How to identify a good SEO link from a bad one

Posted: 05 Dec 2021

Getting other websites to link to your website is an important factor in improving your rankings in search engines. But when it comes to link building, it’s quality over quantity that matters and not all links are created equal. So what makes a ‘good’ and a ‘bad’ SEO backlink?

There are a number of factors to consider when determining how well a website will rank on Google. As the search giant regularly updates its algorithm, it is useful to stay up-to-date with its rules on website ranking. Google takes into account the quality of the content, the speed and security of your website, user experience, where your site is mobile-friendly, the age and authority of your site and social signals. But one SEO factor has remained pretty constant: the need for backlinks. These are the links coming to your website from other high quality, trusted websites. 

What makes a bad link?

In the world of Google, there are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ links. Google will review your site’s inbound links and if it finds you have a profile full of bad links then it might impose a Google Penalty, which will effectively remove your site from the search results. Unsurprisingly, you categorically do not want bad links on your site! 

A bad backlink is a link that comes from an untrustworthy website. Over the last decade, Google has committed to removing sites with bad links and can detect unnatural link building on a site. 

Before this, website owners were violating Google Webmaster Guidelines with black hat SEO. Essentially, people were paying for links so they would have higher rankings and higher authority. 

Backlink building is a very effective SEO strategy that helps increase your page authority – but only if they come organically from high-quality websites.

How to identify a bad backlink 

There are a number of resources available online to help you identify spam backlinks. Google Search Console, for example, allows you to view a list of websites that link to your site. Generally, most of the links you’ll find here are actually helpful for your SEO, however, there may be links that aren’t trusted and are damaging your site.

If the world of good versus bad backlinks for SEO is a mystery to you, talk to an SEO professional – they understand how search engines view your website and can make changes that will improve your ranking through SEO link building

5 ways to know a link is bad for SEO 

Ask yourself these questions: 

  1. Is this website relevant to mine? If it is, it’s probably a good link. But if there’s no relevance, the link is likely to look like spam to Google.
  2. Is the site trying to sell you a link? Buying backlinks to improve your search rankings is a clear violation of Google’s guidelines. If a site is trying to sell links, keep well away. 
  3. Is the site’s anchor text irrelevant? If the site contains a host of links with anchor text referring to spammy topics, or links to a wide range of irrelevant pages of content, this is a bad link.
  4. Does the site have broken pages? Broken pages indicate that a site isn’t updated regularly, or is not well-maintained. If the site doesn’t look trustworthy, then chances are it probably isn’t.
  5. Does it contain uncurated content? Is the site well-edited by somebody who is ensuring the quality of the content, or is it a ‘free for all’ for users to submit an article stuffed with (bad) links? 

White hat SEO vs black hat SEO 

For long term viability and performance of your website, your link building tactics should be done naturally and follow the guidelines set in place by Google.

‘White hat SEO’ is the process of using organic link building tactics to improve your online visibility in search results. White SEO link building techniques include:

  • Guest posting
  • Promoting your content
  • Creating visuals, such as illustrations and infographics
  • Commenting on high-authority websites and blog posts

‘Black hat SEO’ involve unethical practices that help your website rank in search engines. Google does not approve of these methods and if it finds evidence of you using them on your site, you could receive a penalty. These penalties will negatively impact your rankings and it can be extremely difficult to get back on track with your search strategy. Black hat SEO techniques include:

  • Hidden links
  • Automatically generated content
  • Link schemes
  • Keyword stuffing
  • Irrelevant anchor text

What makes a good backlink?

With all this talk of bad links, you’re probably thinking ‘well how do I get good links to my site?’ The answer is: with patience and time. Good link building is a key cornerstone of a successful SEO strategy, as links continue to be important to Google. Good links aren’t always easy to get, which is why investing in an SEO consultant will give your site a better chance of climbing up the rankings.

How to build good links

To build good links, always adopt the following as standard practice: 

  • Use relevant anchor text 
  • Don’t place links with over-optimised anchor text 
  • Do not use exact match keyword anchor text
  • Get links from good authority sites that are relevant to your sector 

The bottom line

When it comes to link building, there is a right way and a wrong way. Focus on using white hat SEO practices and avoid black hat SEO techniques at all costs to ensure that you avoid Google penalties and improve your ranking and traffic.

If you’re keen to improve your website’s link building and need some expert advice, please get in touch.

You might also be interested in… 

What is link building in SEO?

Is it still worth fixing broken links for SEO?