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Types of Backlinks That Can Negatively Impact Your Search Rankings

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It would be false to say that backlinks don’t influence search engine rankings. The fact that backlinks influence rankings is the main reason why Google has been enforcing their guidelines and smashing link networks. In the past, getting top rankings in the search engines was as simple as commenting on other blogs.

However, the way that search engines rank webpages has changed dramatically, and these days, there is no shortage of backlinks that can actually hurt your rankings. Many webmasters have received messages that say their website has unnatural links pointing to it.

In fact, these messages have become extremely common, and they’re part of an effort to get webmasters to stop manipulating their rankings with backlinks.

A lot of webmasters are having extreme difficulty determining what backlinks are negatively affecting their rankings in the search engines. However, there are a few major types of backlinks that have the potential to reduce visibility in the search engines.

Purchased Links


It’s important to understand that there is nothing wrong with buying links. Thousands of companies buy links on webpages because it’s a great way to reach more people. In fact, a lot of companies make a decent ROI through links that they’ve purchased on various webpages.

However, the search engines want webmasters to label paid links with a no-follow tag, which means ranking power is not passed through the links.

Webmasters need to avoid paying for links that are do-follow, which means the links pass ranking power. Although research shows that paid links do increase search engine rankings, they can also cause ranking penalties, which have catastrophic effects on search engine rankings.

Non-relevant Links

Webmasters should also avoid getting irrelevant links to their website. The Google Penguin update changed the importance of various ranking factors.

Basically, it greatly enhanced the importance of relevant links while decreasing the power of irrelevant links. The Penguin update made link relevance crucial. It only makes sense that a website about hotel would have relevant links from websites that are about hotels or similar.

If an abundance of irrelevant backlinks aren’t already hurting your search engine rankings, then there is a good chance that they will in the future. Put simply, it’s best to avoid obtaining irrelevant backlinks.

Broken and Dead Links


It’s not unnatural for many of a website’s links to become broken over a long period of time. A few broken links will not cause too much harm to your rankings, but if a website loses a large percentage of its links, it can negatively impact search engine rankings. Both external and internal links can reduce search engine rankings when broken, so it’s a good idea to keep track of both.

Link Networks

In the last couple of years, the Internet has witnessed a massive increase in link networks. A link network can be any network of web properties that are used for the sole purpose of building backlinks to a website. There are both public and private links networks.

Search engines have been taking action against the largest link networks. Some link networks are made out of websites that have expired while others are created with hundreds of free-hosted blogs. There is no denying that link networks pass serious ranking power.

If they didn’t, then the search engines wouldn’t be attacking such networks so aggressively. However, while the ranking power of link networks can be quite potent, they also come with a huge level of risk. Due to the very strict stance that search engines have taken against link networks, both public and private, any websites caught using such networks are at risk for being penalized.

In a worst-case scenario, a website might even be kicked out of the search index, which would cause a total loss of search engine traffic and rankings. It’s best for webmasters to avoid getting links from any type of link network.

Keyword-Rich Backlinks

There is no point in explaining what an anchor is. A quick search will yield the definition. Put simply, it’s the text used to link to a website. For years, many webmasters have been manipulating anchor text because the major search engines use it to understand what a website is about.

In the past, it was possible to get backlinks to a webpage that all used the exact same anchor text, and the search engines would rank the webpage very high in the rankings for the anchor that the backlinks were built with. However, times have changed, and the Google Penguin update took a major stab at anchor-rich backlinks.

When the Penguin update was released, websites that had an abundance of anchor-rich backlinks experienced a penalty, which negatively impacted search engine rankings. When acquiring links, webmasters need to avoid getting too many backlinks with the same anchor text. Too many anchor-rich backlinks will send your search engine rankings down the virtual toilet.

Low-Quality Directory Links

Many services offer to submit a website to a variety of low-quality web directories. It’s important to understand that there are a few high-quality web directories that are worth getting a backlink from.

The Yahoo, Best of Web and DMOZ web directories are looked favorably upon by the search engines because they’re heavily moderated. Backlinks from many low-quality web directories can negatively affect search engine rankings.

In the past, these directories were abused, so the search engines had to take action and significantly reduce their value. Many professional SEOs believe these directories can actually cause a website to be penalized. These days, it’s best to only get backlinks from the top directories, which were mentioned earlier.

Link Exchanges/

Another type of backlink that can negatively impact search engine rankings is a link exchange. Although it’s certainly possible to stay under the radar with one or two link exchanges, getting more than that can cause a penalty, which reduces rankings.

It’s important to understand that the search engines have issues with excessive link exchanges. A handful of these backlinks shouldn’t do any harm, but when obtained in excess, link exchanges can be toxic for search engine rankings.

A link exchange involves two websites linking to each other. However, it’s when the link exchange looks unnatural or in excess that problems arise.

Keyword-rich Blog and Forum Comments


In many industries, blog commenting is commonplace. There is absolutely nothing wrong with visiting other websites and leaving a valuable comment on them. After all, the Internet was built for information sharing. Many webmasters engage on forums and blogs, and links from these places are fine.

However, it is how these links are created that matters. There are many software programs that automatically spam forums and blog with comments, and these programs normally build anchor-rich backlinks, which means a keyword phrase is used in the place of a real name.

If you leave a bunch of backlinks on blogs or forums using your real name, this shouldn’t negatively affect your search engine rankings. However, creating backlinks on blogs and forums using keyword-rich anchors is one of the fastest ways to get a search engine penalty.

Although this is not an exhaustive list of toxic backlinks, it contains some of the most common types of backlinks that can negatively impact your search engine rankings.

Want more information on link building? Head over to our comprehensive guide on link building here: SEO Link Building: The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide

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James Parsons

I'm an avid blogger on SEO, social media, and design. When I'm not working with the awesome guys at AudienceBloom, I'm writing for my personal blog at or working on my next big project.

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1 Comment

  1. avatar

    Stewart Harding

    Very interesting blog. I will definitely keep the advice given here in mind when I’m trying to improve the Google ranking of my website in future. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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