How to Determine Which Backlinks Are Harmful?

PANIC!

That’s the frame of mind of every SEO and webmaster nowadays. And who can blame them? With arbitrary GWT warning messages about unnatural links and then disclaimers, the search industry is in a panic mode.

Almost every SEO must have at some point of time resorted to now defunct or discredited link building practices such as link buying, reciprocal link exchange, article distribution etc.

Google struck hard with the Penguin update on the links mentioned above. Those websites which relied heavily on link buying received GWT messages about suspect links. This created so much upheaval that all SEOs and webmasters scrambled to remove all the links that they thought could pose problems.

As a SEO consultant or a proactive webmaster the best way to avoid Google penalties or the dreaded GWT messages is to find and destroy the backlinks that are harmful.

But which links are harmful?

Finding and then determining which links are harmful is easier said than done. While it is particularly difficult is to find exactly if an inbound link is benefitting your website in anyway or is putting it at risk, there are some pointers which can at least give you a clue.

1) Is the page cached?
This should be the first step. Check if the page has been cached by Google. If Google is throwing up an error like in the image below then the back link from the page is doing nothing good for your website.

 

The worst part is that the site may have been de-indexed by Google for being a site which sells links or may have some other serious issues. Do you want to have a link from such a website?

2) Check the Google toolbar Page Rank

Check Google toolbar PageRank. While this is not an exact estimation but it can give you a fair bit idea about a site’s reputation in Google’s eyes. A link from a high PR site is a whole lot better than a link from a PR 0 site.

3) How many outbound links from the webpage?
Count the number of outbound links from the page. If it’s more than it should be (there is no fixed number), you can go ahead and get the link removed. Pages with reciprocal links are the main culprits here. On such pages, hundreds of links are placed. This should raise a red flag immediately.  

4)  Is the link from a relevant page?
If your inbound link is coming from a website/page with same or relevant niche then the link is safe provided there are no other issues. If you have a real estate website, a link from a building material supplier’s website can be thought of a relevant site. On the other hand a link from a health website may be a suspect.

5)   Exact match keywords
If the site from where inbound link is originating has too many links with exact match keywords then that site exists only for the purpose of providing links. Getting your link removed ASAP before Google thinks about taking any action will be a wise decision.

6)  Link position
In Penguin update many websites with inbound links coming from the footer suffered a drop in rankings. Site-wide links and footer links should be avoided so that your website doesn’t suffer the same fate.    

7)   Is the website selling links?
If you know that a site sells links, then staying away from it is the best option. Even if the site has good PR and is relevant on all counts, you never know when the site can be penalized for selling links and your site also incurs Google wrath as a consequence.

These are but some tips on how to determine which backlinks are harmful. If you have any more tips do share it with us.

About

I am the founder of Azurebiz Solutions. I love to write about SEO and technology. On my blog, you can read about my views on the Search industry. Aniruddha on Google+

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