Adelina Karpenkova
June 18, 2019

Why Backlinks May Hurt Your SEO & How to Boost Inbound Links

Improve Your Backlinks Strategy

Link building is one of the key steps to improving your page rankings. But not everyone realizes that backlinks are a part of their trust factor. Many think that links are just a ‘number game.’ That’s why people started to buy links, insert their links in blog comments, and create unnatural anchor texts.

All these actions resulted in the development of the Penguin algorithm. This algorithm assigns values to the backlinks and penalizes manipulative link building tactics. Since then, wide but spammy link profile will not only do no use but also hurt your rankings.

In this post, you’ll find the answers to the following questions:

  • What are bad and good links?
  • How to analyze your link profile?
  • How to gain quality backlinks?

What You Should Know About Backlinks

So, you could notice that quality link building isn’t that easy process. Now we should determine what actually bad and good links are, and how you can differ one from the other.

Bad Backlinks

Well, you know that bad links hurt your rankings. But what backlinks does Google consider to be bad?

  • Paid links. Such backlinks are the most obvious. In most cases, these links come from spammy websites, and Google robots can quickly identify them.
  • Irrelevant links. It may happen if you decided earning backlinks from the niche leaders is too time-consuming. So, you asked some local businesses not relevant to your subject to link to you. Such backlinks are also considered as bad ones and would rather hurt your SEO than improve it.
  • Not trustworthy links. After you decided you should find relevant websites to get backlinks, there’s one more thing for you to consider. Even being relevant to your subject, the page may simply fail to be trustworthy. Try to avoid low-quality websites earning bad links, as they won’t bring you any profit. To understand whether you should get links from the source or not, check its link profile quality with Majestic:


How To Clean Up Bad Links

The most unfair thing is that your link profile may get hurt when you don’t know it. Unfortunately, links coming from other sources don’t depend on you. If one wants to link to your website, he or she will do it. Secondly, even your competitors may generate bad links for you. So, how to eliminate the harm from such activities?

First of all, you need to gather all the links to your website. It’s pretty easy to get such a list with Majestic, Ahrefs, or Serpstat. Enter your domain, go to the Backlinks section, select Dofollow type, and you’ll see all the pages linking to your website.


To identify sources you should check, look at your DR (Domain Rating) and UR (URL Rating). The lower these scores are, the less trustworthy search engines consider these pages to be. Check sources with low Domain Rating to analyze whether you really need these links. For instance, the first ‘suspicious’ article I’ve noticed appears to be about escorts, while the domain I’m analyzing provides house decoration tips:


Here’s you should do when you identified the irrelevant or low-quality source:

  • Reach out to the website owner and ask him or her to remove the link. Make sure you ask politely because it’s your best interest to get rid of it. If webmasters ask to pay for removal or don’t answer you, read the next tip.
  • Disavow the unwanted link. Google has created a comprehensive instruction on how to do this in this manual.

Good Links

When you know how to avoid bad links, it’s time to determine what search engines consider to be good ones. Earning quality links is key to attracting organic search traffic.

First of all, these are natural links. I mean, those which are built because your web page is relevant to the source website, and it’s worth mentioning it on their page. Such backlinks don’t make search robots suspicious of their nature.

If you represent a local small business, why not collaborating with similar ones? It’s much easier to reach to them than to the niche giants.

The following factors make a good link good:

  • The source is relevant to your topic. If you sell cars, the link from the auto blog will be an excellent choice. Such links not only let you rank higher for the relevant queries but will also drive prospects ready to purchase, to your site. They’re already interested in your subject.
  • Trustworthy sites. It’s not a secret Google trusts some websites more than others. If you want search engines to consider your site a quality one, earn links from the trusted websites.
  • Contextual links. I mean, those which you add inside your content. Provide anchor texts that sound naturally for such links.

How To Build a Quality Link Profile

There’s a variety of methods of link building, but I’ve circled out the ones I’ve found to be the most useful.

Start With Competitor Analysis

Well, the first question to ask yourself before you start is: ‘How can I find worthy links?’. ‘Conduct competitor analysis’ will be the second answer after ‘Surf the Internet.’ As you hopefully know how to use search, and already know some of your niche websites, we’ll go straight to analyzing competitors’ backlinks.

This step will help you find out more potential link sources. I’m using Serpstat for demonstration purposes because I know it better than the others and I believe in it. Firstly, enter your domain into its search field, go to SEO Research > Competitors to identify your closest rivals online.


Even if you think you know who you compete with, undertake this step. The thing is that your expectations may appear to be wrong. There’s the difference between thinking you know and knowing exactly which websites also rank for the same queries.

Next, tap on your competitor’s domain, and you’ll see the domain overview. Go to Backlink Analysis > Referring pages, and there will be a list of web pages linking to this domain.


Select the sites you think are the most relevant to your one.

Reach Out To Website Owners

This step could be a topic for a separate article, as there are lots of factors you should consider when crafting a perfect link building email.

When you find the page you’d like to get your link from, start from reaching out to the website owner or content team representative. Try to find a personal email or social media account, not a corporate one (e.g.,

Show you are not a spammer. Use their name (and what’s most important spell it correctly), create an engaging subject line, and mention how you found their website.

Crafting your message, remember denoting why people should bother adding a link to your site. Creating a win-win situation would be the best decision. Tell how the website visitors will benefit from this link or suggest to link back to their website.

Be precise. Don’t write a long introduction about how sorry you are for interrupting them. As these people receive a bunch of emails every day, it should be clear from the very beginning what you want them to do.

Check Out Guest Posting Opportunities

If you create quality content and want to promote your blog or product, this step is the most productive one. Lots of blogs provide an opportunity for contributors to send articles to their editors. In addition to earning a quality link, you’ll increase your brand awareness as well.

Check whether there guest posting guidelines on the websites you want to build links with.


If there are, read all the instructions and follow them when coming up with a topic to write about and creating your text. Of course, you should first send several ideas on the articles to the editor for him or her to determine which one would be a great fit for their blog. Once the topic is approved, you can start writing your post. Don’t forget to place your link there 🙂

Interview Bloggers

Are you an expert in your field? Maybe, you reached significant results? Suggest sharing your experience. Authors love to support their posts with expert commentaries, as such articles usually engage even more readers.

You can either directly contact bloggers with your suggestion or… follow them on Twitter. Why? Sometimes, authors use their Twitter accounts to collect opinions for their future posts. They announce they’re writing on some subject and ask experts to share their opinion in the comments. So, if you don’t want to write letters, start following editors running your niche blogs and wait for a chance to show off.


Fix Broken Links

Although some people shy away from this practice, it’s incredibly effective. The process of broken link building involves identifying links which don’t work anymore and fixing them by replacing with the link to your source.

To find such links you don’t have to monitor all the websites manually. With Ahrefs, you can find broken links on the sites you want to reach to easily. Just enter the domain you want to analyze and go to Outgoing links > Broken links.

After you identified the pages with the links you want to fix, find the content on your blog relevant to the anchor text and send its editor an email. In most cases, authors are glad to replace their broken links with new ones, as dead content doesn’t do any good to their sites.

Link To Other Websites & Brands

The tip is pretty easy: mention other companies or people in your articles. Once your piece of content appears to be engaging enough, it’ll bring significant profit to the sites you link to. And when the site owners analyze their traffic sources, they’ll notice your link and visit your page. If they consider it to be worthy of sharing, they’ll do that.

Moreover, when you mention some brands or celebrities, you can contact them asking for a link or a share. Such things work not that often. However, when they work, it’s worth the effort.

Create Reviews For Companies You Work With

Who doesn’t like being praised? If your company uses some tools or software (of course, it does), then you can benefit from it. Provide positive feedback saying why you use this tool and how it helped you solve your business problems.

Companies usually place testimonials on their landing pages to build their brand credibility. And once they see other brand share opinion on their work, they won’t miss the opportunity to feature such a review with a link to the source.


Create Useful Content

This step is the shortest but the most useful one. Create such content for people to link to it without asking them. You’ll reach it if you keep improving your skills and gaining popularity on the niche. Work on unique and long-form content, and you’ll see it working for you.

Here are the most common types of link-magnet content:

  • Lists
  • Researches
  • Infographics
  • Long-form content
  • Case studies


Monitoring and improving your link profile is a crucial part of your SEO strategy. Remember that the quality of links you earn is much more important than their number.

Keep checking your backlinks and identifying low quality and suspicious links. Even though you may be sure you haven’t gained any yourself, your competitors may be taking efforts to launch an SEO attack against your website.

Adelina Karpenkova is a Brand Specialist at Serpstat, an all-in-one SEO platform. She loves providing actionable tips to help readers improve their marketing and SEO strategies. She thinks content marketing is the best mechanism to claim your expertise and build your brand. Connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter (@AdelKarpenkova).

Featured image: Copyright: ‘‘ / 123RF Stock Photo


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