Link building is an important aspect of SEO that, if done incorrectly, can have a hard hitting negative impact on your site. When one website links to another, they are effectively vouching for the quality of the site they’ve linked to. As such, when good, rule-abiding sites trusted by Google link to you, Google knows that your site is probably pretty good too. However, when you are associated with bad sites that employ black hat SEO tactics and get penalised by the search engine, you may have entered what we SEOs call a bad neighbourhood.
It’s worth noting that the term ‘bad neighbourhood’ is now considered to be a bit outdated and is not something you’ll hear much in the 2018 SEO world. It was more prevalent six or seven years ago, in the wake of the Penguin update that tackled spammy link-building. However, if you do happen to come across the term then this article will give you an overview of what the term means.
So, what is a bad neighbourhood?
Just like real life, nobody wants to visit the wrong part of town; online it’s no different. Think of your site as a house in the huge city that is the internet. With its valuable content, great web design and top quality onsite SEO, your site looks stunning to all the search bots on the web. Like a real-world property, if your site is surrounded by and vouched for by other great sites, you’re in a good neighbourhood, and its value is boosted dramatically.
However, if your site is associated with and supported by bad sites, no matter how beautiful and well put together your onsite is, the search engines won’t want anybody going there. Just as we wouldn’t trust a bad neighbourhood in real life, search engine bots don’t trust sites in bad web neighbourhoods. If you find yourself in a bad neighbourhood, you can look forward to dropping down those search engine rankings.
When you’re building links to your site, you need to be focussing on quality over quantity. No matter how many inbound links you have, if a majority of the links are coming from dodgy directories that also link to sites flogging cheap ‘male enhancement pills’ and advertise second-rate online casinos, your ranking is going to be negatively affected. This is the problem with bad neighbourhoods – often you don’t even know you’re in one.
How can I spot a bad neighbourhood?
Your onsite SEO could be as white hat as it gets, but if you’re building links from sites that Google’s algorithms see as untrustworthy, you’ll still be negatively impacted. Bad neighbourhoods can be identified in a number of ways.
As we alluded to, being listed in directories that aren’t properly vetted is a sure fire way to see yourself joining a bad neighbourhood. These directories are the kind of places where just about any site can be listed, meaning that the directory itself can be linking to some of the spammiest sites out there. Thus, it’s a bad neighbourhood.
There’s also the threat of posting in unmoderated forums. Although your posts and links may be relevant to the conversation, there may be spam bots posting links to dodgy sites that you wouldn’t want to be associated with at all. You’ll know if these forums are unmoderated, as they will often have lots of link spam present. Avoid at all costs.
Finally, blogs are another avenue through which you could find yourself in a bad neighbourhood. Guest posting and blog commenting is a popular form of link building, so when you find the ideal blog to contribute to, don’t just make sure that their content is up to scratch. When searching for a blog on which to do some link building – make sure that your chosen blog doesn’t link out to any black hat sites.
Keep these tips on what to look out for in mind the next time you’re looking to build your backlink profile and you should be able to avoid ending up in any bad neighbourhoods. Although webmasters have been pursuing more legitimate offsite SEO tactics since 2012’s Penguin Update, avoiding bad neighbourhoods goes further than just not link spamming. Build links on only the most trustworthy sites, and ensure that you would be happy linking to the vast majority of sites that they link to themselves.
What can I do if I’m in one?
Now you know what a bad neighbourhood is, you may have realised that your site is already in one. If you do find yourself in a bad neighbourhood, do your best to get out quickly. To work out how to get out of a bad neighbourhood, just follow the same procedures as you would to remove any spammy inbound links to your site.
If you posted links to your site in forums or commented on blogs that are in bad neighbourhoods, simply log on to the sites where you posted and delete your comments, it’s as simple as that. The same goes for any directories you may have listed yourself in. However, if you aren’t able to remove the links manually, you could consider using Google’s disavow tool. Although this should be used as a last resort, disavowing a link ensures that your site will not be connected to the site from which you are being linked, thus taking you right out of that bad neighbourhood.