While building backlinks is vital for boosting your domain authority and getting higher rankings, there are some backlinks that you must avoid. Bad links can cause you to drop in the rankings and even get you penalized by Google – a total ban from the search results.
Here are eight kinds of links you should always avoid. While getting them is sometimes easier than getting high-quality links, it’s not worth it in the long run. Remember, quality wins over quantity in backlink building, so invest extra effort and money into your backlink strategy.
1. Links From Comments and Forums
In the past, leaving comments on blogs was an effective way to get backlinks. You could leave a link in the comment itself or link your Gravatar username to your website. People would even set up bots to leave generic comments on hundreds of blogs saying things like, “Interesting content!” — to get a backlink.
However, it’s no longer a viable strategy. WordPress started making all links in the comment section nofollow by default long ago. In addition, anti-spam filters have gotten better at detecting comments left by bots, making such a strategy ineffective. Google also doesn’t value such links as much, making you look like a spammer.
The same goes for forums – most links are nofollow by default. That’s not to say that a backlink in the comment won’t be beneficial if you leave a high-quality, thoughtful comment that encourages discussion. As a general rule, any effort you are thinking of putting into blog commenting or forum posting would be better put into guest posting.
2. Links From PBNs
Private Blog Networks are networks of sites that are set up for the sole purpose of linking to each other and other sites. Some marketing agencies use PBNs to make it appear as if you are getting backlinks from multiple third-party sites while you are, in fact, getting backlinks from their sites.
PBN owners use a variety of tactics to hide the relationship between the sites in their Private Blog Network. They might use different hosting servers for each site. However, Google is pretty good at detecting PBNs, especially when they are not high-quality sites and are instead set up for the sole purpose of getting backlinks.
Make sure any marketer you hire is transparent about their backlinks and how they are getting them.
3. Links From Illegal and Spammy Websites
Any site that deals with illegal or questionable content should be avoided at all costs. That includes sites that deal with adult content, gambling, etc.
Also, avoid spammy websites. Spammy websites might have a lot of ads and flashing banners, or they might have a lot of outbound links (a site that was set up to sell backlinks). It might also deal with spammy content – for example, it might promote sketchy make-money-online schemes.
Links from such websites will only hurt your reputation in Google’s eyes. They won’t drive a lot of traffic – or they will drive the wrong kind of traffic.
You may notice that you get unsolicited links from online casinos, gambling sites, and websites from strange countries. Usually, they do that to get noticed and drive traffic, and you should use Google’s disavow tool to disavow such links.
4. Links From Low-Quality Directories
If you run a local business, you need to get links from national directories, regional directories, and niche directories. Generally, the more local backlinks you get from directories, the better. However, the exception is if the directory is low-quality.
What makes a directory low quality? It might have several of these attributes:
- It has very little traffic
- It requires customers to pay to view listings
- It requires businesses to pay to be listed
- It’s brand-new and nonestablished
- It has a low DA score
It’s better to focus on high-quality directories that get a lot of traffic, have a good Domain Authority score, have been around for a while, and are free.
5. Excessive Links From Guestbooks, Guest Posts, and Link Exchanges
Guestbooks are sites that allow people to share their thoughts and promote their newly-published blog posts. If the site is high-quality, getting a backlink might not be a bad idea – but be aware that many such sites set nofollow links to discourage spammy behavior. In any case, use guestbooks sparingly.
The same applies to content submission platforms like EzineArticles. These sites let you publish blog posts and get a link back to your site. Usually, these sites aren’t looked upon favorably by Google.
Guest posting is one of the best ways to get backlinks, but you have to be smart about it. Getting too many links from a single article isn’t a good idea – stick to 1-3 backlinks per article. In addition, try to keep your guest posting schedule consistent.
Finally, avoid excessive link exchanges. Google’s link scheme guidelines specifically warn against link exchanges.
A link exchange is when you give someone a link in exchange for one back. Doing this a few times probably won’t hurt, especially if you are writing guest posts for each other. However, if you do it excessively, you risk violating Google’s backlink policies.
6. Solicited Links From Spun Articles
Spinning content is always a no-no. It involves using a spinner bot to rewrite an article so that it looks like a new one and gets past Copyscape and other plagiarism detectors. Black-hat markers pay websites to publish spun content with backlinks.
The problem with spun content is that it sounds unnatural, and Google can tell that a bot wrote the article, not a human. There are now better spinners that use artificial intelligence and machine learning to rewrite articles or even write essays from scratch. However, even those AI tools usually have phrases that don’t make much sense or sound unnatural.
Besides, paying for links goes against Google’s guidelines and can lead to a manual penalty.
7. Paid Links to Manipulate Search Engines
As I mentioned, you should avoid paid links, as they violate Google’s link scheme guidelines. That’s because paid links manipulate the search engines by design. It’s not like you earned the link naturally or even used an effective outreach strategy to collaborate with other bloggers and get high-quality links.
Paying for links is a shortcut that is designed to make your site look popular and authoritative when it’s not. It doesn’t help that most sites that sell links do so to many people. The more outbound links a site has, the less authoritative it becomes in Google’s eyes.
A better strategy would be press release distribution. However, it’s not a strategy suitable for every type of business or niche.
8. Automated Links From Link Building Programs
Finally, avoid automated links from link-building programs. Automated software tools usually spin content and publish them on PBNs or other low-quality sites.
All of your backlinks should come organically or through manual outreach. There are many ways to reach out to a site to ask for a backlink.
You could offer to write a guest post, for example. You can write a news story or opinion piece for a local news site. Likewise, you can create an infographic and offer other bloggers the right to use it if they cite you and link back to your site.
Another effective method is broken link building. It involves finding sites with broken links and then notifying them of the broken link. You’ll then suggest they link to your article or resource instead. It doesn’t work as much as it used to, but it’s still a white-hat backlink-building method.
Above all, focus on attracting organic backlinks. Organic links will come naturally when you publish high-quality content. Always aim to publish the most comprehensive and resourceful article on every topic you write. Include plenty of statistics, add images, and include infographics.
People will automatically start citing you as a source or linking to you when they want to give their readers resources with additional information about a topic they mentioned. These links are the best, but they take time to come in. Manual backlink outreach is quicker and can bring you faster results.
Choosing a transparent marketing agency that uses trusted, white-hat backlink-building techniques to get links back to your site is essential. Unfortunately, not all agencies are trustworthy and use tactics such as PBNs to drive links to your site.
You might get results from such methods at first, making you think that the agency must be doing everything right. However, such black-hat methods are dangerous in the long run and can lead to penalties.
Always ask for transparency when hiring an agency to do your backlinks. Realize that high-quality backlinks require work, so quality backlink building services cost more. While affordable options are available, always avoid buying hundreds of links at once from sketchy sites or sellers on Fiverr.