The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Link Building

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Link Building pixelwork

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Link Building

We all know that we need links to rank well, but some people are still not sure what constitutes a good or bad link. That information is critical in making smart link building decisions. Get carried away with today's questionable link building activities even without intending to do so and you will find yourself on the wrong end of a penalty that will cost you traffic and sales.

That's why it's so important to understand exactly what types of links have a positive impact on rankings and are acceptable according to Google's webmaster guidelines.

So let's delve into the good, the bad and the ugly of links to explain what type of links will harm your website, which will only waste your time by not improving your rankings and propel you to the top of the results. search.

On a related note, it's important to have a strategy instead of just blindly building links. This will save you time, money and energy while improving your results.

The good links

Good links tend to be earned naturally and are generally not scalable.

Organic link building takes a lot more time and effort, but it also means that the links you get are more valuable because they are harder for your competitors to replicate.

This gives you a more dominant position in your market, and that's what we're all looking for, right?

Editorial links

The most obvious example of a good link is when, without knowing it, a journalist (or contributor, or blogger) is so surprised by you, your company or your products or services that they take the initiative to write an article about you and link to your website. Contrary to what some in the SEO community (including Google) consider, it is quite rare.

Equally good when a personal relationship leads to a similar situation, either directly or through an introduction to a journalist, contributor or blogger – as long as there is legitimate value to your audience in your story. For example, in a recent article on the role of traditional PR in SEO that I wrote for another publication, I included several quotes and a link from a friend who runs a large, successful PR firm precisely because his insight was incredibly valuable to us. the audience, thanks to his extensive experience.

Blog Guest

Guest blogging, when done correctly, ranks a little below the previous two examples in terms of value, mainly because while the website on which it is published has editorial oversight, it is still produced. by you instead of a more objective third party.

It is imperative that these articles provide value to your audience and are not there just for a link. In fact, because Google has hit hard at guest posting as a link building tactic, I find it best to be overly cautious about going too far beyond value expectations and being extremely conservative in terms of external links to your own. website.

To play it safe, any guest blogging should be done with the intention of building your brand and reaching a broader audience – rather than building links. Building links is simply a byproduct of doing a great job at it.

Niche Directories

In general, directories are almost dead. However, highly niche directories can still be a valuable source of links.

That said, you can only find a handful of worthwhile directories focused on your niche, and their SEO value is going to vary drastically, but they're definitely worth a look. You should broaden your thinking beyond the traditional idea of ​​a web directory and look at business organizations, niche networking groups, and professional associations, because most have a membership directory these days.

When evaluating a directory, you should ensure that:

  • Have a vetting process, rather than accepting anyone who is willing to pay the fee.
  • Regularly publish valuable content that search engines can crawl and index.
  • Regularly prune broken links from members who no longer have an active website.

This may sound too puritanical, but it would prevent any directory from allowing keywords in the anchor text of listings.

Building good links

The days of matching anchor text to the keyword phrases you want to rank for are long gone. It seems unnatural, and therefore easily identifiable by Google's algorithm, which will only continue to improve in detecting patterns thanks to artificial intelligence.

When someone else links to you without you knowing, the anchor text tends to be pretty natural, so you don't have much to worry about. However, when you are the one creating the links, for example when you post an ad, you need to be much more careful because your own actions (compared to those of a third party) will come under much more scrutiny if you are ever manually reviewed by Google. .

There's a time and a place for exact match anchor text, but in most cases, they tend to opt for something more descriptive. You should also generally link to the most relevant internal page rather than the home page (unless you are citing the company, in which case you should use the company name instead of a keyword).

Bad Links

While it may be easy to produce these types of links in large numbers, they won't have much (if any) impact on your organic rankings.

Investing time in producing these types of links is a waste of time, money and energy because it will never generate much return on investment.

To make matters worse, if you use these link building tactics, even if they are not effective, you will likely face a penalty.

Blog Guests at Scale

If you've been in the SEO industry for more than a few years, you probably remember when article directories were the new thing and that you could simply submit your article to thousands of these websites. Most of these programs even had the ability to “rotate” or modify the content, resulting in a “unique” article for each submission. This created a row of garbage websites that served no purpose other than displaying ads for mostly useless and redundant content.

Those days are thankfully behind us. However, even when done manually and on a smaller scale, this tactic is problematic when you're doing it primarily to build links because it creates obvious patterns that Google's algorithm can easily identify.

Links from non-relevant websites

There is virtually no value in links from a divorce attorney website to a contractor's website. Nowadays Google is pretty good at identifying the topic of a website, and they generally only assign significant weight to links that are relevant to their goal. No matter how easy it may be to acquire a link, don't waste time if it's not relevant.

Header, footer and sidebar links

Google doesn't give much weight to links in certain areas of a web page, including headers, footers, and sidebars. In general, sitelinks are a bad idea except in a few cases:

  • Link to a relevant sister publication you own. For example, if Huffington Post linked to their India edition, that would be fine. However, if you have a general contractor business and a mortgage company, a site-level link from one to the other would be risky.
  • Identify the software used on a website, as seen in most content management, blogging, and e-commerce systems.
  • Identify who designed a website.

An important caveat here is that while you do not need to use the nofollow attribute on these links, you need to use qualified terms such as the company or publication name instead of the anchor text with the keyword.

The bad links

Below are the links you should avoid at all costs.

You should disavow bad links that you have used in the past because absolutely everything will result in a penalty when you are caught. From that point on, Google will start to view your link building efforts with much more scrutiny.

When you've landed on Google's radar, any action that may have been dismissed as an honest mistake will now be seen as an attempt to unethically manipulate ranking.

Paid Links

You may be thinking that you can get away with buying paid links because you are doing it on a small scale and/or through personal relationships, right?

That sounds convincing until you consider that if a website owner is selling links to you, chances are they're selling links to some other people as well, and those people buy links from other websites. You can see how quickly this network expands if we continue.

Think about how many people, buyers and sellers, are actually involved, and then ask yourself how difficult it would be for an organization with Google's data and resources to identify paid links. All they need to do is pick one buyer or seller and then follow the breadcrumbs to identify the other buyers and sellers.

Comments or Spam in Forums

While it's easy to throw thousands of forum links and comment sections on blogs, it's also easy to destroy your brand doing this because you're leaving your spammy links all over someone else's website. Also, links in the comments section of blogs are nofollow, so you won't see much SEO benefit, but you will increase the chances of a link-based penalty. Especially since you will anger other website owners who will be more than happy to inform Google of this.

General directories

We've already discussed how niche directories have the potential to be valuable, however, you should avoid general directories. These are the epitome of everything Google hates because they typically accept any website (except those that promote pornography, gambling, or violence) as long as you're willing to pay a fee.

This is a literal example of a payment link. The directory is not relevant to your website, and in most cases lacks useful content.

Private blog networks

Why go to the trouble of building legitimate links when you can install WordPress on a dozen domains and link to any website you want at any time? Well, for starters, just like with paid links, it's pretty easy for Google to identify private blog networks, leading to penalties in the short term, and greater scrutiny in the long term.

The most important reason not to use private blog networks as a link building tactic is that you will still have to publish loads of high-quality original content and create inbound links to the blogs in your network for it to have any value at all. That time, money and energy would be better spent creating amazing content and earning inbound links to your main website.

When you consider that the owners of most legitimate websites are continually working to produce new content and earn new links, the value of a link from their website to yours becomes more valuable.


Links are an essential part of SEO today, but if you don't know you're violating Google's guidelines, you can easily end up doing more harm than good. Since links are not going away as a ranking factor anytime in the foreseeable future, it is critical that you understand exactly what type of link building will improve your rankings, what type will not, and perhaps most importantly, what type of link building will improve your rankings. your website is penalized.