Know Your Backlinks – Are Yours Valuable or Just Junk?

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Backlinks are links from a page or post on a website that links to another. If someone links from their content to yours, they have made a backlink for you. If you link to another site, you have made a backlink for them. Backlinks are also sometimes referred to as inbound links, incoming links, or inlinks. Building a good backlink profile is an essential part of any successful SEO strategy.

Not all backlinks are created equal, and inbound links can be excellent, good, bad, downright ugly, or anything in between. While a few excellent backlinks can help send your site soaring up the search rankings, bad backlinks can send it hurtling down even faster.

High-Quality Vs. Low-Quality Backlinks

Penguin was a Google codename for one of the most significant algorithm updates in the search engine’s history. The company announced the Penguin update on April 24th, 2012.

The update aimed to lower the position in the search results of websites that violated Google’s Webmaster Guidelines by using dubious techniques to increase the ranking of a web page by manipulating how many links pointed to the page. Sites targeted in particular were those Google deemed were buying links or getting them through link networks, built primarily to promote Google rankings.

Many businesses who, up until Penguin, enjoyed an excess of free visitors from Google, saw traffic and their incomes plummet overnight, in many cases never to recover.

In 2021 Google has developed into a much wiser, powerful, all-knowing beast than back in 2012, and you must be extremely cautious about the type of backlinks you are building.

An issue many newcomers to SEO struggle with is, “What makes a good backlink, and when is a backlink bad?”

This is what we will cover in this post.

To see if Google will consider a backlink as good or bad, we must look at the website it comes from.

Quality backlinks

The best quality backlink is earned organically and published on an authoritative domain in your niche.

Domain Authority

If a well-known domain has linked naturally to your site, there is a good chance that your website has content this is valuable to your niche’s audience.

Like in the non-virtual world, if a VIP or expert mentions you, the audiences’ response will be impacted by their expertise in the field. By association, your importance will grow, bringing an increase in traffic, leads, and conversions.

Niche relevance

High-quality backlinks are relevant backlinks and will ideally come from a site or a post that discusses the same topic as the page they link to on your site. This may not constantly be the case, but the contextual meaning of the words surrounding the link should be relevant.

For example, suppose your site is in the home furniture niche. A site linking to yours could be an authoritative car site, which on face value is not relevant. However, suppose the car site features an article on keeping a car’s upholstery in top condition and links to an article on your site with advice on how to clean upholstered furniture. In that case, the two linked pages are relevant.


A high-quality link has more potency if it would be difficult for your competitors to gain a backlink from the same site. Links from relevant authority sources that only mention you and not your competitors are excellent because they are unique.

For example, suppose you partner with a charity and sponsor a fundraising event. You donate one of your products as a raffle prize. The charity site has excellent domain authority and links to your page describing the prize donated and your company. This is not a link your competitors can duplicate, and therefore, can be described as unique.


If nobody clicks on the link to your site, then its usefulness is negligible. So the link should be placed where people will click it visit your site. For example, a link in an author bio at the end of a post may be largely ignored, whereas a link in the post itself directing readers to further relevant information is much more likely to get clicked.

In short, the linking site is ideal if it has a high number of visitors, good social media exposure, and doesn’t contain numerous links to other sites from the same page or post.

Link earning

SEOs and web admins always must be alert to Google’s frequent algorithm changes, especially regarding link building. One way to navigate this minefield without headaches is to focus on “link earning” rather than link building.

Link building remains essential for SEO, but in 2021, it is increasingly difficult to obtain links that Google will see as natural. And today, it’s all about organic links, and organic links are, by nature, organic.

Link earning is the most effective and valuable way of gaining high-quality backlinks organically. It is a completely “white hat” method that Google loves.

To earn links successfully, you need to create excellent content with helpful information.

Unfortunately, with link earning, there are no shortcuts or grey hat hacks; it boils down to working for the links or hiring someone to do the work for you.

The Value of Great Content

Yes, we all know content is king; we have heard it a thousand times. But when it comes to earning links, we cannot underestimate the power of unique valuable content.

Think Like a reader

When evaluating your content, ask yourself if you would share it. If you would not share it, how can you expect others to? If not, why not? Is it monotonous or not quite informative enough? Maybe it only contains information that readers can easily find elsewhere?

If you would share it, again consider why. Is it because it is interesting, different, or enlightening? What unique value does it bring to the audience?

Publishing content for the sake of seeming active is not a productive use of your time or money. Create content with the goal that it will be shared, not simply glossed over, and forgotten about a few minutes later. Remember, the plan behind producing excellent unique content is to earn natural links from people who find your information important enough to link to.

Use Social Media to Launch Your Content

Social media is a powerful marketing tool, so use it! Share links to your blog posts, website articles, and new services or products across your social platforms.

When posting on social media, give some consideration to the content you post. Is it engaging enough for your target market to click on the link to read the full post?

You’ll need to post something appealing that summarises what a user will see after they click the link. Make sure you are sharing content your followers are interested in. Otherwise, they are likely to quickly turn their attention to more interesting accounts.

Natural link earning is the best stress-free way to increase your rankings in a way that both the audience and search engines will appreciate. Link-building approaches come and go, but natural organic links will probably never lose their value.

To sum up, you need to create content relevant to your target audience, content that you yourself would not hesitate to share, and most of the battle is won.

What is a low-quality backlink?

Several things determine the poor quality of a backlink from a search engine’s point of view.

Low domain score

One of the main pointers is a low domain authority score. The domain authority is based on the number of backlinks from trusted, authoritative domains to the domain giving the backlink. A low rank means the site is not considered important and may be considered untrustworthy.

Explicit content

One link from a site with explicit content is unlikely to do much damage, but if multiple sites containing X-rated or illegal content link to you, it could result in a penalty.

Mirrored pages

Mirrored pages are similar posts or pages on multiple sites linking back to you and should be avoided. Mirrored pages often feature the exact commercial anchor text and are easily identifiable as part of a link-building scheme.

HTML to text ratio

If the proportion of visible text to HTML is low, the page linking to you could be deemed as poor quality.

Easy to get links

Links that are easy to obtain are likely to be harmful to your site, or at best, have zero value. These include low authority directories, some forum links, profile links, blog comment links, and links on free blog platforms like blogger or These types of links are extremely easy for anyone to obtain and are often used by black hat SEOs to inflate the number of links to a site.

Paid-for links

A paid-for link is when a website pays another domain for a link that points back to their domain. Paying for links is strictly forbidden by Google and could result in a severe penalty.

Even if you think you have done a stellar job of disguising a paid link, you could be in for a nasty shock, for as long ago as in 2014, Matt Cutts, the then head of Google’s link spam team, claimed the search giant had no problem identifying a paid link.

Despite the expected overlap, Google does not put online advertising in the same category as paid link building. But advertisers are strongly advised to use a “nofollow” tag on outbound links in ad campaigns.

The main difference is that the former is used only to manipulate search results while advertising aims to drive sales and brand awareness.

Impact of Bad Links

If your site gets penalised, it shows low down on results pages, decreasing the chance readers will find it. Depending on the penalty, Google may remove it from the index altogether.

Since the introduction of Penguin in 2012, Google has improved the algorithm making it more efficient at detecting and penalising bad links.

If Penguin sees a bad link, it will apply a penalty based on the site’s link profile. This is automatic, without a human review.

In addition to Penguin, Google uses human resources that manually penalise sites that have poor quality backlinks.

A manual review and penalty can be triggered in several ways, including:

  • The Penguin algorithm triggers a manual review
  • A spam complaint from a competitor
  • You’re in a niche that Google’s spam team actively follows. These are usually niches with potentially high returns, attractive to affiliates, such as payday loans, pharma products, online casinos, and dating sites.

In short, a bad backlink comes from an unrelated and untrusted source. If you get a link from a site with a penalty or that goes against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, it can negatively impact your SEO.

How to avoid bad backlinks

To avoid gaining bad backlinks, you should perform an audit of the sites you plan to build links on.

A website analysis does not take long, and it is worth the small effort to determine if it merits taking the time to get a backlink from a specific domain.

Look at the website

Even if a site has excellent metrics, it may not be a good match for your site. One thing to examine is relevancy. If a website has no relevance to yours, you could be causing more harm than good.

Google sees relevance as a sign of trust. If your site sells pet beds, getting a link from a site selling teeth whitening products won’t be seen as relevant.

So, make sure the website you are investigating covers similar topics to yours. If there is relevancy, it could be a match.

Look how frequently the site is updated

You can see if a website is active by looking at the latest posts. If the site used to post new material weekly but has not published anything fresh for several months, it might be better to give it a miss. There are many reasons admins abandon sites, including because they have a penalty.

Backlinks from websites that are frequently updated are more likely to be deemed as high quality.

Check if Google has the site indexed

Check if the website is indexed in Google by searching

If Google returns “Your search – – did not match any documents,” there is a good chance the site has a penalty.

Getting links from websites with penalties can harm your site.

Many times, websites have a penalty applied but are still in Google’s index. To see if this the case, search the brand or company name. The site comes up top if you search for “mattress time”, If the site had a lower position, it could well mean it has a penalty, and as such, should be avoided.

Check domain authority

Domain Authority is an SEO metric that estimates the authority or importance of a domain. A site with a DA of over 30 can be considered suitable for a quality backlink, with over 50 being better still.

There are several free sites to check the authority of a domain, including this one, or use the chrome extension Mozbar.

Analyse their traffic

You can get traffic insights on your target site by using sites like SimilarWeb or SEMrush. Check the traffic sources and especially the search traffic. If there is little search traffic, it is not a good sign.

Do they use the nofollow attribute?

If you want a link from a site to help your google ranking, it must be a dofollow link. You can see if a site uses a rel nofollow or dofollow attribute by looking at the source code.

While a nofollow link is not useless, it will have very little SEO value, if any, and will only be of value if someone clicks through to your site and becomes a lead or customer.

Check TLDs

The top-level domain (TLD) is the last part of a domain name.

So, in the internet address:, the “.com” is the TLD. There are generic TLDs and country specific TLDs, such as, and .es (Spain).

Examples of some of the popular TLDs include:

  • .com
  • .org
  • .net
  • .gov
  • .edu

TLDs primarily represent the purpose and type of domain or the country where it is based.

Try to get backlinks from domains with similar audiences and TLDs. So if you have a, a link from another is far preferable to a .ru (Russia) or a .cn (China) TLD.

Know the audience

To understand the value of a potential link, look at how users interact with the site. Do they comment on posts? Does the brand have a large social media following?

Websites with user engagement are optimal and usually an excellent source for high-quality backlinks.

Parting words

When building backlinks, only go for high-quality backlinks. Analyse the site you want a link from before making contact.

If a site has poor metrics or looks questionable in another way, move on. Unless you are in a very obscure niche, there are plenty of backlink opportunities out there.

Since backlinks are an essential part of SEO, you must not get it wrong. A successful SEO strategy is to build incoming links from authoritative websites, not those that raise suspicions.

If you are still unsure if you have the skills to spot a good potential website from a bad one, contact us.

We offer complete digital marketing services at a low affordable monthly cost. You can benefit from our expertise to build backlinks without having to go through the process yourself.

Using a professional agency gives you a definite advantage over your competitors. As long-standing marketing experts, we know how to engage with different demographics to earn and build inbound links to your site.

Contact us today to find out more about how we can improve your backlink profile, increase your search rank, and, in turn, your business.

We are digital professionals with over 15 years experience in the field of website development and SEO (organic, PPC & Social Media). Specializing in e-commerce platforms, we offer professional services for the discerning client looking for a personalized custom solution.

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