11 Characteristics of Spammy Backlinks

The latest Google SpamBrain and Google Link Spam updates have had many in the SEO world reeling.

The zero-sum game of internet rankings is always unfortunate for some and fortunate for others.

If you’ve been hit by Google SpamBrain and are looking to find reasons you may have been hit, it’s likely you’ll be best served by a comprehensive backlink audit.

A backlink audit will provide the following features:

  1. Let you know what areas in your link building efforts may be getting ignored
  2. Find opportunities for quality link placements from quality publishers and sites

I think it is important to be clear: SpamBrain does not demote sites based on spammy links.

It simply ignores and deindexes sites and pages that are considered spammy.

That’s not the same thing.

Again, there is no such thing as an algorithmic penalty.

Algorithmic demotions, but penalties are only meted out manually.

If it appears you were hit in the latest update, it most likely means Google has ignored or deindexed a large portion of your link profile.

Here we’ll discuss some of the most common characteristics of spammy backlinks.

Low-Quality Links

Links from low-quality websites, such as those with spammy content or excessive advertisements, outbound links and generic content.

I’m not just talking about sites with low domain authority.

You could get a low-quality link from a site with a domain authority or domain rating of 90+ and it still may be ignored in the overall ranking gauge for your link profile.

High domain authority should not be your only gauge.

Many repurposed, high authority sites have been used in a low-quality way to create a means to pass authority.

Here’s a great recent example from friendly link builder spam:

spam link website example

Link Farms

A link farm is a website built with the sole purpose of providing backlinks to other websites, usually in exchange for money.

These links are often low-quality, generated automatically or created manually with little regard to the relevancy of the content and are designed solely to increase the quantity of backlinks in order to boost SEO rankings.

Google’s SpamBrain is able to detect and identify link farms, making their effect moot when calculating a page’s rank.

Websites that exchange money for links instead of exchanging products or services

Paid links are a common SEO tactic used by webmasters to boost their rankings by purchasing backlinks from other websites.

Sponsored posts are a catch 22.

You get the link, but you are supposed to mark the link as rel=”nofollow” or rel=”sponsored”.  If you don’t, it could be demoted.

These types of posts should be for brand-building and referral traffic only, which decreases their effectiveness drastically.

Unnatural Anchor Text

On occasion, a particular page on your site will get the anchor text you want from an outside site.

But when that happens more than 2-10% of the time, do you think that looks natural?

It’s the difference between this

and this

Your anchor text should look like the following:

Proper anchor text distribution

Automated Tools and Services

Automated tools used for generating backlinks

Excessive Reciprocal Links

When two websites link to each other multiple times, it should cause your spidey senses to flare.

Link exchanges are one of several link schemes that have been banned by Google for years.

It’s best to avoid them, but if you use them, be sure to use rel=”nofollow”

Whenever we reference link exchanges, I feel we need to pay homage to the sad tale of Tony Hsieh of Zappos fame, who made his first coup with LinkExchange.com, which he sold to Microsoft for $265M in 1998, in the run-up of the internet bubble.

Irrelevant Links

Backlinks coming from unrelated websites are more likely to be deindexed.

The players in porn, pills and poker love this tactic.

In today’s world, it’s those selling CBD products.

But legit websites are guilty of acquiring links in this way as well.

These types of links come from generic websites or from niche websites that may link to you, but do so with no regard to weaving in the content in a natural way.

Another niche may link to you, but the site should be legit and the link should add relevant value in the context of the body in which it was crafted.

Private Blog Networks (PBNs)

PBNs are blogs hosted on a central domain and owned by a single entity

  1. Owned by a single entity
  2. Hosted on a central IP address
  3. Obviously used to generate backlinks
  4. Links are often low-quality and generated automatically or created manually with little regard to relevancy of the content
  5. Designed solely to increase quantity of links in order to boost rankings
  6. Links may be exchanged for money, products or services
  7. Unnatural anchor text is often used in PBNs
  8. Link Clusters From similar IP Address
  9. Links From Spammy Commenting

Sitewide Links

Sitewide links are links that appear on multiple pages of a website, typically as part of the website’s navigation menu or footer.

These types of links are often found in lower tiers of backlinking profiles, and can be considered low-quality due to their lack of relevancy and poor context.

We actually have sitewide links here on Link.Build, but we have marked them all as nofollow:

sitewide links

Directory Links

A directory link is a type of backlink that points to a website from an online directory.

These links are usually categorized by topic, product, or service and are designed to make it easier for users to find specific websites.

Directory links typically have no editorial control, meaning anyone can add their website to the directory and get a backlink, making them a low-quality backlink.

As a rule, if a backlink is easy to acquire, it holds little to no value.

Lack of Link Diversity

A diverse backlink profile should include a variety of different types of backlinks from sources across the web.

Diversity in backlinks helps to ensure that websites get the most out of their SEO efforts by distributing authority, relevance, and trust signals between multiple sites.

Creating a diverse backlink profile is essential for ranking highly in search engine results pages.

Websites that lack link diversity can be penalized by search engine algorithms and could suffer lower rankings as a result.

Get a Backlink Audit

Google’s SpamBrain has revolutionized the way webmasters view and analyze link quality, greatly increasing their ability to identify spammy links and clean up their website’s backlinking profile. By understanding what constitutes link spam and taking proactive steps to avoid creating or obtaining these types of links.

By understanding the different types of backlink spam, webmasters can take steps to avoid creating or obtaining low-quality links in order to keep their websites safe from penalties and algorithmic adjustments so as to maintain healthy rankings.

Remmber, every website has spammy links.

The question you should ask yourself is: should the percentage weight of my spammy links be a concern for my SEO?

If you’re not consistently building quality links, then you could be risking even greater deindexation of your own pages as the overall weight of your spam grows.

That’s where our quality link building services come in.

We build links webcrawlers love 🙂

Timothy Carter