If you have updated your WordPress sites to version 3.5.x, you probably noticed that the Links section in the admin area has been removed. Actually, it wasn’t been removed for all sites because it is still there if you were using it prior to updating your web site to the new version of WordPress. In other words, if you were using that feature, it is grandfathered in.
The Links section was traditionally used as a Blogroll to let users know about other sites that you like. But the default Links, which were titled “Meta” led to a user registrations page, the admin login page, the RSS feed, and WordPress.org. These were almost all bad ideas for default links. Even the use of a long list of Blogroll links that appears on every page is a bad idea from a search engine perspective and may have caused some sites to be penalized under Google’s Penguin updates.
Penguin penalized sites using poor quality inbound link building techniques. This also includes excessive use of links from unrelated web sites, and especially if the links are site-wide links. A site-wide link is a link on every page of a site to another site. Site-wide links are typically found in the sidebar or footer. That may have been the issue that drove the removal of the Links section.
If you want to use a Links section in the sidebar, you do have a couple of options. First, if you know how to write HTML code you can always add the links in an HTML list format using a text widget. HTML code can be used in any text widget. You can also use the Custom Menu feature in WordPress and insert the links using a Custom Menu widget. A third option is to use the Link Manager plugin that was designed by a WordPress team member to replace the missing Links section.
Given what we have learned form the aftermath of Google’s Penguin updates, my advice is to avoid using site-wide links, and especially if the sites you link to are unrelated to your site. If you have a WordPress site that focuses on automobiles, it is theoretically okay to link to other automotive sites, but not to a site about dogs and cats. The Penguin updates can potentially demote the search engine results rank positions for the sites that contain excessive links to unrelated sites. It also penalizes sites that receive the links because Google assumes that they are paid links, which are a violation of their Webmaster Guidelines. Under Google’s terminology, these types of links create an “unnatural linking pattern.”
It does not matter if your intention for providing the links is innocent. You will not be able to convince a computer algorithm of your innocence.