SEO Backlinks – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

SEO backlinks featured imageGrowing your online presence is not an easy job. It involves many different steps, one of which is SEO optimization.

And one of the most important components of optimizing your page for search engines is building high-quality SEO backlinks.

First things first, let’s see why do websites need links and how to tell them apart.

What are SEO backlinks and Why they are important

In this article, we will guide you through recognizing good and bad backlinks, and show you ways in which you can build up a strategy around them.

Additionally, you will learn how to use Linkody’s tool to your advantage in this task.  

First off, in order to achieve a higher ranking in Google, it’s important to analyze and understand the nature of your SEO backlinks.

Backlinks are incoming hyperlinks from one web page to another website.. In other words, they connect one web-page with another.

And yes, links are essential in building a successful SEO campaign.

Finding the right balance between the quantity and quality of your SEO backlinks can make a tremendous difference to your business.

Undoubtedly, this is what SEO is all about.

So, it’s obvious, that if you build many high-quality backlinks, you will eventually achieve a higher ranking. Aside from that, they will also boost your organic traffic.

But what SEOs tend to forget is that low-quality backlinks (“bad links”) can decrease your ranking and even lead to Google penalties.

Bad SEO backlinks

First, let’s identify bad backlinks, so we can later understand how you can deal with them.

Bad backlinks are links that Google may see as manipulative. These are created to give a quick boost to your search rankings instead of being built organically.

If these backlinks are identified by Google, they can lead to penalties that will drop your traffic instantly.

Fact That You Need To Know 😉

Since Google’s Penguin 4.0 update bad quality links are now devalued, rather than penalized, by simply not being acknowledged anymore. Prior to this, Google would lower the search rank of pages that bad quality links pointed to as a form of penalty.

Bad Links Are Devalued, Not Penalized

Check if you have bad links on your site:

 

High spam score

A website’s spam score is one of the metrics you need to look at to identify a bad backlink. It directly correlates with the risk of being penalized by Google.

A website’s spam score gives you two important pieces of information:

  • The possibility of your domain getting penalized
  • The “spamminess” of your backlinks’ domain

Spam score ranges from 0(great) to 17(very bad) and represents 17 unique factors called “spam flags”.

When combined, these factors create a spam score, showing how many spam flags have been triggered.

seo backlinks - spam score

In the picture above you can see that a high spam score is represented by 9. So, that’s quite high.

In general, the spam level of a website can be divided into 3 categories:

  • From 0 to 4 – 1-30% Low
  • From 5 to 7 – 31-60% Medium
  • From 8 to 17 – 61-100% High

Here’s a photo that explains the likelihood of your site getting Google penalty:

likelyhood of getting penalty

Having said that, keep in mind that a high spam score is just an indication and does not necessarily give the full image.

In order to get the best results, use this metric as a foundation to kickstart further investigation of a particular website.

When you are using a link building software, such as Linkody, you can use this metric to find out which of your already existing SEO backlinks are potentially harmful.

You can then sort them by spam score and get a better overview.

In this case, there is no need to get rid of these backlinks immediately. As mentioned above, it would be best if you also analyze these backlinks by other metrics to get a more thorough understanding.

Links with low Domain Authority (DA)

You can see how powerful a link is by checking its Domain Authority (DA).

This score is based on multiple factors that can predict the performance of a website in search engine rankings.

The Domain Authority score varies from 0 to 100 and is based on a 100-point logarithmic scale.

This means that increasing the score from 10 to 20 is significantly easier than from 80 to 90.

The highest DA score can be achieved when there are loads of quality backlinks to a page.

Want a quick and popular example?

  • Facebook, which has more than one billion backlinks and has a DA of 95!

Just like with spam score, it important to keep in mind that DA score doesn’t necessarily relate to the quality of a website.

There are many good websites that currently have a low DA score but have great potential. These backlinks could become more powerful for your SEO in the future.

If you head over to Linkody, you can easily check a website’s DA:

seo backlinks - moz rank

And when you combine the Spam Score indicator together with Domain Authority you will see that something “fishy” is going on. Here’s what I mean – if the website is relatively new (DA 9) and has a high spam score (SS 6), it almost certainly getting penalized.

Nonetheless, if you are wondering about why the DA is low, here are some examples:

  • Websites with relevant content that are still building their authority
  • Small niche websites that target a specific area or topic such as Gardener’s blog that writes about Tulips.
  • Local businesses

And, of course, in these cases, there is no harm in having a low DA.

Non-indexed links

Another thing you could look at would be the non-indexed links. 

Once again, when you head back to good ol’ Linkody,  there is a premium feature that shows if the domain hasn’t been indexed.

seo backlinks - google indexing

  • The green color means that the domain and the page are indexed in Google.
  • The yellow color means that the page that is linking to you isn’t indexed.
  • If the color is red, then the domain linking to your website hasn’t been indexed in Google.

If your backlink comes from a non-indexed domain, then it can potentially cause harm to your site. Chances are that you are dealing with a website that has been penalized.

As you can imagine, having SEO backlinks from a penalized website is not really helpful.

Therefore, check your backlink profile periodically to clean it from non-indexed backlinks.

Links with common C-class IP

There are many websites that originate from one C-class IP Address. In other words, there might be one server or a hosting company that has released several websites. This is a characteristic of shared hosting or PBNs (Private Blog Networks).

When you head over to Linkody’s Analytics section, you can check which websites are hosted on the same Class C IP:

class c IP

And this is another thing you should avoid – having many websites on the same server and linking to your website is unhealthy.

SEO backlinks that are unrelated to your niche and/or industry

When we asked the top SEO experts which backlinks they would remove the number one reason was…

…drum roll.

Backlinks from non-relevant websites.

For example, if you own a blog for car enthusiasts, gaining backlinks from a blog aimed towards pet owners wouldn’t help you rank higher.

In most cases, unrelated backlinks won’t hurt your website. They just don’t produce the same value.

How to Remove bad backlinks

So, how does it feel knowing everything there is to know about SEO backlinks, their quality metrics, and how to spot bad backlinks?

Pretty good, huh?

You have now mastered the art of recognizing the backlinks that don’t serve you.

From here onwards, we will go through the steps of removing those bad backlinks from your site.

The following steps will guide you when using Linkody’s tool:

Step 1: Choose “Links” from the toolbar on the top.

find links for seo

Step 2: Click on “Advanced Filters” button to open additional filter options.

advanced filters for seo backlinks

Step 3: Choose specific metrics from additional filter options to help you sort bad backlinks.

different filtering options for SEO backlinks

Step 4: Set advanced filters according to criteria that you want to use to filter bad backlinks. For example, here we have set the “Moz DA” metric from 1 to 7.

choosing moz rank DA -seo backlinks

Step 5: Apply the necessary filters to discover which backlinks you can delete.

filters - SEO backlinks

Pro tip: Look for backlinks that have a high spam score (Spam S.), low authority (Moz DA), and additionally, you can also check which backlinks have not been indexed.

Step 6: Select the backlinks that you want to disavow and follow the guide here to remove them from your backlink profile.

Good SEO backlinks

Now that you know which backlinks are bad for your business and how to remove them, it is also important to recognize high-quality backlinks.

Good backlinks will generate more traffic to your website and help you increase your SERP rankings.

And here are is how you can identify them.

Do-follow backlinks

Your backlinks have statuses and ‘rel’ attributes.

‘Rel’ attributes show the relationship between the linked resource and the current document.

And one of the most important ‘rel’ attribute for SEO is the Do-follow tag. To put it differently, do-follow attribute shows if a search engine crawlers are able to reach the linked website and if this link “passes the SEO juice”.

In the picture below you can see how you can identify backlinks’ status and ‘rel’ attribute within Linkody.

dofollow seo backlinks

To find do-follow backlinks, you should look at the links that have “OK” status and ‘rel’ attribute FL.

Conversely, a link can also have a no-follow (NF) status. In this case, you can just ignore them, since Google does as well. These backlinks won’t improve your rankings.

Low Spam score

As we mentioned above, spam score defines risks that are associated with getting the website who links to your page penalized.

On top of that, as you learned before, sites that are not indexed (a.k.a. penalized) won’t do any good for your rankings.

So, a low spam score often means a low risk of penalization. Therefore, having quality backlinks with a low spam score means having fewer risks in the long run.

good spam score - seo backlinks

High DA

For a webmaster, getting that first high domain authority (DA) backlink is worth celebrating.

To make it easy you can follow one basic rule – the higher the DA, the better your backlink.

There are no specific ranges set for optimal DA rankings. However, websites with DA 80+ are considered to be major players.

Links that are indexed by Google

Good backlinks are the ones that Google can find.

Captain Obvious strikes again, huh?

Before you smirk – here’s why it’s important/

When the “G” icon is green, the page is indexed. These web pages have been crawled for information by Google search engines.

google index status

But what if it’s not indexed?

Should you remove it if the DA is high?

The process of indexing a page takes time. In fact, there are various factors that influence how quickly a backlink will be indexed. Some of these include:

  • Domain age. Older domains usually are more powerful than new ones.
  • Social engagement. This factor contributed to PA, thus helping a page to get indexed faster.
  • Diverse link sources. If your backlinks come from sources like blog comments, Google can flag them as spam. This would result in slower indexing or even failure to index at all.

How to acquire good SEO backlinks

Now that you know how you can identify good backlinks, we have created a mini guide to help you acquire them.

Method 1: Steal competitors backlinks with Linkody

Linkody’s tool will help perform a competitor backlink analysis. As a result, you can identify backlinks that don’t link to your website but links with similar websites to yours (such as your competitors).

And knowing that, you can ‘steal’ your competitor’s backlinks.

Here is a quick rundown of how you can see the backlinks of your competitors

Step 1: Click on the domain

select your domain

Step 2: Click on “Competitors” to open a drop-down menu and then scroll down to find the button “Add a Competitor”

add a competitor and see his seo backlinks

Step 3: Type your competitor’s name in the box and click “ADD COMPETITOR”

adding a competitor

Step 4: After you have added your competitor, you will see all the individual links from all unique domains:

check your competitor backlinks

And this is how you find the backlinks of your competitors in no time.

After you have gone through finding your competitors backlinks, you are ready to ‘steal’ them. 

To get you going, here’s the most detailed guide on the subject.

Method 2: Guest post outreaches

Guest post outreach is a powerful strategy that helps you grow your digital presence.

Remember that the long-term goal of guest posting is to create a quality relationship and offer value.

Short term, however, guest posting is a great way to generate new backlinks. To emphasize the importance of guest posting, let me introduce these key benefits:

  • Gaining traction to a new webpage
  • Growing traffic to your site
  • Quality inbound links to your content

Your brand should be the main focus here, not the conversion.

Therefore, when it comes to guest posts, use emotion instead of promotion so you can create quality content.

Follow these steps for an effective guest post outreach:

Step 1: Create a strong portfolio

Sometimes we don’t even realize how powerful a first impression can be. Therefore, before sending an email, create some examples that show your writing skills and knowledge.

Step 2: Find opportunities

Let’s see the first method of finding guest blogging opportunities. You can search for active bloggers that already contribute to trusted blogs:

  • Google – inurl:write-for-us +your industry

This way you will be able to create a list with blogs that are responsive to guest bloggers.

The second method is to pinpoint blogs that publish interviews and Q&A sessions with experts. There is a higher probability to land an opportunity with these blogs.

Another method is to search for premade lists which include blogs that accept guest posts. This is a great way to save time and increase your productivity.

Step 3: Launch your content campaign

In order to create posts that will offer compound value over time, you have to create a strategic content campaign.

Target niche-related blogs by searching for relevant keywords. Additionally, try to separate quality blogs from weak ones by looking at their Domain Authority and relevance.

Step 4: Irresistible pitch

Put extra thought into your pitch. Create your pitch to make value and connect to other people.

Try to be brief, creative, and direct about your proposal.

Step 5: Craft your guest post

Live up to the promises and expectations. Create value with words and visuals.

Ideally, the topic would overlap with your interests, existing content and the audience’s preferences.

To learn more on how to find guest blogging opportunities, go to this guest posting tutorial.

Method 3: Discover link-gap placements

Link-gap placement is a method often used by webmasters to get quality SEO backlinks. It helps you build authority and improve your rankings without having to write an in-depth article.

Here are some steps to guide you through the process of link-gap placement.

Step 1: Choose a topic that relates to your blog post. Then search on Google for posts and websites that have published similar posts where your link could add additional value.

Step 2: Find the best place to add your link. Go through this blog’s content and find the right spot where your link could give value to readers.

Step 3: Make a screenshot with the proposed placement. Highlight the position where you think your link would work best.

Step 4: Now all that is left is to pitch. Find the contact details on the website and reach out to offer link-gap placement. Send them the screenshot and tell them a bit more about the contents of your blog post.

Pro tip: To increase your chances of success, look for pages that haven’t fully covered your topic and have a similar DA as your page.

Content Should Always Come First 😉

Before you go chasing backlinks (since they are an official ranking factor) content should still always be priority one.

Remember: Backlinks are powerful but, without pointing to a page with content that is high quality, useful, and relevant to the visitor’s search query, they are useless.

Wrapping up

Now you know the difference between good and bad backlinks.

In brief, to avoid bad SEO backlinks:

  • Check for high spam score
  • Avoid low DA sites
  • Avoid non-indexed domains
  • Check for links that have common C-class IPs
  • Don’t engage with websites that have unrelated content

By following these checkpoints you will be able to know which ones are the bad backlinks. Linkody’s tool will help you to remove these backlinks from your profile.

Now, let’s summarize how to recognize quality backlinks:

  • Look for low spam score
  • Find do-follow backlinks
  • Aim for websites with high DA
  • Look for indexed pages

And the best way to get these is through:

  • Stealing them from your competitors
  • Writing guest posts
  • Requesting link-gap placements

Thank you for sticking with us through this guide.

With your new knowledge, you will be unstoppable backlink hunter.

Now go get some links 😉

2 thoughts on “SEO Backlinks – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

  1. In the SEO industry, many bloggers, SEO guy aggressively build backlinks but they didn’t spend little time on analyzing link quality which causes Google penalty.

    Thanks a lot for this guide about link building, It’s super useful for both beginners and experienced professionals.

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