First time I’ve heard of a website being penalized for using non-paid links.
I think we all can agree that affiliate links are basically “PAID LINKS” and its understood that Google does not agree with paid links that pass link juice. Therefore, website who neglect to properly use the nofollow attribute may feel the wrath. However, JohnMu a Google employee chimed into this discussion where a guy lost rankings due to paid links and NON-PAID LINKS (I think), here is what JohnMu had to say, explaining to the guy why his website was dropped out of Google
I browsed your site’s reviews a bit and most of the links are either affiliate links or links to the companies without nofollow.
The latter is my concern “links to the companies without nofollow”. So basically, a non-paid link can get you penalized. Okay, let’s see . . .
This link http://www.companyname.com/
is the same as this link http://www.companyname.com/?=affiliate_code/
Any link to the domain has been poisoned because an affiliate link to that domain appears on the same page?
I am confused! Why would someone be in violation by linking to a company website even if they are not using the affiliate link or being paid for that link. Just because they have a private/public affiliation with the company they are in violation if they link directly to the company.
If this is how it is then I find that to be a bit much. If I publish a non-affiliate link to let’s say a company’s homepage and I am not being paid in any way for the published link then I should not be penalized or treated as a “paid link”.
Maybe its just best to nofollow all outgoing links — no matter fact, maybe its best just to give your website to Google and let them run it since they are the all mighty sayer in what everyone does on their own websites.
Anyway, this has yet to be claimed as factual, its just my interpretation of JohnMu’s comment, but I can be taking it way out of context — so I’d be inclined to say Google is not penalizing for non-paid links until I hear different or undergo my own lab testing!