Linking myths – post Panda and Penguin

Google has been making life harder for those of us who make a living online. With sites closing left and right – because Google stopped giving them traffic – authors are getting a big paranoid about what linking practices are ‘allowed’ and/or considered ‘spammy’.

I can’t really blame people: common sense just isn’t enough anymore. However, some things floating around the online forums are just plain nonsensical.

So here are some questions I have been asked recently, and my answers.

Is it spammy to link to a domain more than twice in a blogpost?

Hubpages has this as an editorial rule: you can only link to each domain ( twice per article. And yes, in the ordinary course of things, there it is very rare to link to the same domain more than twice in the text of a blogpost. However, that does not mean Google sees the rest of those links as spammy, necessarily. What matters, ultimately, is whether those links are relevant to the article and whether they are useful to the visitor.

Is it spammy to link to the source of an image?

Only if the source of an image is a spammy page.

Do make sure to ‘rel-nofollow‘ links to commercial sites, especially if it’s an affiliate link. Rel-nofollow is also mandatory in the case of paid links.

On hubpages this means that links to affiliate programs should be put in text-capsules, not as attribution links in image capsules. In text-capsules you have the option to add rel-nofollow. You don’t have that option in image capsules. An added advantage is that text-capsules have larger text, so the click through rate is likely to be higher, simply because people can actually see the link.

And no – it is really NOT spammy to link to your own profile as a source for your image. Your hubs will already have a link to that profile. An extra link is probably simply ignored by Google. Followed or not.

Is it spammy to link the source of your image, using your own screen-name?

It has been suggested that if you credit multiple images to yourself, using the same text (aka your name or screen-name) again and again on one article is spammy, because it ups the keyword density of that name on your post/page/hub.

Keyword density is a useless metric for almost any purpose I can think of. This is one case in point. If it’s logical to use your own name as attribution, use your own name as attribution. You created that image, own it. And no, Google won’t mind that your name suddenly appears on that post multiple times. Really.

How important are links in image optimization?

Google has never said that image links are important. There are valid reasons for linking images, but they have nothing to do with search engine optimization:

  • Attribution by link has become the main way to ‘source’ images. This does not excuse copying images from other sites, but it does act as a mitigating factor. Best practice: ask for permission and offer a link.
  • Product images should be linked to their source, using an affiliate link, because people will click through and chances are they will buy the product in question. If you use an affiliate link, you may earn some money.

Should rel-nofollow go on all affiliate links?

In practice it’s easier to just put rel-nofollow on all affiliate links, because it saves some thinking time. However, technically, it’s not necessary. In-house affiliate programs, where you link directly to the site you’re promoting, always need to be rel-nofollowed. Third party affiliate programs on the other hand will make sure that links are redirected in such a way, that search engines will not follow the link. In other words, in those cases rel-nofollow is not necessary. It can’t hurt though.

Examples: amazon, allposters and zazzle links are all in-house affiliate programs, so these links need to be nofollowed.

Links created through shareasale, linkshare and other third party affiliate programs do not need to be nofollowed.

How should you interlink your hubs and articles?

As long as it’s on topic, I would not worry about it. Just do it.

Personally I prefer a mix of related links at the end of articles or blogposts with links in blogposts/articles themselves. The first will often be automated (in the case of blogs) and will be text-links with the full title of the article linked to as link-text. In the second case I will generally just link in text that was already in my article.

Does link-text matter?

Yes. Within the same domain (say on a blog, or within hubpages) link-text is not so important. When interlinking between domains link-text IS important in two opposite ways:

  1. Text used in links will be used by Google to determine the topic of the page linked TO. So it matters whether you have keywords in link-text (aka anchortext).
  2. Since many people have used the previous point to spam Google, it now looks at the proportion of links that have keywords compared to links to the same page without keywords. In other words: it probably pays to make sure you have links to your articles WITHOUT keywords as well as with them. Since keywords in links probably matter most if used on pages with a high authority in Google, if you have access to such pages, that is probably the only place to insist on keywords in links.

How to find the right URL to link to!

I find that it is very common for people to use links that just don’t work. The main cause of this is simple: typing a URL instead of simply copy-pasting it. DO copy-paste. DO NOT type. One character wrong and the whole link no longer works.


With hat tips to Paul Ward, Melody Lassalle and Cheryl Paton

2 thoughts on “Linking myths – post Panda and Penguin”

  1. Thanks. It’s nice to see all these guidelines in one spot. A great reference which I will be bookmarking and referring back to, after I re-do all my in-house affiliate links at hubpages.

  2. So helpful as always, you make it seem so clear and logical. Glad to know the advise I have been following from a year or so ago when I started seems correct., thanks to the likes of AJ, Paul Ward, Lisa Auch and many more, and your older articles of course. You are a very informed and believable person.

    Hope you keep on posting…

    Thank you


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