FAST Google Penalty Recovery

Find out more

Bad Neighbourhood = Google Penalty – Do You Link To One?


Unnatural Links From Your Site

Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site. GOOGLE’S ADVICE ON LINK SCHEMES

In 2014, Google is mostly concerned with unnatural links from your site, and specifically paid links. If Google is confident your website hosts paid links, or your link to a link seller, you may receive a message from Google’s webspam team in Google Webmaster Tools. Links like these on your site usually impact the trust of the links on your site (or your Pagerank), but not normally your rankings or Google search engine traffic. Traffic and ranking penalties can depend on the infraction, and the intent and effort behind the tactics employed. Google makes the rules as it has always done, and reserves the right to make it’s own judgement as to what you have been up to and how much of a penalty you ‘deserve’.

Removing unnatural links from your own site is certainly a lot easier than removing them from external sites.

You need to be very careful about who you link to in 2014. Don’t worry about linking to sites if you trust them, but beware becoming entangled in somebody else’s paid for link scheme, or some black hat’s 3 tiered link buildng efforts.

Paid Link Schemes & Blog Networks

Low quality sites, more often than not made just for Google, link out to other spam sites, or sell links that improve other website rankings in a way that violates Google’s guidelines. Google calls these guys web spammers (as opposed to email spammers). You don’t want to be linking to these sites, for much of the same reasons as I go into below.

Be aware of guest posters for instance, and the sites they link to. Be aware of user generated forum or blog comments or signatures, ESPECIALLY if those links do not have rel nofollow.

Website Hacked?

You might be linking to sites, and you don’t even know about it. Hackers are interesting in stealing your traffic or your ranking power. They might hack you to place your site in part of a network of sites all pointing to one recipient site in an effort to fool Google. Not only is this against Google’s rules, but it is illegal too – not that that stops them.

Hackers know that these spam networks (or bad neighbourhoods) need links from trusted sites to earn reputation. Links from trusted sites transfer trust and votes of relevance (Google Juice, whatever) to the receiving sites, allowing these sites to improve their positions in Google’s index. So, they hack your site, place hidden links in the code, and leave you none the wiser. You may find yourself part of a tiered system to manipulate Google – a LINK NETWORK – and you might never find out about it.

Google hates hidden links, spam networks, and ESPECIALLY paid links. Rather than let your site “heat” up and validate a spam neighbourhood so that it can start receiving visitors from Google, it might just remove your site from the index, by classing your site as part of that bad neighbourhood. More commonly Google will reduce the reputation of your links – leaving your traffic ok – but your the ability of your site to cast a vote of approval for another site is greatly reduced, perhaps to zero. That may be of concern to you, or it may be not, but TRUST when it comes to ranking in Google is a BIG DEAL in 2014, and not something to be taken lightly.

Determining if a site is in a bad neighbourhood can take some experience, but there’s plenty of professional seo tools out there to help identify these links.

Being hacked can certainly impact your rankings.  If you’ve spotted it before you’ve seen your rankings drop, there are measures you can take (apart from deleting the offensive links immediately!). This has happened to me before, and as long as you take action immediately, you’ll probably be OK. Check out this site about WordPress security for more on how to secure your blog from hackers. I’ve not implemented all the measures I would like to yet, but vigilance is still a good form of security.

Linking To A Bad Neighbourhood.

Here’s an interesting quote from the Official Google Webmaster Blog ;

Q: I’ve cleaned it up, but will Google penalize me if the hacker linked to any bad neighborhoods?
A: We’ll try not to. We’re pretty good at making sure good sites don’t get penalized by actions of hackers and spammers. To be safe, completely remove any links the hackers may have added.

Bad neighbourhoods, to Google, are typically identified by spammy on-page ‘seo‘ techniques and dubious backlink and interlink profiles. A good example would be a blog network – set up just to spam Google for links. You do not want to link to neighbourhoods like that, because who you link to matters.

If you’ve been penalised by Google (ie removed from the search engine index) because you now link to a bad neighbourhood, you should read Google’s official advice if you’ve been hacked.

My theory is that Google will crawl your site a number of times to check if you still have these links to spam sites. If you remove them, no problem. If they survive multiple crawls, your site may suffer some kind of loss of reputation based on a violation of Google guidelines for inclusion or as part of bad neighbourhood identification.

Google now helps you with notifications if you’re website is hacked, and Google also clearly punishes you for bad neighbourhoods linking TO your site – so watch out.

Related Articles

  1. Lifting Google Penalty For Unnatural Links
  2. Google Webmaster Tools notice of detected unnatural links
  3. Google Penguin Update 2012

Is It OK To Link Out To Related Sites?

Of course. I regularly link out to other quality relevant pages on other websites where possible and where a human would find it valuable.

I generally don’t like to link out to other sites from homepage (social media links aside). I want all the PR residing in the home page to be shared only with my internal pages as much as possible. I don’t like out to other sites from my category pages either, for the same reason.

I link to other relevant sites (a deep link where possible) from individual pages and I do it often, usually. I don’t worry about link equity or PR leak because I control it on a page to page level.

This works for me, it allows me to share the link equity I have with other sites I admire while ensuring it is not at the expense of pages on my own domain. It may even help get me into a ‘neighbourhood’ of relevant sites, especially when some of those start linking back to my site.

Linking out to other sites, especially using a blog, also helps tell others that might be interested in your content that your page is ‘here’. Try it.

Generally I wont link out to sites using the exact keyword /phrase I am targeting, but I will be considerate, and usually try and link out to a site using keywords these bloggers / site owners would appreciate.

I try to be considerate when I have the time as anchor text in external links is ultra important and really does have an impact on rankings for others – and me.

If you don’t trust a site you are linking to, or don’t want the link to look like a paid link, you can always use rel nofollow. But remember – the web is built on links. Everybody wins when you are sensible with your links, and focus on the user.


Loading Facebook Comments ...

2 Responses

  1. Erik - Rubber Stamps says:

    It kind of sucks that if someone really wants to they can sabotage you and you may never know it. keeping a website free from intruders and others that could damage it is pretty hard. Google has a lot of rules but its not always possible to make sure you are 100% compliant, even when you don’t know if someone is breaking them for you.

  2. kevsta says:

    i ran the tool over my site and found some very savoury keywords linked to by a site I had linked to in a blog post. i wont post them all in here, but there was mention of gay cowboy activities and all sorts the post was actually about this dodgy looking black cat site i had found, and had i nofollowed the link to it anyway. think we’ll be alright. nice find.



Learn how you can get more sales from your website

Subscribe for free and let us share with you:

  • how to submit your site to Google, Yahoo & Bing
  • how to optimise your site to get more traffic from Google
  • how to target the most valuable keywords for your business
  • how to make your site rank better in free Google listings
  • how to rank high & avoid Google penalties in 2014

Trust Hobo with your SEO plan

Find out more