Google has been out with a vengeance hitting the blogging community with “Unnatural Outbound Links” emails. If you have gotten one, you are probably wondering what is going on and what are these “unnatural” links they are talking about, and more importantly, what does it mean for your blog? The good news is that you can both prevent this from happening as well as fix what has happened to clear your blog’s good name with Google. Before I talk about that though, let’s take a look at what this email means.
What are Outbound Links?
These are any sort of links that are on your blog and point to another site that is NOT your blog. So if you link to your friend’s blog, or to Amazon or to any other site on the internet from your blog, that’s an outbound link.
What’s an “Unnatural” Link?
That’s any link Google has found to break its policies or are otherwise not what they should be. For example they could be inserted by malicious code into your blog, they could be hidden urls in an attempt to raise your SEO, or as it applies to the bloggers getting this notice: paid links.
What are paid links?
Paid links are any link that has been paid for on a website. So if you pay someone a fee to place a link or ad on their website to yours, that is a paid link. For bloggers paid links include:
- Affiliate links
- Affiliate ads
- Links within sponsored posts
Fortunately, there is a completely Google approved way to include paid links on your site and NOT get into trouble. If you institute this on your blog you can avoid getting any nasty emails from Google and set your blog up for SEO success.
If you include any paid links on your blog, you MUST rel=no follow that link. If you don’t then you get an email from Google saying you have unnatural outbound links. Don’t worry, adding rel=nofollow tags is easy!
How to Add Rel=”nofollow” Tags to your posts:
There are 2 different ways you can add rel=”nofollow” tags to your WordPress posts manually or via a plugin. The manual method will work on any content management system (like WordPress, Blogger or Squarespace) that allows you to view the html of your site.
How to Manually Add rel=”nofollow” tags to your post:
Step 1: Create a link as usual.
Step 2: Go to view > Text.
Step 3: Go to the link you created it will look something like this:
<a href="http://kararajchelblogdesign.com"> This is my link.</a>
Step 4: Add rel=”nofollow” to the a href tag. It will look like this:
<a href="http://kararajchelblogdesign.com" rel="nofollow"> This is my link.</a>
Step 5: Profit.
How to Add a rel=”nofollow” tag with a plugin:
Step 2: Install & Activate your plugin.
Step 3: Add rel=”nofollow” links per the directions on your plugin.
Step 4: Profit.
*Note: Yoast SEO allows you to rel=”nofollow” an entire post at a time, so that all links in a given post are rel=”nofollow”ed. This may or may not be what you want to do in your own situation. You can find a check box for it by clicking the little gear tab in the SEO settings below your post.
Do I need to Add rel=”nofollow” to all my links?
No. Rel=”nofollow” only needs to be added to a link in three circumstances: the first is in the rare event that you link to a site to which you do don’t want to pass any of your site’s reputation to. This could be a site that is of poor quality or of ill-repute (spammy sites, etc.), and the third is for links you don’t want search bots to prioritize (like “sign in here” links.). This probably won’t ever apply to you, because honestly, why would you link to a site you know is sketchy anyway? The second time is of importance to bloggers: any time you are linking to a site in a paid post, as an advertisement, or an affiliate link. Yes, this applies to all links within a post or page, any links in your sidebar, header or footer.
Many affiliate companies DO NOT include rel=”nofollow” in the codes they give you to copy & paste. Always double-check your affiliate link and if needed, add rel=”nofollow”.
I fixed my links, now what?
Great! Now you need to tell Google that you are good to go and to re-check your site. To do this head on over to your Webmaster tools aka Search Console (if you don’t already have an account, sign up for one, it gives you lots of useful info). Once there, add your blog to your account if it isn’t already, then click on your blog. From there go to the “Search Traffic” > “Manual Actions”. From there you should be able to contact Google about the issue facing your blog.
What if I ignore it? What can Google Do?
Blacklist you from its search engine. Say goodbye to your traffic. You do NOT want to blow this off or it can cost your blog dearly.
Add rel=”nofollow” to the a href tag of ANY link on your site that is from: an affiliate, an ad, or in a sponsored post. If someone paid you money for a link to be on your blog, you must rel=”nofollow” it.