paid Links Which Will Hurt Your Google Rankings?).
With so much panic, it seems plausible that some website owners may even be thinking of committing suicide. Website owners who feel threatened should beware of the similarity between Penguins and Martians. The War of the Worlds may become the War of The Web!
The legal question – To be serious for a moment, the question is, do you really have to remove links to someone’s website and can they really start a lawsuit against you if you refuse? The answer is, that depends. In most cases, you probably do not have to back down to these threats to remove the link. In fact, the threats may even result against retaliatory litigation. Instead of writing an in-depth article on the topic, I will again link to other websites! See www.cybertelecom.org/ip/link.htm and www.bitlaw.com/internet/linking.html.
Companies that threaten legal action need to be very careful to consult with corporate counsel, knowledgeable with the subject, to determine whether the linking is legal or not. I recommend that before making a threat, read the two websites directly above and other sources you consider reliable. Otherwise companies making threats may get sued themselves or find themselves on the wrong end of a counterclaim if they foolishly start a lawsuit. You never know who you are threatening. I happen to be a lawyer with a law practice limited to litigation. I know how to bite back.
The SEO question – Should you remove links from your website to avoid a Google penalty from the Penguin update? Absolutely not if they were worthwhile links to begin with. I never worry about using “do follow” links to websites or articles that provide useful content related to the topic of my page or article.
Should you worry about links from other websites to yours? Absolutely not if they come from websites that are not spam websites.
Should you worry about links from spam websites to yours? I don’t believe that links from spam websites to your website will hurt you either. Google will simply ignore them. I found lots of spam websites that scrape content from my websites. This has never hurt me and I doubt it ever will. However, Google is looking for websites that have paid for back links. Google has various ways of detecting paid back links and will continue to develop improved ways of doing so.
The links to your website which you should worry about are paid back links and reciprocal links where the back link comes from a spammy website. For instance, paid links from high Page Rank websites and especially forums with unrelated content could cause problems. Hopefully, Google will ignore a small number of these to avoid penalizing websites which received “free” back links from a few high PR forums by companies providing the links in the hopes of making you a customer. In the event that you received any free back links that are hurting your website, you should contact Google and provide the information. If you have links from forms that were placed there as part of legitimate content and were not paid, I believe that Google is smart enough to design algorithms which know the difference. I still post on forums if the content is valid content. I don’t post on forums for the sake of getting a link.
In short, if you create good content and use a legitimate SEO measures, don’t worry about back links. If you try to get creative with SEO tactics, Google will eventually catch up to you.
Philip L. Franckel, Esq.