Backlinks, also known as “incoming links” or “inbound links” are links from external sources to your website. They are used by search algorithms primarily to rank websites.
In the early stages of SEO, the more inbound links you had, the higher your website ranked on Google search results. In time, due to the widespread use of deceptive link building strategies and link schemes, Google introduced webmaster guidelines to curb the use of “bad” backlinks. In Google’s eyes, “bad” backlinks are links that violate their webmaster guidelines.
Using such links in your SEO campaign can get your site penalized…or worse… banned from Google search results. If you’re not sure about your current linking practices, here are 5 strategies you absolutely must avoid.
1. Purchasing backlinks.
According to Google, purchasing backlinks to boost search ranking is a violation of their webmaster guidelines and any website that are caught implementing this tactic will be penalized. In fact, Google takes purchasing backlinks very seriously – even more serious than other bad linking practices. Most of the sites caught buying such links have lost their ranking for several months and some have never fully recovered. This indicates that buying links leaves an indelible mark on a website’s record.
When you purchase links, often, the company you buy from is a link farm with several hundred low quality sites. The content on these sites is usually very poor and the sites’ authority very low. This means that, although you will receive hundreds of links from diverse sources, the links will be of very low quality and as such can negatively affect your website’s rank.
2. Building backlinks by commenting on websites and forums
Blog and forum commenting were once considered simple and fast ways to build effective backlinks.
When this knowledge became widespread there was massive spamming online as people left irrelevant comments on posts with unrelated links to their sites.
Google introduced Panda and Penguin updates which made the comment backlinks useless.
In addition, Google also doles out penalties to questionable sites that use backlinks from comments.
3. Building backlinks through article directories
Gone are the days when article marketing used to be a highly effective link building strategy. In recent times, since the famous Penguin and Panda updates, Google no longer considers article directories as viable backlink sources. According to the search giant, these directories generate numerous articles on a single topic with little value to the reader.
While there is anecdotal evidence that it can have a short term success on some industry verticals – Google assures us that they are catching up and that it’s definitely not worth the time.
4. Too many backlinks from one domain
When it comes to backlinks, quantity is still important. However, quality and diversity matter much more. Too many links from one source can cause your site to get flagged resulting in a penalty. This is because search engines will suspect foul play.
On some such link or directory domains, you may notice when checking in Search Console that you have 100s of links from the one domain – this usually means that your link will have been added to several related categories, or even worse, on an include file that is populated across the entire site, resulting in an ever increasing number of spammy links.
5.Using backlinks with unrelated keyword anchor texts.
Google first launched the Penguin algorithm in April 2012 to penalize sites that used what it considered “spammy” links to increase their search engine ranking. One of the factors Penguin analyzes to determine whether backlinks used in websites fall in this category is the anchor text.
In order to ensure the links used are natural and not automatically generated or bought from link farms, Penguin (and other search spiders) cross-reference the anchor text with the site’s subject matter and penalize sites with anchor texts that are not related to the content.
Now that you’re up to speed on the strategies to avoid, do you have any dubious links you’d like to remove or modify? Identifying those links doesn’t have to be overwhelming and tedious. Online tools such as SEMrush, Google’s own Search Console and SmallSEOTools can help speed up this process for you. Such tools will also help you spot new unwanted backlinks quickly (from your competitors) and enable you to take decisive action to stave off future negative SEO attacks.