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Are Backlinks Bad Links?

By | 10.24.13
Are Backlinks Bad Links?

Google Webmaster Tools - Links to your SiteIf you have hired an SEO company that has promised to make your local business website “#1 in Google”, they may have used some unethical or “black hat” tactics to improve your site’s ranking. Google is constantly updating their algorithm to penalize sites that try to inflate their rankings by buying links and your site may have lost traffic during Google’s Panda or Penguin updates.

What Is a Backlink?

A back link is just a link from another website to yours. The other website is linking back to your website, creating a backlink. Just like you create links on your site to other sites that you find interesting or that have content relevant to your visitors, you need to create good content to encourage other sites to link to you.

What makes a backlink bad or good is where the link is coming from. Sites that less than reputable SEO firms use to create a multitude of links are usually in forums, blog comments and content farms, which are not actually helping visitors find the information that they’re looking for. This is the type of behavior that Google frowns upon and the areas of the Internet that you might consider bad neighborhoods. You don’t want your site associated with bad neighborhoods, because the association will have a detrimental effect on your site.

Google has created a way to disassociate yourself with these bad links by using a process in Webmaster tools to find bad links and contact the websites to request that they remove the links from their sites. If they don’t respond or remove the links, you can ask Google to remove the association between the link and your site, but it can be a long arduous process, especially if your SEO “help” has purchased lots of links.

website backlinks searchGood Links

As a business website, there are many reputable places where you can submit your information and obtain good links back to your website. These links confirm to Google that your website is the recognized source for information on your business. You can find out more about submitting your website to online directories in Scott Stirling‘s article on finding free online advertising for your business.

The following are reputable online directories where you can submit your business information to get good links back to your site, as well as provide accurate information to visitors who are searching the directories for businesses like yours. Most of these directories will already have some information on your business, but by claiming the account as the business owner, you can make sure the information is accurate and add additional information, such as your website, hours of operation, services you offer and much more.

In short, while you need to make sure you don’t have any bad backlinks pointing at your site, you definitely should make sure that you have good links coming from established sites that Google trusts.

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  • PliSsK

    Do you consider low grade business directories to be bad backlinks? Or only if they associate terms like ‘pharmacy’ with one’s web site (even if it has nothing to do with it)? I understand Google is downgrading directories in general as they tend to offer little new content so I wouldn’t be surprised if they treated backlinks from such sites as less high quality compared with others. What is your opinion of this please? Thanks.

    • Low grade business directories are not always considered bad backlinks. It depends on how you are calculating what is “low grade”. There are lots of trade-specific, niche-related directories that could be relevant to a business. In those cases, I don’t think that the link/citation would be considered “bad”, even though the website itself might not have high page rank, moz rank, etc. The main issues that the search engines are looking for, are the irrelevant, off-topic ones. They are looking for the “farms” that try to incorporate links to a broad variety of topics and subjects. They are looking for the exact match anchor links that are done in bulk. A natural link profile will always have a mixture of sites from all popularity, sizes, ranks, and “value”.

      • PliSsK

        This is true. I would not categorise some of the more well known trade/industry specific directories as being ‘low grade’. I guess I’m thinking of two different examples here, my personal web site and my company web site. As often happens directory listings are automatically created for many companies on various generic business directories, and for my business I’ve been claiming these and editing the details to keep them current. I may well use some of the directories mentioned in this blog. I am guessing that maybe in the future google may alter the way it treats directory listing links, but who knows, this is pure speculation.

        The example I was referring to in my OP was really about my personal web site whereby the URL was previously owned by a business in the US and had been associated with ‘pharmacy’ in a number of listings – not in the html link tag but in that category on the page. These I assumed were hurting my personal site’s rankings and I requested to have the URL removed in each instance (a lengthy process). I have never engaged in this type of link farm activity with any of my sites so don’t suppose I would be penalised on this count, but I was just a bit hesitant about the whole ‘pharmacy’ association with my personal web site.

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