In this post I am going to define what Google sees as low quality links that are “toxic”… and how, if they are detected, in “excessive amounts” in your backlink profile – they can result in getting you the famous “unnatural links” penalty or warning in your Webmaster Tools area, such as the one shown in the image below.
If you want to avoid the penalty, then it is absolutely important that you stop directly link to your main site or its inner pages with excessive amounts of low quality links and reduce the use of “money keywords” in your anchor link profile.
You should also make sure that your off-site backlinks have proper anchor text optimization done and the ratios of keyword anchors that you use are natural looking.
“Low quality toxic links” and “money keywords in the link anchors” are bad IF done excessively.
Unfortunately, this thresh-hold is very low but varies from niche to niche and is based on the competitiveness of a particular niche.
While it was possible to jump into any niche and just purchase a blast of 20,000 forum profile links for $20 and see some good SERP movements – those days are long gone and this is not possible anymore. In fact, it will definitely hurt you more. So, beware of buying low-quality bulk links.
While you may be able to get away with a few (fraction) of low quality and toxic links, as compared to your overall high quality backlink profile – you need to be very very careful.
A single sitewide link from a poor site (low PR) having 10,000 pages – can ruin the party for you.
So, before you go hire someone on fiverr to kick-off your link building efforts with 5000 cheap forum profile links – you need to stop and read this.
By indulging in this kind of link building activity you could be causing irreversible damage to your sites rankings.
While it is entirely true and observed that you can have a certain percentage of low quality links in your overall backlink profile – you need to watch these levels very closely.
Google has turned up the dial on this one and is throwing out a lot more manual and algorithmic penalties for sites with lower thresholds of low quality and toxic backlinks in their overall link profile.
Doing stuff like this, will sooner or later trip the algorithm and these links will start to pass down negative link juice to your main pages. So, do not indulge in these kind of links for your main domains. (you may get away with this by creating a Tiered structure – but that is a topic for another discussion).
Is Negative SEO a Lie ??
Some people believe that this there is no negative juice flowing down to your site in an algorithmic penalty – and its only the fact that Google has nullified your score from these low quality links from a positive value to zero. Hence, you notice a drop in rankings as any positive juice flowing from these has been reduced to zero.
However, I beg to differ. I have cited my reason above and in another post.
Negative SEO and negative link juice IS REAL and here to stay.
While this has opened up a huge controversy that your competitors could get you slapped by spending a few dollars – Google has decided that the potential “Good” that can come from this outweighs the “Bad”. They would rather see a few honest people suffer, than see their engine being games by expert blackhatters.
There is no doubt that Google is getting better at this game by changing factors around and introducing new ranking patterns and rules.
They’ve even assisted us with a a disavow tool through the Webmaster Tools area where you can submit your unnatural links report to them – so they can de-index all your toxic pages that are passing you negative juice.
And, if you got a manual penalty – they’re asking you to submit a “Reconsideration Request” – upon which they will consider lifting the manual penalty IF they see that you have made substantial effort in pruning your links in the first place.
Its a very clever move.
They’re effectively outsourcing the manual reporting of low quality backlinks (webspam) – to better understand the “link graph”, as obviously their algorithm has certain limiting factors which only humans can do manually.
A quick list of Different Types of Low Quality Links…
1. Forum Profile Links – these are the most common type of low quality links. They exist on a page which has very thin content and just a few outbound links in it. These pages are just what your profile page on a forum would look like. Some people try and stuff these pages with contextual content by filling up stuff in the “about me” and profile areas. So, they make a post of 200 to 400 words and write about the related topic that the backlink is pointing to – in the hope of making this page look more like valuable information for the Googlebot and thus getting the page to pass down positive link juice. Unfortunately, this does not work any more.
2. Mass Directory Submissions – Google is now slapping sites almost overnight for getting their website listed across thousands of directory sites overnight.
3. Social Bookmarking Sites – Not all social bookmarks are bad. As long as you drop these from a large variety of social bookmark sites you are safe. Just don’t buy a large quantity overnight and all coming from low PR bookmarking sites. There are tons of tools out there that can blast your bookmarks out to 3000 sites for a few dollars. This is not advised specially in the small niches – where the number of social bookmarks that your top ranking competitors have is very low.
4. A large number of sitewide links on a poor site with low Domain Authority and low Page Rank – will also now be considered as toxic to your link profile. Having sitewide links, like in the footers or sidebars across a site – can be a good thing and can get you some great link juice – but if you overdo this and place your sitewides on poor quality sites with low trust, low PR, PA and DA – you can get hit by the negative penalty.
5. Having a backlink on a site that has been de-indexed is not safe. If you have too many of these – it can cause trouble.
6. Do not put backlinks on bad neighborhoods… sites that have malware, malicious or virus etc.
7. A link placed on a page with a large number of Outbound Links – specifically in the comments area of blog posts that has hundreds of spammy auto-approve blog comments. These are now dangerous and Google has used the power of the crowd to get these pages reported to them. Don’t overdo these type of links.
8. If a page does not rank for its own Title – then that page is probably a de-indexed page or a penalized page. The only exceptions here are pages with generic titles like “homepage” etc. which are very hard to rank for. So do your homework with this.
9. If the domain theme is listed as Hacking, Suspicious or Pornogaphy – stay clear.
10. Placing your backlinks on low quality Article Directories can also get you into trouble. Avoid these and just focus on the top 3 Article sites.
11. If a large number of your backlinks are located across sites with the same Adsense ID – then this is a possible link network.
12. The domains on which you place your link has a very low link velocity and its backlink profile is basically mostly stagnant and non-existent.
13. If you place your backlink on excessive number of sites that are static sites with almost no updates over time.
14. The Class C address is common across a large number of sites where you have placed your backlinks… possibly indicating a link network.
15. If there are signs that you have purchased the link on a website without making the link “nofollow’ this could get your site into trouble as this is directly a violation of Google TOS.
The tolerance levels for low quality links is different across different niches based on the competitiveness levels and also how trusted some of the sites are by Google. For example – a site like Tumblr could not get deindexed intentionally by the algorithm as Google probably puts an “exclusion-to-the-rule” on it.
Remember – the key to understanding what levels are accepted (and what anchor link ratios are good) for your site is to study your top ranking competition in your niche that are still holding the top ranks.