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From this thread I learned that starting with Panda, Google may actually be penalizing weak sites that are being linked to by spammy sites. Does this still hold true? I have a small site that has less than 20 links to it, and at least a quarter of them (according to Alexa) are coming from places like list-of-domains.org and stuffgate....sites designed to help people buy up websites that are named closely to yours (for later blackmail tactics, I suppose). I am working on a link-building campaign but these things take time obviously and I fear that links like these may be hurting me.

Follow-up question: 'Worthless' links (what I'd call links coming from sites that are not spammy but certainly not relevant to your site)...from my limited understanding, they don't hurt your ranking, tho they don't help. Is this still true as of the Panda update?

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There's nothing you can do about it since you don't control those sites and there is no way to tell Google to disavow those links. But I also wouldn't worry about it. The Panda update is mostly about removing low quality content from its index. As long as your content is good you should be fine. As with anything Google (or so it seems) the best way to make your content appear as high quality is to get high quality links to your site.

Additionally, Google won't punish you because other sites link to yours. That's out of your control so at worst those links don't help or hurt you. That all changes if you link to any of those sites as you then will have a direct association with them or if you are otherwise found to have an association with them either through ownership or by purchasing those links. But if you're really not associated with those sites or links you'll be ok. And even if I was completely wrong, the quasntity of links is so low they'd still be irrelevant.

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John's answer is now incorrect - Google has a "disavow links" tool as part of Google Webmaster Tools.

Google has stated that a site may receive a penalty if many spammy or "unnatural" links to a page are found. However, if you are signed up for GWT then you will receive a notification there about it.

If you have not received said notification you can ignore the links as they will not be causing you any harm.

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