Backlinks: Importance, Types & Bad Backlinks to Avoid

What is a Backlink?

As the name suggests, a backlink refers to a hyperlink on a website that points back to one of your web pages. You can also call it a form of citation in which a website talking about a topic related to your brand, product(s), or service(s) mentions your website directly or indirectly on their site.
Backlinks are also known as in-links, inward links, incoming links, or inbound links.
Here is an example of a backlink to help you understand better.
The image above shows a backlink received by Design Wizard in an article published by VWO on the text “color theory.” The link provides details on the fundamentals of color theory which relates to VWO's blog. This is an outgoing link for VWO and an in-link or backlink for Design Wizard.

Related : Legit Ways to Earn Backlinks to Your Site

Importance of Backlinks for SEO

Backlinks hold high importance when it comes to search engine optimization. They provide a “vote of confidence” from one site to another and signal the search engines that other websites are endorsing your content.
When a lot of websites link a particular webpage to their platform, search engines think that the site's content is worth ranking high on SERP and would also benefit the readers.
Here are three primary benefits of backlinks.

1. Backlinks Improve Organic Ranking

As mentioned above, backlinks help improve the organic ranking of a webpage. Here’s how.
When search engines see that a webpage is receiving many quality backlinks, they take that webpage as a credible platform. They believe that the website has valuable information on that specific topic.
They then rank the webpage high on SERP and help visitors get answers to their queries faster.
If you try to use the wrong means to get more and more backlinks, search engine algorithms will identify your bad methods and punish you. They will push your webpage(s) low on SERP and mark you as a non-credible source.

2. Backlinks Increase Brand Awareness

When many websites link your webpage(s) on their sites, this shows that they feel your content has value. They will willingly want their visitors to visit your site and gain more knowledge.
When this happens, this means that not only is your credibility increasing in the market but so is your brand's awareness.

3. Backlinks Boost Referral Traffic

Besides the above two benefits, backlinks also significantly help to boost referral traffic. Meaning, when a visitor comes to your website through a backlink, Google Analytics tracks this click as a referral visit to your site.
Referral traffic is more targeted, relevant and reduces your site’s bounce rate compared to other types of traffic sources.

Types of Bad Backlinks to Avoid

So far, we have understood that:

  • Backlinks help build a website's authority,
  • Mark it as a credible source to search engines, and
  • Increase site traffic.

But not all types of backlinks provide these benefits.
Some of them tend to affect your brand’s value and harm your SERP ranking.
Tools to Check: Fortunately, there are several smart ways to find whether a backlink is a good backlink or a bad one. One way is to use an online tool such as Ahref, RankActive, etc., to maintain your link profile. These tools also help optimize your site and make it a credible source of information.
Let us first understand the difference between good and bad backlinks.
Good Backlinks: Good backlinks are those that happen naturally or organically (you don’t have to trade or pay for them), add value to your website. They even help visitors better understand a particular topic, product, or service.
Bad Backlinks: On the other hand, bad backlinks are the ones that search engines have pinged. Such links lower your appearance on SERP. They are forcibly mentioned, artificial, or most irrelevant to a topic. Further, they may come from spam websites, other sites that you own, or are outdated.
Knowing the source of a backline is essential. This helps to ensure that your website’s reputation and credibility don't get hampered.

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1. Links from Spammy Websites

While it is not easy to identify whether a website is spammy, yet this is something that you need to gauge. A spammy website usually,

  • Show ads that are irrelevant to you
  • Talk about illegal or predatory products such as pornography, pharmaceuticals, and poker

If you receive backlinks from such websites, this will tarnish your brand’s image in the market and also get you penalized by search engines.
How to Deal With Spam links: In case your site starts to receive tons of spammy backlinks, you must take necessary cleaning measures. Even report the issue before much damage happens that is beyond repair.
How can you detect spammy bad backlinks?
Google suggests that you must:

  • First, conduct internal due diligence
  • Second, contact the websites from where you are receiving bad backlinks.
  • Third, request them to remove all the backlinks.

Once you have done this, you can then use a disavow tool to request removing these links.

2. Links Received from the Link-Mill Sites

Many people across the industry also recognize link-mill websites as paid link schemes. They enable site owners to get a lot of backlinks to ace up their SEO game.
However, they don’t realize that too many links aren’t always good for a web page or website. And, if they link back to dubious sources, the website can get into scrutiny.
Ideally, link-mill websites include backlinks earned in exchange for money or other resources. Any site promising a ton of backlinks to strengthen your SEO game for cash also fall into this category.
Search engines recommend site owners create high-quality content that naturally builds authority and credibility. The better and richer in information your content is, the more value it will gain on the world wide web.

3. Links from Sites Outside Your Industry

Another kind of bad backlink is one that is not related to your industry. Let's say you run an eCommerce homemade chocolate site.
A link from a recipe site or one on how to package your gifts would be relevant to your business and industry. But, a link from a pet shop or an Italian grooming site, not so much.
When you add backlinks to your site from sectors or industries which are completely unrelated to yours, it creates confusion. This further means,

  • Your site loses its credibility and authority in the eyes of visitors
  • You start de-ranking for relevant keywords
  • Your site’s visibility gets greatly hampered

Here is An Example: Take us, for example. We provide information on SEO, social media optimization, and other related topics. We also receive backlinks similar to our work.
Search engines recognize us as a platform that provides information around marketing activities. They hence, rank us for related keywords.
Suppose we suddenly start publishing content around cryptocurrency, for example. And, we also receive backlinks around this topic. In that case, search engines will begin to rank us for keywords related to cryptocurrency and not marketing.
What You Should Do?: If your site is receiving backlinks from sites outside your industry, it’s time to clean up the mess. Remove unrelated backlinks so that your reputation doesn't get hampered in the online world.

4. Blog Comment Section Links and Discussion Forums

This doesn’t mean that you should not share your thoughts, opinions, or essential information on discussion forums or blog comment sections. Sites like Quora and Reddit have proved that discussion forums are a great place to chat and share information with like-minded people.
Even blog comment sections are an excellent way to seek opinions from people or get feedback on a particular topic.
But, as informed earlier, it is best to avoid using spammy, manipulative movies. Avoid adding random forum or comment section links. Such links will not help you in any manner possible. They are, in a way, dead-ends.
If there are any such backlinks on your site, now is the time to start a pruning exercise.

Tools to Check Backlinks

1. SE Ranking

SE Ranking is one of the best backlink checking tools that you will find in the market. The tool allows you to check incoming links to your website based on the data gathered from Google Webmaster.
The tool further enables you to:

You can easily generate a detailed analysis of your backlinks on the following parameters:

  • Index / non-index
  • Follow / no-follow
  • cached / not cached
  • date discovered
  • Domain authority
  • Anchor text
  • Alexa ranking
  • Social popularity

Once you are done with your entire pruning exercise, you can then disavow links and generate a file within the tool to submit to Google Webmaster.
Cost: Three plans available - Optimum ($31/month); Plus ($71/month); Enterprise ($151/month)

2. Sitechecker

This is a great backlink tracker tool that helps SEO and marketing managers track and analyze your site’s backlink profile. The tool gives you the leverage to keep track of:

  • All your backlinks
  • get notified if and when a backlink gets lost
  • Revive the lost backlink easily

With Sitechecker, you can:

  • create and evaluate your link-building strategies
  • take necessary actions to increase their efficiency
  • Get information on the most used anchors by other sites that lead back to your website
  • Check which of your landing pages have maximum links
  • Figure out how and which backlinks are affecting your website traffic

Cost: Three plans available - Basic ($19/month); Startup ($29/month); Growing ($69/month)

3. RankActive

This is a relatively new tool in the market. However, it has high advocacy. RankActive helps you identify backlinks in live mode.
Unlike other tools, RankActive:

  • Has quite a large in-house backlink database and graphs and tables that show which link is good for SEO and which isn’t.
  • Provides detailed metrics for each of the backlinks
  • Shows all lost and gained links during the entire existence of a page or website.

It also helps keep track of your competitor’s backlinking activity. You can learn from their strategies and improve your SEO game.
All the data provided by RankActive can be downloaded in an Excel format for internal sharing and usage purposes.
You can even set the tool to send you a report on the performance of your backlinks on your email. Schedule it at regular intervals for monitoring purposes.
Cost: Four plans available - Minimal ($29.95/month); Optimal ($69.95/month); Ultimate ($149.95/month): Flexible ($237.95/month)

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4. Linkody

One of the primary reasons to include Linkody in our list of best backlink checking tools is that it is an automated tool. It not only helps save time but also provides easy access to large volumes of data.
Besides that, there are many other reasons to use this tool as well. Some of them are as follows:

  • It notifies when you lose or gain a backlink
  • It gives you the ability to identify and disavow spammy links quickly.
  • It provides an inside look at the performance of your competitors’ backlinks.

Like RankActive, Linkody also allows you to set up email notifications. These help track the health of your backlink profile regularly.
Cost: Five plans available - Webmaster ($14.90/month); Advanced ($24.90/month); Pro ($49.90/month): Agency ($99.90/month): Agency XL ($153.90/month)

5. Ahrefs

This is by far one of the best and most widely used backlinks checking tools by SEOs across the globe.
Ahrefs offers a free version through which you can monitor the hygiene of 10 backlinks are 2 domains per request. Its paid version enables you to conduct a complete analysis of your site’s backlink profile. This includes do-follow / no-follow, anchor text, image backlinks, and more.
It is also proven to a lifesaving tool for times if you ever get penalized by Google. The tool gives you an exact percentage of anchor text which is violating Google’s rules.
At present, Ahrefs’ crawler is the only one that can detect backlinks in JavaScript and HTML. It also crawls 4.1 million pages per minute.[3] This means that you can see new, broken, and lost backlinks very quickly.
Cost: Four plans available - Lite ($99/month); Standard ($179/month); Advanced ($399/month); Agency ($999/month)

6. BuzzSumo

BuzzSumo is yet another bad backlink checking tool that we highly recommend.
The tool enables you to:

  • Monitor keywords and domain names
  • Keep an eye on the highest-ranking pages and see which sites are pointing to these pages.
  • Get notifications on new backlinks received and build good relations with those new sites.
  • Optimize your marketing strategies and generate more links for low-performing webpages.

Cost: Three plans available - Pro ($99/month); Plus ($179/month); Large ($299/month); Enterprise ($499/month)

Bad Backlinks and SEO FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions around bad backlinks and SEO.

Q1: What Are the Benefits of Backlinking in SEO?

When your website is linked to a trustworthy source such as Forbes, Medium, McKinsey, etc., via a backlink, its credibility, and authority increase in the eyes of the search engines.
Backlinks from trustworthy sources help SEO to show search engines your website is worthy enough for others to endorse it on their sites.
Over time, as you build a healthy profile with good backlinks, your search ranking will automatically improve. This will also help build your domain’s authority online.

Q2: Is Negative SEO a Real Threat?

Unfortunately yes! Negative SEO has become a common practice nowadays to gain a competitive edge in the online world. To protect your website from such attacks, always monitor the hygiene of your backlinks.
Ensure all your backlinks are good backlinks. In case you come across a bad backlink that has the potential to decrease the authority and value of your website, submit a disavow report to Google immediately.

Q3: How Can I Find Bad Backlinks?

There are many tools in the market today, both paid and free, which can help you quickly identify bad backlinks. You can check out our list of best backlink tools in the section above.
Besides these tools, you can also search for bad backlinks using Google Search Console (Google Webmaster Tools). Inside the tool, you can view an entire list of sites that link back to your website. Such a report can help you create effective SEO campaigns and make your webpages perform better on SERP.

Q4: What Questions Should I Ask Myself When Identifying a Bad or Good Backlink?

When looking through backlink data generated via a backlink checking tool, there are several questions you should ask yourself to identify a good or bad backlink. Some essential questions are as follows:

  • What type of website is it? If you see that it is a very low-quality site with tons of links, it may probably be a bad page to associate with your own website.
  • Does the link provide better business? If your answer is yes, keep the backlink. Whereas, if the answer is no, check the longevity of the backlink. If it wouldn’t prove fruitful in the coming time, get rid of it.
  • Are these links related to my industry? If the backlinks associate with your industry, keep them or else discard them immediately. The more relevant the links, the better it is for your site from an SEO standpoint.

Q5: How to Remove Bad Backlinks?

The steps to removing bad backlinks are pretty simple.

  • Step 1 : identify the links that are or have the potential to damage your website’s authority.
  • Step 2 : Search for the website contact information of these identified bad backlinks.
  • Step 3 : Submit a report to Google Webmaster requesting the removal of these backlinks from your site.
  • Step 4 : If you do not get a response within two weeks of report submission, disavow the links and send the file to Google.

Q6: What Are the Benefits of Disavowing a Backlink in SEO?

One of the primary reasons to disavow a backlink is to safeguard the authority and credibility of your site.
Disavowing tells search engines that you practice good SEO tactics and follow all the rules and regulations.
The second benefit is that it helps you protect your site if you get penalized by a search engine. You can immediately identify and disavow bad backlinks and safeguard your site from further penalties.
Get in touch with our experts to learn more about backlinks and SEO.

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