Have you ever noticed a sudden drop at your organic traffic or at your rankings? Or even worse, has your website ever received a penalty from search engines? If the answer is yes, then the chances are that your website had several bad links either inbound or outbound, widely known as backlinks.

So how do we define bad links?

In general, any technique that is used to deceive search engines and manipulate rankings is called black hat SEO technique. Thus, any links created using black hat techniques are blacklisted by search engines. Let’s start by looking at inbound links that are acquired using such techniques.

Inbound bad links

Links which are not created by webmasters to ‘backlink’ quality content or, even, could be generated by bots which are crawling the entire web for ill-intentioned purposes. However, it is worthy to note that search engines are searching constantly for suspicious activity meaning that trash links will finally get discovered. Let’s now dive into the categories.

Paid links and link farms

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Search engine optimization

One of the most popular black hat SEO techniques to boost your ranks was to buy massively, backlinks for your site. However, this type of backlinks is penalized by Google after releasing the Penguin update in order to discourage anyone who employ this technique to manipulate SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages).

Same goes for link farms. Link farms are groups of websites in which each site links to every other site inside the group. Link farms are a subcategory of paid links because one must buy them in order to be included in the ‘group’. It is important to note that even if you don’t get a penalty for using such techniques, your search traffic and rankings will drop dramatically for trying to manipulate SERPs. Algorithms on big data are smart enough to detect any non-normal backlink profile growth.

Solicited links

Let’s say there are two people who know each other, they both own a website and they both want to appear high in SERPs. Since they want the same thing, they start putting an excessive amount of links to each other. Problem solved, right? Actually no. By doing this the only outcome would be a penalty or a significant drop in search rankings. Search engines over the years, have become smart enough to uncover this not so legitimate trick. A promising backlink profile should contain a variety of referring domains and backlinks. Variety and diversity matter in backlinking more than ever before in SEO.

Low quality web directories

Web directories are basically websites with huge lists as yellow pages are. They usually contain categories that hold information about businesses. Low quality web directories are mostly generated by software without human interaction to inspect the entries. What you should expect to find there is just links to low quality websites that do not have any value. One shouldn’t search for this type of links for his website because they will hurt your rankings in the long run.

Websites with inappropriate content

Backlinks coming from sites with suspicious activity or inappropriate content will only hurt your site’s credibility. Backlinks coming from these websites are usually generated by bots. You should check your backlinks regularly and keep building consistently a ‘healthy’ backlink profile. Any new links that seem suspicious should be investigated and in case of inappropriate content, they should be disavowed immediately.

Spammy blog comments

The internet gives you the freedom to express your opinion in blogs, but it doesn’t give you the right to flood blogs with comments that include nothing more than links towards your website. It is known among SEOs that search engines can track this kind of activity straightforward. What will happen then? A penalty? A huge drop in search traffic? You name it. Instead of using this method, you should create quality content and create backlinks on websites which are relevant to the topic. For example, you can write about a case study or an article on a website which adds value to the readers providing them the opportunity to include some links.

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SEO Services

Now that we covered inbound links, let’s move on to outbound links that exist in your website.

Outbound bad links

An outbound link exists in your domain and points to an external domain. Placing outbound links is necessary for a website to be SEO optimized. However, if you do it in a bad or abusive way, get ready to accept the consequences.

Links to inappropriate content

The heading says it all. There are some places on the internet that you want to stay away from such as spam pages, piracy pages etc. Not only they will hurt your rankings and give you a penalty, but you also risk of acting against the law in case of piracy pages which is much more important. Of course, no one would link to such pages, but the internet is a huge community with all kinds of people and professionals. If you suspect that your site has been hacked, you should check it regularly for such links and ask help from security experts as soon as possible.

Spammy comments in your blog

People or bots will often flood your comments section with outbound links to their websites. If search engines find an excessive amount of outbound links it might consider your website as spam and you might get penalized. Things will get even worse if the links point to low quality or inappropriate content. Spam filters seem to do an amazing work for these cases. You can also hire one or more moderators (which depends on the size of your blog) to review the comments before they get posted.

Broken links

Let’s say that you published a post a year ago and you included some links, either external or internal ones. If at some point, some of the linked pages got deleted, the links are now broken. This means that the visitor who clicks on them gets a “404 not found” error message. This is bad for UX (User Experience) and it will affect indirectly your rankings. Webmasters should find all broken links with a tool and replace them with relevant content or remove them completely.

Hidden links

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Marketers & Marketeers

Hidden links are as the name describes: Hidden. They may be the same color as the background, or they might be so tiny that no one will notice them, except, of course, search engines! It doesn’t matter if they are perfectly hidden because they exist in the source code and crawlers can read them. When search engines find hidden links in a website, they penalize it. This black hat technique was once very popular because it could provide a quick boost at search rankings. Google put an end to this by releasing an update which could determine which links were hidden.

Final comments

When the internet became accessible to every household black hat SEO techniques became a trend in digital marketing because they provided a quick and easy way to rank at the top of SERPs. However, with the evolution of search engines these techniques now offer nothing more than a drop in search rankings or even a penalty from which a website will take time and hard work to recover. Building a healthy backlink profile while creating unique and original content is more efficient and it pays off in the long run. Organic growth is a slow process! But if you keep building on the right foundations – competition will find it really hard to catch you up.