What are Bad Links and How To Stop Building Them

Have you always wondered what bad links are and how to assess the links of your site or that of your clients’ ? Dylan Adamek, Laura Hogan and Sam McRoberts joined on Tea Time SEO to share their experience and their tips on good and bad links and that middle ground that many in SEO have difficulty in assessing. Dylan has elaborated on his talk in the blog post below:

Google has a pretty clear stance on what they consider to be bad. These are outlined in the Link Scheme section of their Quality Guidelines. Briefly, these are:

  • Buying or selling links that pass page rank.
  • Excessive link exchanges.
  • Large scale article marketing/guest posting, with heavy keyword anchor use.
  • Automated programs or services that create links.
  • Requiring a link as part of your terms of service or user agreement.

However, if you have been focusing on either building links to your site or attempting to clean out your link profile through disavowing, these guidelines don’t always provide the information you need. Here are a few tips that I have picked up over the years working on large scale link audits and manual action removals with my team at MHC.

1. Stop only using tools to create your disavow files

These tools can be helpful to get started but the links that are likely to cause problems require more nuance. Generally, these tools attempt to approximate PageRank, so they can find spam pages but will have a harder time catching the links that are causing manual actions. In my experience, getting rid of these low-quality spam pages has next to no effect on rankings because Google is likely ignoring them already. 

When you’ve written a great piece of content, doing outreach to help garner attention is important. Although, issues can occur when done on too large a scale. Whether you are guest posting or being mentioned in an article, the overuse of keywords can come back to haunt you. The issue of ‘scale’ Google mentions in their guidelines is going to be highly dependent on the size of the backlink profile. Every site is different. Don’t go overboard with outreach because it can lead to an unnatural links penalty. As the content you’ve been promoting has probably received natural links too, these may now look unnatural to Google. Getting rid of the penalty will need many reconsideration requests, weeks of waiting and disavowal of good links, which is never fun.

This is a difficult ask, especially when the difference between a natural and unnatural guest post link is “scale” which again, is different for every site. But for the long term success of your brand, focus on producing the best content you can and reach out to a few quality sites that will link to your piece. From time to time we will have a business owner come to us with an unnatural links penalty, whose site’s rankings were entirely based on purchased links.

Once the penalty is removed, they will never be able to rank where they once did. Bad links do have a lingering effect. It’s Google’s mandate to provide the best possible search results to their users and limit people’s ability to manipulate their way to the top. They address this on both ends of the spectrum, by penalizing or algorithmically suppressing offenders and by implementing new systems like Natural Language Processing and BERT that don’t rely on links as heavily. Google essentially has unlimited resources to tackle this issue and will only get better at this over time. Play the long game and create useful resources for your readers.

Thank you Dylan for the summary. If you want to learn more about bad links and how to stop building them, make sure to rewatch this video on our YouTube channel  or have a read through the presentation on bad links on slideshare.

Don’t forget to sign up to Tea Time SEO and subscribe to our YouTube channel  to stay up to date with the latest and most actionable tips in SEO. See you soon for tea and cake.

Image credit: Sarah Gualtieri on Unsplash

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