How to spot a bad backlink

One of the most popular questions recently has been ‘have I got any bad backlinks?’ and the answer inevitably, no matter which client has asked the question, has been yes. You see it doesn’t matter how careful you are there will always be some links back to your site which you would rather not have and that’s just the nature of the internet. If we decide today to put a link out to a website there’s nothing the site owner can do about this.

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If however you are building backlinks yourself or asking an agency to do this for you then there are certain ‘no no’s’ which you should look out for.

Google quite helpfully supply a list of things they don’t want to see in a backlink profile including;

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  • Text advertisements that pass PageRank
  • Links that are inserted into articles with little coherence
  • Low-quality directory or bookmark site links
  • Links embedded in widgets that are distributed across various sites
  • Widely distributed links in the footers of various sites
  • Forum comments with optimized links in the post or signature
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BacklinksAll of these are regarded by Google as an attempt to manipulate your backlink profile and should be avoided, but what can you do if years of link building have left your profile littered with this type of link?

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Well the first thing is that if you haven’t already been penalised then act now as the net is currently closing around sites that have done this for many years. Those currently at the top of the SERPS will quickly find they are losing position and market share as the site drops down the rankings. You can look for free at your top backlinks on tools like Opensite Explorer which will give you a nice high level view of what is going on.

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To spot whether the links you have are good or bad try the following;

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  • Are the links you are looking at in the country in which you do business? If you are a local business serving Worcester then consider why you would have backlinks from websites in Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Hong Kong or the Philippines?
  • Do you have a lot of sites linking to you with the word ‘seo’ in the domain name? These are typically directory sites and carry little value.
  • Do you have a lot of sites with the word ‘directory’ in the domain name? A lot of these could find you penalised by Google for breaching their guidelines.
  • Do you have any links from sites with odd names like www.xyhgnet09.com? It is unlikely that they will be any good.
  • Do you have links from sectors which are clearly not the one you operate in? If you are involved in engineering then it is unlikely that you will have lots of backlinks from beauty salons, gyms and health spas’ (unless of course you make something for them!)
  • Do you have any links with the word ‘forum’ in the domain name? Check to make sure that the links from these aren’t simply tucked in the footer of a forum post i.e. ‘great article, I’ll be sure to bookmark this and come back spamkeyword here’
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There are of course far more checks that need to be done to be sure that you don’t breach any guidelines but these simply checks will give you an idea as to whether you will need to take a deeper look at your backlinks.

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If you think that your backlink profile is poor and needs attention then talk to a professional for an opinion and options on clean up. Better now than waiting for Google to penalise your site.