Defining a BAD Backlink

I’ve been training some newbies in the office this week to help with a particularly colossal link removal job that we inherited. And now it’s out there in the open that bad links hurt domains and yet a lot of webmasters still don’t get it.

A lot of the people we contact seem to think that their spammy network of directories is helping our sites rankings and not hurting them. And many webmasters are still paying for the awful services of those who place them to begin with.

So this article is for those of you who don’t really know too much, don’t bury your head in the sand ask for a link report and check it against what you learn here. If you’re an industry vet, go get a cup of coffee, watch a movie or something, but you should sit this one out.

1. Anything on a directory (excluding the good ones – if you’re not sure odds are if it isn’t Yahoo! or Dmoz it probably isn’t good).

2. Mass Social Bookmark Spam – If you’re building this. Don’t. If you have built this, odds are you will struggle to get it down, but try. In most cases this is obviously not natural, have a look at the account it’s from, if it isn’t populated or hasn’t been updated

3. Forum Spam – If what’s written doesn’t add value to the thread and is from an account with limited posts that you don’t own. Ask for it to be taken down. You should be able to tell if it looks natural by looking at it.

4. Sidebar and Blogroll links –Almost always bad, the best way to judge is asking if you fit in with the rest of the blog/links in the Blogroll. If they are an affiliate then you’re probably ok. If they’re not. Then odds are no.

5. Obvious Spam Flags – for example the big PPC – not the adwords kind the other kind the pills, porn and casino kind, whilst ok if you’re in one of these industries it won’t be a bad thing as long as there aren’t terms from the other two littered around where your links are.

6. Too many links – you know how many looks natural, we all do, if the links don’t add value and there are a lot. Then ask for yours to be removed. It will be spam flagged and is a bad link.

7. Networks – these can be hard to spot if you don’t spend every day of your life on the web. However there are several tricks, if you think a group of websites look similar then check the IPs (if they’re the same) and look to see if they’re interlinking.

8. Links in scraped/spun content – if the content is poorly written or duplicate these are not good links. Get rid of them.

9. Links in irrelevant content – the worst offender I’ve seen for this is in the Bingo sector. They use Bingo in a generic sentence ie “I was walking to the shops and Bingo! I found a tenner” this is of course not natural and thus a bad link.

10. Article Directories – the big ones are fine as long as the content is good, but best to steer clear if you don’t know what you’re doing and there isn’t much real benefit to be had here anyway.

11. Dropped Domains – whilst not automatically bad, check archive.org, if it was dropped 1 month a go and has good metrics, but there’s a new site on it don’t expect those metrics to stick around. If it’s been something else for a long time and is being used properly, it’s probably fine.

12. This last tip is kind of the opposite of the 1st 9 – Just because a site is ugly or old doesn’t make it bad. In fact it is quite often the contrary. So DO NOT judge based on looks.

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