Backlinks are an essential part of your online reputation and search engine optimization (SEO) efforts. A backlink or inbound link occurs when another website links to your website. Unfortunately, some links can harm your reputation and cause you to incur various penalties.
Search engines use the incoming links to determine whether your site is trustworthy and providing value to the public.
The links serve as social proof from others that your website is reputable. This determination is crucial as it will impact your SEO efforts and the rank the search engines will give you.
To get links from other trusted, authoritative, or popular websites, you need to invest some effort into particular link-building activities.
While many of the links come to you organically, most times, you must build your own connections to those highly rated sites. You can get backlinks by guest blogging, positioning yourself as an industry expert, and using backlinks tools.
Getting these inbound links will benefit you in several ways:
- they will boost your SEO efforts;
- you’ll receive a higher rank in search results;
- the website will get referral traffic;
- external links expose your website to broader audiences;
- connections to reputable sites make your site look reputable.
Due to the level of influence these backlinks have, it’s no wonder that search companies like Google don’t take link-abuse lightly.
Keep reading to learn the types of backlinks to avoid and steps you can take to protect yourself.
Backlinks That Are Dangerous to Your Online Reputation
Managing your online reputation is not about focusing on your brand only but also your standing in relation to other companies.
Only five percent of online users go beyond page one of Google, and this means you cannot take the risk of ranking low in search results. A lower ranking also implies a much lower click-through-rate, which will damage your brand and cost you a lot of revenue.
As such, you should be very careful in your link-building efforts. Google’s algorithm checks for attempts to influence search results, and they don’t hesitate to punish any offenders. An example of punishment can be downgrading your search ranking for one or multiple pages.
You’ll likely face one of two penalties: manual or automatic.
Google’s Search Quality Team will notify you if you get a manual penalty and tell you why they are punishing you. The problem could be a bad link, broken links, or even spam links. Even so, you’ll at least be aware of the issue, and you can attempt to fix it or ask for a re-evaluation.
Automatic penalties occur when the Google algorithms spot something wrong with your site. Penguin and Panda algorithms look at website links and content quality, and penalties may comprise decreased traffic and downranking. Your problem could be irrelevant links, unnatural links, using Blackhat SEO techniques, or posting inferior quality content.
A web page receives more organic traffic from Google if it has credible inbound links. Below are several types of backlinks you should know to avoid harming your reputation:
Unnatural links look like an attempt to manipulate PageRank, a Google algorithm for website placement in search engine results. Examples of artificial links include link swaps, automated links, and links from shady websites.
Swapping links is an attempt to game the system by exchanging credible links. This will count against you, especially if the links are irrelevant to your niche or if you use a high number of them in your content.
Rushed link building appears unnatural or automated. It makes Google question if you’re trying to take advantage of their algorithms. If you’re forcing links into your content, you’ll be penalized for unnatural connections.
Low-quality backlinks come from shady, unrelated, unprotected, and unethical websites. These are sites with:
- plagiarized, hacked, or spun content;
- malware and low antivirus ratings in search results;
- spam and scams;
- adult material;
- hidden scripts and links.
Some low-quality links come from purchased or rented links. People buy these from various web directories. The bad news is the web directories may not have a high rating with Google, which means using those links will hurt your site. The sites full of malware will also be under review, so it’s best to steer clear.
Discussion Forum Links
Forum discussion links only become a problem for your site if they come from disreputable sites. They can be in the form of spammy links or hidden links in the signature portion of usernames.
Some of these links raise red flags because they appear automated, whereas Google wants incoming links to be organic.
Links From Foreign Guestbooks
A webmaster may collect and store names and details from foreign online visitors as part of the site analysis and improvement efforts. Yet, foreign language links are not useful to your users since people prefer links to sites using the same language as the one on your website.
For example, if your website is in English, Google may flag your site if you receive inbound links from sites with link endings such as .ru (Russian) or .de (German). Those links will look like paid manipulative links or links irrelevant to your site.
Links From Fiverr or Other Cheap Link Services
Sites like Fiverr have users offering to get backlinks for you at a low price. Links obtained from Fiverr users are harmful and will come from unethical sites or banned sites. Their usual approach is to post links in forums and blogs, which won’t benefit you in the long run.
Other services that set off red flags at Google are when people use cheap link schemes to build their links. These schemes go against the search guidelines, and punishment will be forthcoming.
A successful link building strategy involves giving useful public content and a seamless user experience on your site. You should replace broken links, and connect with other bloggers in your niche.
If you build genuine relationships and provide useful content, most bloggers will happily link back to you if they think their readers would enjoy your content.
Protect Your Online Reputation
The tips above will safeguard your reputation and boost your online profile.
Study the Webmaster Guidelines from Google to understand their expectations for website quality. It will show you how to provide a better user experience, which is what they use to reward you with a better online ranking. The goal is to create content for users, not for search engines.
Perform a site audit and remove bad, malicious, spammy, and hidden script links. Disavow links from disreputable sites and have a system for approving user-generated links. Check Google’s webmaster options to review links from other sites. If you spot harmful backlinks, contact webmasters and ask them to remove the links.
Don’t rush the link building process. Take your time and build an archive of valuable optimized content. Remove the cheaper lower-quality content to avoid alerting the search algorithms. Hire content experts to generate content useful to your online ranking or rewrite old content that’s undermining your SEO goals.
Avoid using other sites you own to link to each other. This practice is unethical, and Google will flag your site. Serve your audience by posting outbound links to other sites that’ll provide them with extra information.
Talk to Google representatives if necessary and see if you can sort out some of their quality concerns. They may reconsider and restore your rank.
Ultimately, if you keep your link building organic and ethical, you’ll be able to build a healthy and lasting backlink profile.
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