Some of you may not know what an inbound link is, let alone be able to identify a good or a bad one. So let's start there. An inbound link is a link from another website that links to a page on your website. This could be from another business website, social media, directory, blog, forum, online store, etc. There are a few reasons that these inbound links are included in these other websites. The best reason for someone to link back to your website is because they like what you have to say and feel good enough about sending their own website visitors there. That isn't always the case however. Other inbound links are created because you are a member of something, you've sponsored or partnered on something, or just general involvement with another business, organization or website owner. These are usually OK. Other times you are part of a big links page, directory, blog comments, or just happen to have some random link for whatever oddball reason. This is where things start to get hairy...some of these links might be good, some might be bad. Finally, the worst way to get links is to pay for them or be involved with a "link farm". These are bad! Just to throw you a curve ball, I'm going to tell you that the lines are not that clear. Here are some other things to pay attention to:
- Directory links that aren't related to your website at all.
- If you manufacture steel, a directory full of farm and ag businesses is not related. That link won't help, in fact it can hurt.
- Excessive and poor links in blog comments.
- If you are creating a genuine comment on a blog and providing some additional value, great. If you are commenting on a blog just to get a link, bad.
- If your username on the blog is something like "Cheap Toms Shoes" and it links back to your site...bad. You've probably seen something like this before. Often times these aren't manually entered, but instead injected via bots.
- Links from sites with a poor reputation.
- If a site has been penalized for being spammy and they've linked to you, this could be bad for the both of you.
- Other completely unrelated links.
- These look like you've either paid for them or swapped links, which search engines frown upon.
- A link on a completely unrelated website provides little to no value to that website's visitors.
What Happens When You Get Bad Inbound Links?
To put it simply, you can be penalized by the search engines. This means you can slip in rankings or removed completely from the search results depending on the severity of the issue. That means little to no search engine traffic to your website and more search engine traffic to your competitor's websites. I think you know the consequences there.
How Did Your Website Get These Bad Links?
There are several ways that bad links can occur starting with something you did. I'm not pointing fingers, but understand it could be the case. If you hired an disreputable SEO firm or link building company, they may have gotten you to this point. These types of companies try to take the easy route to show fast results. These tactics absolutely won't work long term. If you've been bit by one of these types of things in the past, it can be a deep hole to dig out of, but all is not lost. Find a reputable SEO firm to try and get you back to where you should be. Also, don't take these disreputable SEO firms as the industry standard, because they aren't. Stick with a firm that you can trust will only use white hat SEO strategies.
Sometimes it's not even someone you hired, but something you've done yourself. If you've signed up for every directory you could find, commented on blogs, paid for links or even traded links, you may have hurt yourself.
Because you cannot control who links to you, sometimes it wasn't something that you or anyone else did...it just kind of happened. Keep that in mind as well, because that can be the case.
What to Do
- You should monitor your inbound links via Google Webmaster Tools. If you don't know where links are coming from, how will you know if they are bad or good?
- If you are aware of bad links, start by asking the website owner in which the link occurs on to remove them.
- Use the Google Disavow Tool. It's best to have the link removed, but this is also a good option.
- Follow only good link building tactics. Allow links to grow naturally by being "link-worthy"!
If you think your website might have bad inbound, don't wait around until it's too late. Find out where your links are coming from and if necessary, take action now!