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Thread: How Harmful are Irrelevant Backlinks in SEO?

  1. #1
    5starpix's Avatar
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    How Harmful are Irrelevant Backlinks in SEO?

    When working on off-site search engine optimization, many people focus on getting tons of backlinks and disregard the fact that these backlinks may be from unrelated sites. According to Matt, the search quality engineer at Google, having a variety of irrelevant backlinks could harm both your page rank and search engine rankings. There have been several instances where people have been found to sabotage the SEO of their competitor’s site. This is completely unethical and should be avoided by all means. Search engine analysts use a set of tools to track such activities and it could come back to hit you in the back.

    However, let’s consider a common situation that happens to many site owners. If you run a backlink check for your domain and come up with many unrelated sites that you did not authorize to link to you, what do you do?

    In all honesty, it would be nice to have sites link to you without you having to link back to them. These are known as one-way links and are one of the best kinds of links. In terms of the situation we mentioned, there is nothing that you can do. Everyone has the right to link to your site with the anchor text of their choice. Even if they are from a related site but with a completely unrelated anchor text, there is nothing you can do to fix it. Your best bet would be to get in touch with the site owner and aim to resolve the issue.

    Search engine such as Google, Yahoo and Bing understand that you have no control over the sites that link to you. Due to this reason, search engines don’t place a large emphasis on such links. Now, that does not mean it doesn’t look at it! As a rule, you should have related links pointing to your website. If a bulk of the links pointing to your site are from irrelevant sites, it may raise a flag at Google.

    Over time, it is common to see sites linking to you from irrelevant sites. If you do notice that you are getting links from link farms and content farms, it may be due to someone submitting your links to these sites. Again, in such cases, you should get in touch with the site owner. In the case of large corporations, they may take legal action with the help of a lawyer. You necessarily don’t have to go to that extent, but you can surely send out a later indicated the issue.

    If you are building backlinks from high page rank sites that aren’t even in your niche, you may get away with it for one or two updates, but Google will surely track it. Once search engines do track onto such unethical SEO practices, they could devalue or even de-index your site. Getting back into the search results will take months if not years, and that fully depends on the search quality team.

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    TopDogger's Avatar
    TopDogger is offline Über Hund
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    I can verify that large numbers of irrelevant backlinks can sabotage a site's rankings. One of my sites has been getting hit almost daily for the past year from links in postings from a large network of blogs. Each of the contextual links has irrelevant text in the hyperlink. My site does have original content and was not hit by Panda, but over the past year the rankings declined and the traffic dropped off to a trickle. I have not had a chance to deal with this issue.

    I have another site that is under assault with hundreds of links from unrelated sites in Russia. Its rankings and traffic were also dropping. I'm battling this one by setting up lots of relevant backlinks. Thus far that is working.

    Anyone who believes that "a link is a link and every link has value" is not keeping up to speed with current SEO issues. The quality of the links does matter. Keep this in mind when you are building backlinks.
    "Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote." -- Benjamin Franklin


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    iowadawg's Avatar
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    Party pooper that I am.

    I see a lot of irrelevant backlinks to one of my blogs.
    But they do bring me traffic!

    I believe that google, despite what they say, do not really lower a site's page rank or serp ranking because of backlinks.

    But then, I am in a minority because I am old school....if it aint about traffic, it is crap!

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    TopDogger's Avatar
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    Dawg, in the case of the first site that I mentioned, it was not just a matter of irrelevant links, but rather irrelevant hyperlink text in the links. The articles where the links originated were focused on the same theme and my site, but the blogs themselves were not. It wasn't just my site that got hit. The contextual links to my site and several others contained irrelevant text, such as "Garlic is as good as three mothers", "Two fools are few", "From the ground up", etc. There are hundreds of these nonsense statements in the links.

    At first I thought it was a prank, but now I think it was someone's black hat experiment. I know which site is behind it, because each blog post contains one legitimate contextual link and they all point to the same site. I have sent the site owner messages, first asking him to stop and then demanding it. I have not received any response.

    I watched this whole thing just to see what would happen. The bottom line is that over a year traffic dropped to about 5% of what it was and the home page PR went from 3 to 0, even though none of the malicious links pointed to the home page.

    This is pretty clear evidence (although not conclusive) that irrelevant backlinks, or at least irrelevant hyperlink text, can screw up a site's rankings--and possibly the PR.

    Now that I am done with the observation phase of this game, I think the culprit is going to be surprised when I use 301 redirects to redirects all of the spider traffic from the malicious blog pages to his home page. I kept track of every URL just for that purpose.

    None of the sites in this blog network have any home page PR, nor are they likely to be driving traffic. The posts were set up strictly with malicious intent and it looks like it worked.

    </ end of experiment> <start of action plan>

    I noticed that the traffic started to drop with the second site and that is when I found hundreds of links from Russian sites pointed to it. My current link-building program appears to be offsetting the possible damage to this site. There doesn't appear to be any connection between the two attacks.

    It does appear that there could be threshold level for irrelevant links, which G could be using to detect sites using poor quality backlink building techniques.

    Quality does matter.
    "Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote." -- Benjamin Franklin


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    bogart's Avatar
    bogart is offline Super Moderator
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    I've had an issue where I used the want url in some links. This caused the page that was ranking no. 4 for the term to disappear and the "wrong url" to page 4. So, in this case Google decided that the "wrong url" was more relevant just based on a handful of links even though the original page was more relevant to the search term.

    In my case it was just a handful of links that did the damage. In TopDogger's situation, this has to be magnified ten fold.

    I think that pages that have enough trust and inbound links will not be affected i.e. CNN

    Google is probably already aware of the problem. But, they probably too busy with other stuff like +1 and collecting information from their users to have the time to fix it.

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    TopDogger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bogart View Post
    I think that pages that have enough trust and inbound links will not be affected i.e. CNN
    Yeah, I agree. The link building to the first site was weak. That's why I am fighting the Russian link problem by focusing on quality links for the second site. It is working.

    My next experiment is to see if I can reverse the damage done to the first site. I suspect that once all of the malicious backlinks are 301 redirected to the competitor's site, the problem on my end will start clearing itself up. The problems on his end, however, will probably just begin.
    "Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote." -- Benjamin Franklin


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    philbertabrwn is offline Newbie Net Builder
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    If you have site that is all about the web services and if you have place your link on clothing related site. So when visitor visit the cloth site and if click on your link and then visit your site, but he will not find anything relevant to cloth so he would closed your site instantly as visit. And this will be cause for the high bounce rate and it affect pr negatively. So thus indirect way irrelevant links be harmful for the site results.

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    bogart's Avatar
    bogart is offline Super Moderator
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    Quote Originally Posted by TopDogger View Post
    Yeah, I agree. The link building to the first site was weak. That's why I am fighting the Russian link problem by focusing on quality links for the second site. It is working.

    My next experiment is to see if I can reverse the damage done to the first site. I suspect that once all of the malicious backlinks are 301 redirected to the competitor's site, the problem on my end will start clearing itself up. The problems on his end, however, will probably just begin.
    I think that you are right about the issue stemming form the site not able reinforce an overall keyword theme when this happens, which could be the primary identifier.

    Quote Originally Posted by philbertabrwn View Post
    If you have site that is all about the web services and if you have place your link on clothing related site. So when visitor visit the cloth site and if click on your link and then visit your site, but he will not find anything relevant to cloth so he would closed your site instantly as visit. And this will be cause for the high bounce rate and it affect pr negatively. So thus indirect way irrelevant links be harmful for the site results.
    This is true that you 'could' get a high bounce rate on irrelevant backlinks though worse is irrelevant anchor text.

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    ivvyevents is offline Newbie Net Builder
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    Quote Originally Posted by bogart View Post
    This is true that you 'could' get a high bounce rate on irrelevant backlinks though worse is irrelevant anchor text.
    That's right, irrelevant anchor text lends even more damage as compared to the irrelevant backlinks. The irrelevant anchor text acts a bigger turn-off for Google.

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