Bad backlinks, also referred to as low quality or unnatural links, are a frequent subject of discussion in the digital marketing world. With Google continuously updating their algorithm to provide a better experience for their users, old habits in SEO, such as blackhat SEO tactics and link purchasing, have resulted in penalties today. Many of these blackhat SEO tactics have caused websites to tank in the search engine result pages and unable to recover. For many website or business owners, it meant starting fresh and building their quality again.
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Buying backlinks was a strategy website owners used to achieve returns in the short, but with today’s search engine algorithms, you’d want to avoid these unnatural links. These unnatural link will only cause you to lower your sites quality, relevance, and position in the search engine result pages. So, how can you identify the low quality backlinks connected to your site? More importantly, how can you remove these backlinks to recover your site? This article focuses on ways you can build great and natural backlinks without having to buy them.
How to Identify a Low-Quality Backlink
Good links distinguish from bad links based on the quality of the website they come from. Bad backlinks can be found easily – you just need to follow the link to the site and find out its content and whether the presence of the link there would ruin your credibility. Here are a few websites you should look out for:
You can use MajesticSEO’s site explorer to analyze the backlinks of your website. Combining two qualities, Citation flow and Trust flow, you can get a comprehensive view of the quality of your profile. The citation flow gives a count of the number of links within a site, while the trust flow measures the level of authority that the site that links to you has. MajesticSEO assigns this authority level based on a number of factors. The lower the citation and trust numbers, the lower the quality of links.
Ahrefs is a premium tool that has among the biggest live inbound link index for websites. It works by running backlink checks 4 times every hour to updates its repertoire. It is a favorite tool for website owners and SEO professionals given that it has a friendly UI, and is convenient and simple for those with limited technical expertise. Ahrefs provides valuable data on anchors, best pages, new backlinks, internal links and domains linking to a site. You can also check keyword competition and rankings.
- Open Site Explorer by Moz
Open Site Explorer was developed by Moz and is a favorite for SEO professionals and webmasters. It has both free and premium options for analytical and backlink checking services. The former allows three backlink searches daily while the latter offers unlimited backlink search capability. In addition, the premium version comes with more diagnostic tools and features to enable you to carry out competitor link profiling among other important SEO strategies.
Analyzing the Different Types of Backlinks
There are different types of backlinks connected to your website. When looking at the link analysis, you want to identify the good from the bad. Here are a few types:
- Websites existing solely for SEO linking purposes
If you see that a website has numerous backlinks that lack any form of structure, cohesiveness, or quality, it’s very likely that such a site has been set up only to give links to other sites. If the site uses WordPress CMS, you’ll most likely notice it lacks features and uses a simple default theme. These sites don’t have links from other sites or they are part of a suspicious network of sites designed for linking with each other.
- Links in comments of other sites’ posts
These may come by the dozens, especially for the bigger sites. Often, automated bots would comment on websites and leave a link with it. These comments are usually very generic, such as ‘very informative article,’ ‘great piece,’ or ‘really appreciate this article’, etc. However, some comments may come from readers that are meaning to share a link with you. Therefore, it’s important to look over the comments or approve comments before having them on your site. This way, you can avoid having unnecessary or spammy comments.
- Over-optimized anchor link texts
Commonly, you’ll expect that the link text for a website on another site would be the website name i.e. ‘Domain Name’ where the URL is www.domainname.com. If the websites that link to your site use an exact set of keywords, this can look suspicious to search engines, and is mostly the practice of shady agents. Therefore, its recommended to use anchor texts that make sense and only make relevant links to other websites.
Maybe one or two sites can use a keyword, but it is expected that most of the natural/organic links will be referenced using your website name or just the direct URL.
- Links found in duplicate texts
The websites that have been set up solely for SEO linking won’t have coherent content and sometimes, they may include content lifted from other sites. This is a common practice for black hat SEO tactics, which create dummy sites according to industry-specific subjects, so that links can look related to those appearing in the quality websites. Also, Google dislikes duplicate content. Therefore, you want to create original content for your own site and avoid duplicates from other sites. If you have certain elements taken from a site, it’s important to cite it and give credit where necessary.
- Links from vastly varied geographical location
Sometimes, there are links that connect to you from different countries and languages. It would make sense if they are from a similar industry and citing you as an authoritative reference in their article. However, sometimes these links are connected to websites that are completely irrelevant, which makes the link low quality and suspicious.
How to Remove Bad Quality Backlinks
You now know what links are good to have and which are not. You’ve identified the bad ones, and want to get rid of them – how will you go about it? There are many ways to disable these links so that they will no longer affect your ratings negatively.
- Contact the owner
This is the easiest. You contact the owner of the site and request (not demand) that the link be removed. You should be ready for some shady webmasters who will demand a payment in order to remove the link or those who don’t respond at all. You don’t have to pay. You can disavow the links that you don’t want to have.
- Remove the pages
If the links are pointing back to a low quality content page within your site, you can remove the pages using 404 or 410 reports rather than the links. However, you should use this very sparingly, because if you have too many 404 reports, that will also give Google the wrong picture. The best thing for low quality is to rewrite the page that is low quality to make it better, then disavow the unnatural links.
- Start over
If the problem is too deep-sated as well as time- and resource-consuming to solve, you can shut down the site and begin afresh. This is very drastic and it should be a final option after penalization on Penguin, Panda or a manual penalty. You definitely would not want to go through this route. However, you should speak with a good, reputable SEO company for professional opinion to see if there are any possibilities to recover your site.
- Disavow everything
If the bad links are just too many and you’re not getting anywhere with the webmasters, you can simply disavow the links, which is sending a message to Google that you don’t want those links considered when your site is being evaluated for indexing.
When looking at the backlinks for your site, make sure you identify the good from the bad. You want to remove bad backlinks from your website before it’s too late to recover your site. Let me know in the comments below your experience with bad backlinks. If you’ve received any penalties, how did you recover them?
I’ve seen some of these dummy SEO sites first hand, and I also know that it’s nearly impossible to get a webmaster who owns one to remove your links. The sad part is that many of your links end up on these sites as a result of an attempt to purchase backlinks to help boost your ratings.
If you want your site to flourish honestly, you have to build it honestly. The shortcuts will just make it harder to do your job right later.