What is a bad link neighbourhood?…. is a very common question we get asked a lot. In some regards, it is becoming harder to be sure which can be considered to be a good link and which is bad and will harm your rankings.
The first point to note is that many good link neighbourhood sites are being reclassed by Google as bad all the time.
If the link comes from a link network that hasn’t been penalised by google yet, then it is still a good link and will help your rankings, but as soon as Google finds that networks and classifies it as such, the link will be penalised and it will harm your rankings.
If you analyse your competitors links (and they are ranking at or near the top for a competitive term) then you can assume that their links are currently from good neighbourhoods. Bad links would be harming their rankings if they existed.
If any of their links come from networks that are later marked as spam networks by google then you can expect the competitor site to drop in the rankings, or even disappear if they have enough bad links.
This means that it isn’t a good idea to blindly try to replicate all your competitors backlinks.
Definition of a ‘Good Link’ Neighbourhood
A good link has several important attributes which you can measure.
1. Indexed by Google
2. Relevant content
3. Google PR if possible
4. ‘No Follow’ if any doubt of it being a paid link
5. Mix of image and text links
6. Contextual links from within content
7. Links from ‘non orphan’ pages
8. Links from aged pages
9. Unique Class C IP Address
In short, you want to obtain a link from a page of related, high quality, unique content, that is in Google index (search for the URL and see if it appears) and that has incoming links itself.
The point about orphan pages is important, as it indicates to Google that the page which has your link is a page of quality too. If you were to publish a new article on an article site then it wouldn’t have any inbound links and would be an ‘orphan’ page. (In Googles eyes this page was created just to give you a link, so give it some weight and authority by linking to it).
Google treats new pages in the same way. It asks whether the page was created to add to the topic being discussed or was it created to propagate links? Older pages carry more authority (assuming they contain quality content, have some backlinks and are indexed).
How To Identify a Bad Link Neighbourhood
What Links Should you Avoid?
Google’s manual spam team is a large team which manually checks potential link networks as the Penguin algorithm locates them. To protect your website from potential penalties, you need to be vigilant about where you build links.
You need to avoid the following to remain totally safe;
1. All Link Networks
2. Duplicate content sites
3. Low quality content sites
4. Many paid link sites (unless your links are ‘nofollowed’)
5. Pages/Sites not indexed by Google
6. Link creation software/automation
7. Many link directories
If you are in any doubt about whether its a good link then it probably isn’t good enough in the long term.
If a link is easy to obtain then it is usually classed as lower quality. The harder you have to work, the more valuable and beneficial that link will be for your site.
Directories are an interesting point, as many sites currently rank well with a link profile that includes lots of lower quality link directory listings.
Googles official standpoint on the subject is this;
In short, not all paid links are bad in Googles eyes. If they are editorially policed to a standard that doesn’t accept lmany sites and listings then you ‘should’ be OK.
Google sites the Yahoo directory as an example of a quality directory where you pay for inclusion, but because it is manually reviewed and edited, it is considered by Google to be OK.
Paid links are a big grey area in our opinion, and it is very easy to be penalised for having paid links. If you can be sure that the link will have the ‘nofollow’ attribute then it should be Ok, but Google can change its criteria without warning so be warned.