How to Avoid Search Engine Penalties from Links

This has been a topic of conversation here and there, and it is definitely something that our customers regularly ask us about.  The question is, “What kinds of links should I want to my website?  What kinds of links should I stay away from to avoid penalties?”  We thought it would be good to give you a brief list of link do’s and don’ts to help with the confusion:

Good Back-Links

Good links are links to your website that will not only help your search engine rankings, but also help customers to find you.

Examples of good links would be:

  • Links from local directory listings (Google Places, Bing Local, Yelp)
  • Links from social media pages or posts (Facebook, Google + , Pinterest)
  • Links in reviews (I just used to wash my roof, they did a great job!)
  • Posts in forums where you (or someone else) can recommend your website for services needed/being discussed

A good rule of thumb for good links is “Will this link help customers find me?” – If the answer is yes, it’s a good link.

Bad Back-Links

Bad links are links to your website specifically created for search engines, links automatically generated in some way, or PAID for in a link scheme.  Examples of bad links would be:

Examples of bad links would be:

  • PAID links of any kind.   (i.e.,
  • Excessive link exchages (I’ll link to yours if you link to mine)
  • Keyword rich links in low quality areas or widgets
  • Widely distributed links in footer areas or in templates
  • Forum comments with optimized links in the post or signature**

A good rule of thumb for bad links is “Is this link purely for seo purposes?” – If the answer is yes, it’s a BAD link.

The best thing to do if you are guilty of the bad link section above, is to try and remove the links to your site.  If that’s not possible, or you’ve tried without success, you can use Google’s disavow tool.  If you haven’t been penalized for bad links, but you know you’ve participated in bad link making practices, you’re fortunate.  But only that you haven’t been busted YET.  It will happen, and it will take a near miracle to get your rankings back.  So fix it now!

** About Forum Signature Links

There has been some controversy and questions about whether links in your signature on a forum would result in any action at all (good or bad).  Google has taken an OFFICIAL stance on this finally, making these exact remarks:

“Creating links that weren’t editorially placed or vouched for by the site’s owner on a page, otherwise known as unnatural links, can be considered a violation of our guidelines. Here are a few common examples of unnatural links that may violate our guidelines: