As mentioned earlier, spammy backlinks usually originate from spammy websites. If you find that term vague, here are a few possible places where your website’s spammy backlinks live or originate from:
If your website has existed since before the Penguin update, there is a chance that you or whoever was managing your SEO at the time may have unknowingly secured some spammy links.
Guest posting is perhaps one of the most well-known tactics for building quality backlinks. However, when you are guest posting often, things can become grey without warning. You may find yourself creating low quality links either unknowingly, or because you are a beginner that just got a taste of a traffic spike from a backlink.
Whatever the case may be, you must absolutely avoid the following when you are looking for guest posting opportunities:
Posting on article websites and blog networks is not the only way to purchase links on the web. A much ‘safer’ way is to purchase links from a variety of different websites.
However, this process involves multiple steps (content production, outreach, negotiation, and payment) and is often dependent on multiple individuals that usually don’t work for you.
For instance, you have no control on the activities of the website you purchase a link from. Similarly, if you are using an external partner to secure paid links, you cannot truly ensure that they are doing it in an inconspicuous manner.
While Google doesn’t yet have a bulletproof way to detect paid links, some such links are easier to spot than the others. When Google does find out that a website has been engaging in paid link building, the search engine giant is known to impose heavy penalties.
The risk with purchasing links is that it is not necessary for someone on your team to mess up and negatively affect your website’s rankings. Anyone involved in the process, including websites that sell links and middlemen that help you secure links can screw up and the repercussions can trickle down to your website.
In other words, it is possible to purchase links ‘safely’ but it requires you to trust a bunch of strangers (in most cases).
The case is even more risky when it comes to exchanging links through link schemes as there are several more people involved in such schemes. If you are engaged in a link exchange scheme, remember that even if one person slips up, there is a good chance that your website may attract a penalty.
Getting links from press release websites is another popular way to secure genuinely valuable links. However, not all news websites work in the same way.
The ones that genuinely have the kind of reputation that can benefit your website often have stringent quality and information verification standards. These standards are often so stringent that they discourage link spammers.
It is always easier for spammers to reach out to low quality news websites that don’t ask for sources of information or high quality content. Moreover, it is easier for spammers to convince these websites that a website redesign of an unknown business or brand is newsworthy.
However, the links you get from low-quality press syndication are often not indexed or hold no real SEO value. This means that while this tactic may not result in a website penalty, the time and effort you expend in securing such links will not result in any benefits for your website.
We have already spoken about how links from link farms have been devalued by Google.
In some cases, getting backlinks from link farms may even result in short term SEO gains but using such websites is definitely not a sustainable or ethical way to build backlinks.
Backlinks from business directories have been a point of debate for quite some time. This is because there are high quality directories like Yelp that follow strict quality standards. On the other hand, there are also business directories that exist only to give out backlinks.
As a result, Google has decided to devalue links from certain business directories. Another reason for directory links to offer little to no benefits is the high number of outgoing links that directories have. This means that the ‘link juice’ is actually being divided among all the outgoing links. For instance, if you get a link from a directory that has 1000 outgoing links, then the value of the link juice for you would be 1/1000.
When you consider the above standards for directory listings, you will end up eliminating most of the directories that you may have been considering. That’s a good thing. There is afterall, no benefit of getting a backlink from a directory that Google has deindexed.
As an SEO beginner, getting links from forums may seem like a ‘hidden opportunity’ but it is actually far from even being a legin opportunity to get a backlink.
The logic is simple. Forums, much like social media websites, have very little control over the quality of links being posted on them by the users. Just about anyone can get a backlink from a forum.
For this reason, Google has deindexed links coming from most forums. Once again, this means that while these links will not hurt your website’s SEO results, they won’t contribute to them either.
Blog commenting used to be a popular link building strategy up until a few years ago. The reason for this popularity was simple- it is incredibly easy to get a backlink from an unmoderated comment section.
However, the catch is, most unmoderated comment sections have hundreds, sometimes thousands of outgoing links.
Moreover, most websites that have unmoderated comment sections are usually low-quality websites.
These two reasons together mean that getting links from unmoderated comment sections is probably not a good idea.
Now that we know where spammy links originate, you can actively work towards avoiding them.
However, as mentioned earlier, there’s a chance that your website already has a few spammy backlinks pointing towards it. Even if you have been walking on the straight and narrow and have never used a blackhat SEO technique, you may have attracted certain backlinks because of negative SEO practices done by some unethical competitors.
Let’s see how you can identify them and prevent them from hurting your website’s SEO results.
In many cases, you may benefit from a backlink from an unrelated website. For instance, a link from your local NGO’s website or from a local government authority website will result in SEO benefits regardless of whether their niche is related to yours or not.
However, the examples mentioned above are perhaps the only cases where a link from a website that has nothing to do without a niche will not hurt the results of your SEO efforts.
The most commonly made mistake in this respect happens when websites start securing reciprocal links. Such link swaps, where you link to someone’s website and they link to you, make almost perfect sense in the case of niche related websites. Just like your website is expected to attract backlinks from others’ websites, it is natural that you will link to them.
However, when such reciprocal links are noticed between websites that are not related to each other, Google treats it as unnatural link building and may end up hitting you with a penalty.
If your website is in the English language, Google will expect most links to come from other websites that use the same language.
An exception to this rule can be in the case where a business website is serving users in a different country. However, even in such cases, Google will expect your website to get links from websites that use the same language as the people who make up most of your online audience. Meaning, if most of your audience is in France and your website or business is in the UK, Google will expect you to get links from websites in French and in English.
If your website has backlinks from a website that uses, say, Japanese, it will take notice and assume that something fishy is going on. If Google’s algorithms notice several links coming from such websites, it will start devaluing the links in your backlink profile.
As mentioned earlier, guest posting is an excellent way to secure some great, authority enhancing backlinks for your website, but only when done correctly.
Looking at how excellent a backlink building strategy guest posting is, some businesses tend to go overboard with it. Meaning, they only focus on the numbers and often overlook the quality of the content they are producing or the websites they are working with.
To avoid getting your website de-indexed or your backlinks devalued, make sure you are only guest posting on niche related, high authority websites with (mostly) branded anchors. Don’t focus on numbers or on building links using exact match anchor texts.
If you are consistent with your efforts, Google will take notice and you will, in turn, notice an improvement in your organic traffic numbers.
So far, we have discussed a variety of spammy websites including link farms, low quality business directories, and link exchange networks.
However, there are a couple of other types of spammy websites like porn websites and gambling websites. Don’t get me wrong, if you have a website that operates in one of those niches (I hear they are incredibly profitable), getting backlinks from other similar websites will make a lot of sense.
However, if you have a ‘legitimate’ business, you must ensure you are not attracting (or even giving out) links from such websites.