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Can Backlinks Hurt Your Site?


Not all links are equal – some are worth more than others. Although link building is essential for SEO and ranking on Google, the type of links matter. The wrong type of link can be harmful to your site rather than helpful.

Let’s look at why backlinks can be harmful to your site.

What Is A Toxic Backlink?

Toxic backlinks are links that are intended to manipulate a site’s ranking in search results. They are unnatural and may be part of a link scheme which is a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

Here are some link scheme examples for reference:

  • Buying or selling links that pass PageRank
  • Excessive link exchanges
  • Using automated programs to create links to your site
  • Requiring a link as part of a contract

These can negatively impact your site’s ranking. Links that are not editorially placed (naturally given) are harmful. They have been placed with the sole purpose of increasing search rankings. Because of this, toxic backlinks are common to be of low-quality to your site.

This means that they could:

  • Come from sites that aren’t indexed by Google
  • Belong to sites that aren’t relevant in content or industry
  • Come from sites set up with the purpose of linking out
  • Exist on every page of a website (which may be considered spammy)

How Can Toxic Backlinks Affect Your Site?

Through rankings.

Google’s algorithms update constantly and if you want your link building to be successful, you have to focus on quality.

Unnatural links are targeted by Google, as shown by their Penguin algorithm update in 2012. This algorithm specifically targeted manipulative link building practices and spam links.

The Penguin algorithm will adjust your rankings due to detecting something other than a human. Adjusting your site’s ranking equates to a loss in organic traffic and visibility. To fully regain rankings, the toxic links have to be removed and high-quality links added.

Upon reviewing your domain link profile, Google may take manual action against your site for unnatural links. Even though Google’s algorithms identify these things faster, that doesn’t mean a manual action is no longer performed.

Any affected pages will lose the ranking they had before the penalty. Until that penalty is lifted, your site or the affected pages will not be able to rank at all. And the way to get the penalty lifted is to take action on your site by removing the toxic links.

Toxic backlinks may also be ignored altogether so will have no impact. Using them is a waste of resources (and maybe money). So they’re not hindering your ranking, but they’re not helping it either.

No matter what action is taken, the consequence stays the same. Good link building is the aim, here. As mentioned, replacing toxic backlinks with high-quality backlinks is the way to remove any penalties placed upon your site.

How Can I Avoid Toxic Backlinks?

Being aware of the tactics that can lead to toxic backlinks is crucial to avoiding them.

If money is involved in exchange for a link, you should probably just turn the other way. This is explicitly violating the Webmaster Guidelines in place by Google. If any links are paid for, they are not natural.

Links from private networks should be avoided. A private blog network (PBN) is a tactic that involves maintaining a collection of sites with the purpose of adding links to other sites. Although they may appear natural on the web, experienced SEOs can spot them quite easily.

Google actively pursues these networks in order to close them down and the penalties can be severe to those who use them.

However, there’s an easier way to avoid toxic backlinks. Setting a good foundation for successful link building. Links from sites with high domain authority are considered high-quality. These are better than any other backlink. And they’re worth more to the rankings, too.

Get In Touch

GrowTraffic is a multi-award-winning agency, specialising in SEO and digital marketing.

If you’re interested in backlinking or just starting/or improving SEO on your website, then please contact us!

You can call on 0161 706 0012, email or fill out our contact form.

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