SEO – Can links hurt your rankings

In this article we try to answer this age old question – can links hurt your rankings? We will look to see if this is truth in it or not. We also look at the different types of back linking strategies that this statement covers.

What is this statement really mean?

What this statement really means is that you must pay attention to your back link profile for your website. You can do this by using existing SEO tools you have on your computer, or checking with your SEO firm, or simply using Google Analytics and gong to the traffic monitoring sections. 

By looking at your back link profile you should be able to see what types of links are pointing back to your website. Look for targeted, branded and generic links.   

Ideally a healthy back link profile should have roughly 20% of targeted links, 40% generic links, and 40% branded links.

Remember that targeted links are anchor text such as Accountants in Kent. Generic links are anchor text like read more, click here. Branded links are anchor text with a company name or brand. 

The answer! Can links hurt you?

To put this simply, yes. But it is not complete doom and gloom for your website as many SEO experts and know-alls with have you see it. 

This statement, “links can hurt you” has been made by many SEO experts and know-alls for years and more so since the start of 2013 after the Google updates. Typically it has got webmasters worried and also used as a scare tactic to push new SEO tools.

So how can links hurt you?

Here are 3 ways in which links can hurt your rankings in terms of ranking. This is not a complete list but a good start. 

1) Over use of targeted anchors text links
Anchor text is a valuable part of SEO and linking to and from related website but as always experts and people alike try to game to system and cheat.

For example if a blog called PC Tools and a blog called Computer Forum existed. Here PC Tools is the anchor text which points to the PC Tools blog, and Computer Forums is the anchor text which points to Computer Forum blog.

Now the links which mentioned above will tell the search engines that when a user types Computer Forum, the search engine thinks that is a relevant site for the term “computer forum” and the link is relevant to “PC Tools“.

So if multiple sites are linking to for the term PC Tools, that page can manage to rank well even if there is nothing related to that keyword or phrase in the site.

What out and do not go down that road because if you have more than 20% of your links as targeted anchor text links you will be affected Google Penguin update.

What to do?
Simply spread the load with 20% targeted keywords like good house keeping, 40% brand keywords like your company name, website name, link name, and finally 40% of generic keyword links like click here and read more.

Also, you don’t need to shell out for any quick fix tools and software to resolve this as can easily be done.

2) Building Too Many Links Too Fast
This is another technique being pushed by SEO experts at the moment – traffic boosting. Some of this is done by new app plug-ins for social networks such as WordPress and FaceBook. Some of this is also done by software tools.

The key to this is that it has to be natural and legitimate. A simple example if a website starts getting a huge boost in traffic and has been in the news, has been active on the social network scene and so on, so be it and Google and other search engines will see this as okay and what they want.

On the dark side, if a website has a huge boost in traffic but all quiet elsewhere such as no social activity, posting or just even website updates then this might raise a few eyebrows with the search engines.  

Once again, be wary of offers so traffic and visitor boosting tools and apps because they could do more harm, and you all that with out these “Must Have” tools. 

3) Spam links
As always spam like links are never a good idea, even for a quick boosts to page 1 of the search engines. Spam links can harm your rankings because a) these links are irrelevant, b) unnatural, and c) just a waste of time. Also, and perhaps more importantly, spam links can indirectly harm your rankings by association.

Imagine Site A was ranking quite nicely on page 1 when one day the ranking was reduced considerably. Why is this? Imagine that Site A was linked to by 3 nice friendly websites called Site B, Site C and Site D. Each website linked to each other but Site C had several spam related links. Because Site C had these its importance as a link was reduced which affects the importance of Site B and Site D. The affect is also passed to Site A.

What to do?

Apply common sense when getting links back to your website. Also check whenever you can what links are linking back to you. If you are a website administrator and have some control over the websites linking to you such as forum links, blog links or other websites then you can have control over most of the back links.

If not, you can use the disavow section of Google Analytics to highlight a link that may be a problem for your website.