Could bad backlinks be wrecking your website?


Taking time to disavow backlinks is just as important as investing time and effort into gaining legitimate, high domain authority backlinks to your website.

Creating a tonne of poor quality spam links to your website is a sure way of ruining all the work you’re putting into your SEO and content marketing strategy.

Bad backlinks are usually the result of paying for links from dodgy blog networks or completely irrelevant websites – and is a common practice among the more shady SEO companies out there.

They can get you some results in the short-term, but when Google discovers the link isn’t legitimate – and more often than that it does figure this out – it will not only slap a penalty on the site giving these links, it will also hit the sites it’s linking to.

If you’re one of them, kiss goodbye to your positive search results.

The reason you get penalised is because Google views these paid for links as a sign that the content on your website isn’t good enough to rank or get links on its own, and that they’re essentially trying to game the system and get an unfair advantage.

Just a quick note on ‘paid for links’. The links we’re talking about here aren’t the same as ‘sponsored posts’ that you see on some news or trade websites. In those circumstances, Google recognises that the link is a commercial agreement and the link itself is tagged as such.


But, back to it.


Signs of a bad backlink

Payment for links on blog networks

The first sign that a link might be bad is that you’ve had to pay for it – again unless it’s a sponsored post in which case you’re fine.

The reason payment for a link is something to think about is because a lot of bloggers have spent time setting up networks of ‘blogs’ and websites with the sole purpose of charging for links.

You can usually tell which sites these are because they have content about everything under the sun and there’s no rhyme nor reason why they publish the stuff they do.

These aren’t like news website (which obviously cover a range of topics) which have an obvious structure to them and tabs like “news, local news, business, politics”.

These are websites with just all kinds of articles.

Links in comments

The next thing is any links to your website from the comments section on other websites.

You’ll see these under a lot of articles on sites and usually say things like ‘great article, I did something similar on”

Links that are too ‘product focused’

Optimising links using anchor text is a common practice when it comes to SEO. This is because the anchor text should be relevant, as much as possible, to the content in the link the user will be sent to.

But there is anchor text that is ‘natural’ and anchor text that is ‘over optimised’.

Over-optimised anchor text is anything that is too drilled down and specific. So for us, it would be adding a link using something like “Paramount Digital SEO Services”.

A more natural link, and the kind we pick up the most are simply “Paramount Digital”.

Links on aggregator sites

There are some websites which will scrape the content from other news websites and aggregate them on another site.

Sometimes these sites might look more legitimate because they’re usually scraping content and news on the same topic, like technology news and opinion.

But all these sites are doing is scraping content from other sites and duplicating it on their own.

These are tough, because sometimes you might not even know this is happening and that you’re getting these links, unless you keep an eye on things.

Which bring us on to the next point


Finding bad backlinks

Because the penalties of getting caught out by bad links are severe, and can take a long time to fully put right, it’s important that you keep an eye out for them on a daily basis.

There are plenty of SEO tools available that can help you monitor your site’s backlink profile and keep it clean.

We use ahrefs, which provides a good overview of all the links pointing to your site so you can better understand where you’re getting links from.


Getting rid of bad backlinks

If you suspect that a link to your website is from a blog network or is going to harm your website, the simplest way to get the link removed is to contact the website linking to you and asking them to remove it.

Just be aware that most of these websites won’t respond to you. So don’t just send an email and then expect the link to disappear.

We’ve even heard of some sites asking for payments for links to be removed. 

Failing that, Google has its own “Disavow Links Tool” which you can use.

Again, this isn’t fool proof and the tool is actually more of a strong suggestion to Google to disavow and ignore certain links pointing to your website – there’s no 100% guarantee that it will work.

The actual process is pretty easy.

You need to create a text file with all the links or domains pointing to your website that you want to disavow, and submit the list to Google through the Search Console.


Should you disavow a link or not?

This is the big question. To answer this you need to understand what a low quality link is.

A simple way to judge is to simply ask is the link relevant to your site and to your users? And is it from a reputable website?

If the answer to this is no, then it’s probably worth getting rid of the link.

For example, getting a link to an accountancy firm’s website from a fashion blog probably isn’t going to relevant.


Don’t be tempted to go for the short-term win

Like everything with SEO, building links organically is a long-term process.

While buying tonnes of links from dodgy websites might have worked in the past, Google is a lot smarter than it used to be, and has put enormous amounts of resources into discovering bad practices quicker.

If your website goes from zero links to hundreds quickly, you risk flagging yourself to Google as a potential link cheat, and the punishments aren’t worth the risk.

If you’re thinking about building links to your website and are looking for some advice on how to do it properly, or are looking for a partner to help you do it, get in touch with us.

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