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How to Avoid Backlinks that will hurt your Website Ranking

Google's Algorithm Updates

A couple years ago Google changed it's algorithm to try and prevent websites from gaining any benefit from selling links by removing the PR (Page Rank) from most link pages on the Internet (which included link pages in directories). Google also encouraged the use of "rel="nofollow" on outgoing links if site owners wanted to preserve the PR on their web pages.

Recently, due to Google's Panda and Penguin algorithm updates, now even link trades, or other forms of what used to be acceptable methods of gaining links, are being filtered out of search results if they encompass a high percentage (or ratio) of your overall link profile. In other words, Google is able to recognize and filter out a major portion of your traffic if it finds unnatural patterns in backlinks on your site. The links coming into your website should be from quality sites with relevant content (not content or link farms) and it must not look like you paid someone to do it or that you did it yourself.

What Google wants to see now is "organic" links, i.e., the incoming links look as natural as possible, preferably within the content of a page. When Google is looking at your linking profile it doesn't like it when you always use the same words in the anchor text of the link, or when you link to the same page all the time (other than your home page or using your business name). Of course the best way to get these is to produce something that people find very useful that they link to on their own, such as helpful tips, tutorials, videos, etc.

If your website has dropped in rank in Google recently it may be due to either a penalty, being filtered out of results, or a majority of your backlinks no longer being counted due to the sites you got backlinks from were penalized so their links no longer produce any value for your site. Which of course means that you need more better quality links.

Backlinks to Avoid

Be cautious about submitting your website if any of the following backlink methods occur (You may need to view source code to find some of them):
  • Only submit to directories relevant to your niche.
  • Don't submit to sites that aren't relevant to the focus of your site.
  • Avoid pages with links inside of frames (this will steal your traffic).
  • Don't submit to blog networks and limit blog rolls
  • Don't submit to article networks (they post your article to multiple sites).
  • Don't let anyone link to you from every page of their website (sitewide links unless they are nofollowed).
  • Free for All Links - they allow anyone to post a link unreviewed which results in unrelated and spammy links (banned by search engines and may also affect your site if you link to it).
  • Link farms - 100 or more unrelated links on a page (banned by search engines and also your site if you link to it).
  • Bad Neighborhoods - Poooorrrrnnnooo or gammmmbling or drug sites (banned by search engines and also your site if you link to it)
  • "I'll link to your website if you link to my other website over there" is called a Triangular Linking Scheme (can cause your website to be penalized or banned).
  • The site has a network of mirror sites with exact same web links (these sites may be banned and your link on their site will produce no benefit).
  • Avoid submitting to directories that don't review submissions and let anyone in.
  • Avoid submitting to directories that have several Google ads disguised to look like their own content above the other links as they are likely to be penalized.
  • The link page or directory is not linked from their home page or site map (search engines won't find your link).
  • If the website is supposedly a directory but you have to search to find anything, then it's a dynamic site that has no static pages and your site won't be found by Search engines.
  • If the backlinks on the page have a rel="nofollow" tag on them the search engines won't give you credit for the PR (page rank). Some directories are doing this to protect the PR of their page (it won't provide PR but may bring you traffic). However, even though most local sites put "nofollow" on the link, it can still help your ranking a little bit (called a citation) so don't ignore those.
  • The website takes forever to load (too many ad banners, etc.) and search engines won't wait which means they won't index your link on their page if it's at the bottom of the page.
  • The website is poorly designed and has broken code, etc.
  • Avoid sites that insist on a link trade as the only option because search engines may devalue all their links when all their links are traded.
  • Don't submit to sites that have no contact page in case you want to remove the link later.
You can check to see if a site has disallowed search engines from following a page by checking their robots.txt (enter www.TheirDomain.com/robots.txt). If you see anything like "Disallow: (with the url for the page your backlink would be on)" then they have told search engines to not follow the links on that page.

SEOMOZ set up a list of directories that have been penalized or banned by Google. You might check this list occasionally to see if it's updated.

If your site was hit with a Penguin penalty for having too many unnatural links check this article to see how to Recover from Penguin.

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Lori Eldridge
Copyright © 7-5-01, updated 3-6-15
All rights reserved.

For submission tips see:
Getting Good Backlinks
Directories that Pass PR

Technology that Blocks Some Search Engines
Dynamic Pages vs Static Pages
Keyword Strategies
Maximize the Title Tag
How to Get Good Backlinks
Submitting websites to Search Engines and Directories
How Long Does It take to Rank in Google

Return to Search Engine Optimization Tips

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