Backlinks? Backlinks.

SPAM doesn’t just stand for “something posing as meat”, “spiced ham” or “special processed American meat”.  Spam represents the sludge that today’s internet user must navigate through, whether it be in email or “backlinks” form.  The “backlinks” form is particularly troublesome and represents a threat larger than annoying emails for porn.

It is helpful to understand how Google and other search engines try to separate the chaff from the Spam.  This is true of users and business owners alike, since both are impacted by crummy spam links!

Google’s Spam Link Approach

Google SEO released a new algorithm by the name of Penguin a few years ago.  It focused on trying to penalize websites for bad link profiles and subsequently lowering their overall ranking.  This new algorithm focused on directories and their quality, an overuse of rich anchor text in links to the offending site, and links from random countries that don’t have a marketing presence for a site’s services.

There are also lesser known updates, sometimes as full algorithms themselves.  These focused on looking at the advertising density at the top of the website and researching the recipients of too many Digital Millennium Copyright Act notices. Another focus is looking at the location of sites in spammy marketplaces like gambling or pornography.  In the case of Panda, sites that lack significant original information are also ranked lower after an automatic or manual SEO checker is done with them!

Backlink Architecture

SEO Design algorithms are leveraged to look at the architecture for a site in an effort to try and sniff out spammy links.  First, the design algorithms can look at text surrounding a link to see if a link is masquerading as an advertisement.  Words like “sponsor” or “partner” can indicate an attempt to direct traffic to a link surreptitiously.  Next, sitewide links can indicate another form a trickery.  It is unusual for a site to link to another site network, unless it is internal to a business that owns both sites.  Link-Building Strategy is key here, and sloppy strategy can have unforeseen Google SEO consequences.

Backlinks for Sale!

Links can be and are sold by brokers who try to avoid the pitfalls mentioned above.  For example, a vendor’s site might have information about how to advertise. Visiting ‘Get Free Backlinks’ will probably cross into ‘link for sale’ territory which will result in a lower ranking of the site, reflects poor SEO, and will be identified by Google SEO quickly.  Take a look at figure 1 below for reference.

Backlinks Typical Structure

Fig 1. Simple Backlink Architecture

Relevance of site and the ability of neighboring links also is used to cut down on spam-type links in an SEO check and should be a integral part of link building strategy. If your link has nothing to do with the page it links to or if your link is bunched together with seemly random link listings, the page will get penalized with a lower ranking.  Placement is also key in that a search engine’s algorithm can detect when your link is not part of the main content of a page.  Carelessly placing links next to content is a common pitfall, so placement should include the code-writing aspect as well as the visual aspect to a link.

Bad Backlinks and Outside Threats

All of these pitfalls may filter out the spammiest of links, but the human component cannot be discounted.  Someone could identify the fact that you are buying links and choose to report you to Google’s authenticated paid links reporting form.  A competitor (assuming they are slimy or you really are buying links), either yours or the site that linked to yours, may report you and then Google may choose to look into it and a Google Penalty may be assessed.  A disgruntled employee may choose to report a site, without the site’s owner ever finding out.  The search engines actual employees could do a manual review for your site to find spam links, among other things.

Backlink Warfare?

Competitors could use these powerful tools to actually make your site seem artificially dishonest.  This is the flip side of all this spam link type security and sorting.  They can simply build or buy poor-quality links that fit some of the spam criteria above and point them at your site.  Google and other search engines are having a tough time sniffing this particular tactic out, but there are firms that offer this service.  Site monitoring will help you avoid this pitfall.  In fact, you can go to Google’s Disavow Links page in its suite of webmaster tools to get a handle on bad links.  Of course, nothing can replace good site upkeep and monitoring via backlink checker services.  A quick Google search for “Google Penalty Checker” can also uncover spammy backlinks to your site. You may not be personally responsible for them, but it will look like you were!

Authority on Backlink SEO

The website says it best when it says that backlinks are a “vote of confidence” between your site and others.  You are essentially vouching for one another and should not abuse the trust construct that weaves the internet together.  Backlinks should be earned and not bought. had this to say about backlink competitive research:

“New sites or those expanding their keyword footprint may find it difficult to know where to start when it comes to link building. That’s where competitive backlink research comes in: By examining the backlink profile (the collection of pages and domains linking to a website) to a competitor that’s already ranking well for your target keywords, you can gain insight about the link building that may have helped them. A tool like Link Explorer can help uncover these links so you can and target those domains in your own link building campaigns.”

A good rule of thumb for an SEO check is how much you are having to justify the links existence on your site.  Life advice: good links need no justification, they are inherently beneficial to your site and customers.