Should Google link out to SEO websites from the official Google Webmaster blog? That’s the question that is a hot topic right now: on the official Google blog, should Google link out to a website that offers search engine optimization or digital marketing services, no matter how good the resource is, and how much it will help website owners.
In a recent blog post, Google’s Webmaster Blog wrote about core Google updates and what we should know about them. That’s a very helpful post, and they happen to talk about E-A-T. There are some websites that have great content on them, and truly are great resources. There’s no question about that. There is absolutely no question that these are good resources from trusted authors. That’s not the question here, and I’ve actually learned a lot from the people behind the sites that the link to in this post.
But ethically, should Google link out to SEOs? Is linking out an endorsement of the site and their services?
Is linking out an endorsement of someone’s services?
The links in question here are actually “do follow” links, in that the do not include the “nofollow” tag on the links. A “nofollow” tag essentially says that they don’t endorse the URLs they’re linking to. But, in this case, they are passing PageRank to these 5 resources:
E-A-T and SEO, from Marie Haynes
Google Updates Quality Rater Guidelines Targeting E-A-T, Page Quality & Interstitials, from Jennifer Slegg
Leveraging E-A-T for SEO Success, presentation from Lily Ray
Google’s Core Algorithm Updates and The Power of User Studies: How Real Feedback From Real People Can Help Site Owners Surface Website Quality Problems (And More), Glenn Gabe
Why E-A-T & Core Updates Will Change Your Content Approach, from Fajr Muhammad
Again, I’m not questioning the resources. It’s more about the fact that this, to some, appears to be unprecedented, that Google will link out to resources that are from individual companies or individuals that can be hired to provide the very service that they’re talking about in the blog post. Or, what’s really going to happen, is that a website owner who is having an issue with their visibility in Google, sees that Google links to them, they read the article, don’t understand it fully, and they hire that company or service.
Is It Really Unprecedented?
Is Google linking out to SEOs unprecedented? Have they linked out before? Well, actually it’s not unprecedented. Google’s Webmaster Blog has, in fact, actually linked out before to SEOs or digital marketing agencies providing services. They have an outgoing link to this blog post on Stone Temple: https://web.archive.org/web/20080820101827/http://www.stonetemple.com/blog/?p=277 I actually have to link to the archive.org URL here, as Stone Temple has actually REMOVED that blog post and they now just redirect it to their main blog page. So, they’re continuing to take advantage of an old link from the Google Webmaster blog. I’m not sure why they linked out to that blog post, but looking at the post it appears to be because of the foosball search engine smackdown, which is hardly a “great resource”: https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2008/08/silvermedalcount.html
Another great resource, however, that deserved to be linked to, is https://www.nngroup.com/articles/mobile-site-vs-full-site/ which Google linked to when they were talking about Mobile versus Desktop (a mobile site versus a full site).
What’s my point? Well, Google’s Webmaster Blog has 1309 pages total. 380 are actually blocked by the robots.txt file and non-indexable. There are 290 pages that are marked as noindex via the meta tag. So there are actually about 700 blog posts. They collectively link out to 5,170 URLs. Of those 5,170 URLs they link out to, there are “about” 100 or so domains that they link out to as “resources”. The other outgoing links are to Google-owned domains and Google-owned sites. Some examples of resources they link out to:
So, linking out isn’t unprecedented. It’s normal. It’s normal for a site to link out to good resources. But honestly, just like a lot of blogs I know, they’ve failed to maintain a “clean” blog. They’re linking out to 11 sites, for example, that have a status of “DNS lookup failed”:
11 URLs – DNS lookup failed
10 URLS – error 403
302/301/307 redirects – hundreds
325 – 404 errors
The “DNS lookup failed” can indicate that a subdomain no longer exists, but it could also mean that they’re linking to a domain name that no longer is registered. That wouldn’t be good–especially if someone happened to register the domain name that they’re linking to and redirect it or put up content on that domain that’s not what they originally intended to link to.
But in this case, as an SEO myself, I do think that Google should help webmasters as much as they can. They should link out to resources that help website owners and webmasters. In the past, they’ve created resources such as the Quality Rater Guidelines and a basic into to SEO. Those are helpful resources, but it’s been content that Google employees created. It’s unprecedented that Google is linking out to SEOs and those who provide services directly.
Is it really a big deal that we, as SEOs should be concerned about? Probably not. I don’t think Google’s going to go edit the post and remove those resources or even add nofollow tags on the links. They shouldn’t. But what it does say that times change: Google may, in fact, see that the content that you’ve written or created is a great resource for them. So go write content. Create content that people want to link to. I don’t personally do a lot of link building myself. I concentrate more about writing and creating content that people want to link to: and I’ve had some successes in the past, having Googlers mention me. Let’s not obsess on whether or not Google’s endorsing SEOs or not. It happened. Let’s move on.
Have a different opinion? Join the discussion here: https://twitter.com/rustybrick/status/1156979123908218882
Who Do They Link Out To?
Well, if you’re interested in seeing who exactly Google endorses (link out to) in particular, then I’ve gathered the data for you. In this spreadsheet you can see exactly all of the outgoing links on the Google Webmaster Blog. I used Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider tool to crawl the site and exported all of the outgoing links. As Jenny Halasz originally pointed out, Google has, in fact, linked out on their blog to other SEOs, but not in this way before.