How Bad Backlinks Could Ruin Your SEO

Category: SEO

It wasn’t all that long ago that links were king in SEO, and to an extent they still are. Having high-quality incoming links from sites that are closely related to your niche is a good way to grow your presence online and to improve your position in the search engines.

It’s easy for novice marketers to fall into the trap of assuming that any link is a good link, but that’s not the case. The emphasis should be on the quality of the links coming in, and how closely they relate to your niche. Bad links could actually harm the perception that the search engines have of you and which any professional SEO company will know.

Broken Links Annoy Visitors

One common pitfall is for webmasters to set up a site, build links, redesign the site, and then delete some pages that they don’t use any more. What they’re forgetting is that broken links will irritate your users, and the search engine spiders will pick up on them too, and potentially de-value your site because of them. The search engines want to be known as services that will help people to reach really interesting and engaging content. They want their users to have a good experience, and that can’t happen if the search engine is presenting them with a lot of broken links.

You can mitigate this issue by setting up something to catch broken links and present the user with useful information instead of a 404 page. Use 301 redirects where possible. Long-term, however, it is better to get all broken links updated to point to a better page.

Bought Links Will Ruin Your Reputation

In the 90s and 00s, there was a trend towards buying links to sites that were similar to yours, or engaging in a link triangle, or even more sophisticated network, where you will link to one site, then the owner of that site will give you a back link from another one of their sites. The idea is to fool the search engines into think that the links are all ‘organic’, rather than paid for or a part of a link trading scheme.

This algorithm takes into account hundreds of different elements of a webpage. These ranking factors are used to determine the authority, credibility and relevance of webpages. The most common ranking factors known to webmasters include backlinks, keywords, page speeds and mobile friendliness.

The search engines are more sophisticated than you think, and their algorithms are good at catching that sort of thing. Trading links and buying links creates what is known as an “unnatural looking link profile”, and no good SEO service would advocate for this. You will end up with lots of links pointing to the promoted pages (often the home page). If you let your links grow organically, then they will point to specific products, articles and other pages all over the site.

Directories and Spam Pages Are Harmful

There was a period when disreputable SEO services would say “we will get you 5000 links in no time”. You can still find the occasional SEO company that does that sort of thing even today. Those links typically come from link farms, and Google will notice that you are trying to inflate the number of links you have by using those services. Link farms will get you penalised quite severely. Especially if you end up with links that are on a page that is full of adult, gambling, or otherwise controversial links.

A good SEO company understands the importance of relevance and quality. A handful of high-quality links from pages that are closely related to your niche is worth a lot more than a large number of directory, article marketing, forum spam or blog spam links. Indeed, it’s not just ‘the links’ that matter. If you are fortunate enough to get a link from a respected blogger who has written a long and informative guide that mentions your brand alongside other, much more respected brands then that will really help to boost your reputation.

If you aren’t sure where to start with SEO, then don’t rush out and try using link building tools yourself. It’s easy to cross over the line from ‘assertive link building’ to spam. Working with a qualified SEO professional will give you a much better chance of achieving link building success.

Recovering From Bad Backlinks

If you mistakenly acquired a huge number of ‘bad’ backlinks and your site has been penalised, then it is possible to recover from the penalty if you can remove or disavow the bad links. The major search engines understand that external links are not always within your control, and that ‘bad’ SEO could actually be the work of a rival that is trying to conduct a negative SEO campaign against you, or someone simply maliciously targeting sites for fun. Because of this potential threat, it’s difficult to end up with a site that is close to ‘un-recoverable’ in the eyes of the search engines. There is always a way back, even if the road to positive rankings is a long one for a site with a poor link profile.