Think back to high school—let’s say you’re walking down the middle of the hall with lockers along the walls. Pretend you’re the popular kid. You see all your friends: the popular ones, the crazy ones, and even the ones with a shady reputation. Those are the ones we want to talk about—the ones with a reputation.
In the Internet world, those friends with the shady reputation are backlinks. “Wait a minute, what are backlinks?” you may ask. A backlink can be simply defined as an incoming hyperlink from one webpage to another website. Now that we know what a backlink is, it is time to prepare to give backlinks the cold shoulder by understanding the types of backlinks and what to check for in preparation for submitting a disavow file.
There are several types of backlinks out there on the world wide web, but the ones we will primarily focus on are the following five types:
I intentionally left the first one (foreign) a little vague because there are a few foreign features to watch out for. Before proceeding, the first thing you need to consider is the visitors to your website. Will they be speaking different languages? Are they your primary focus? Are you focusing on foreign countries? There are two types of foreign you need to watch out for when it comes to backlinks. The first would be a focus on the domain. Is it one of those domains that end with a country extension? This is an example of Argentina’s extension, my favorite country outside the United States: www.example.com.ar. The ar is the country extension.
Let’s say you’re selling vintage 1990s pogs and that your business only ships to all 50 states and their provinces and territories. So if all of the sudden you see a backlink to your website on an external country domain, it should be considered for a disavow.
The second part to focus on is a foreign language backlink. If your clientele for those vintage pogs supposedly speak English and you find a backlink on a website that is written in Chinese characters, you will need to consider disavowing the backlink as well. This is especially the case, once again, if your business doesn’t extend outside the United States.
Another backlink to search for would be forums. Let’s say you made a mistake back in the day and bought a cheap backlink package that promised to create thousands of backlinks and now you’ve found your backlink on several forums. Upon further investigation, you find that links to your website can be found in the forum profile. Take a look at the profile: is it frequently used? are there many posts? is there a lot of profile information that is not provided? If the answer is no to any of those questions, it should be heavily considered to be disavowed.
Many times in forums, backlinks are thrown in the signatures as well, which end up being rather spammy. An example would be:
“An apple a day gets deers to feed from your fresh green lawn. Acme Windshield Wiper Vendor”
This may be an over the top example, but a few red flags I wanted to point out would include a sentence that doesn’t make sense, words that look like they were translated to English (like deers), and a link that doesn’t relate to the sentence.
The next type of backlink I would like to reference is spammy comments that are often found in blogs. Many times a blog is well written with useful information that receives plenty of traffic, but the comments aren’t monitored for spammy comments or bots.
Let’s say that you find a backlink for your dish towel business on a blog that explains complex movie endings, and in a blog article discussing the 2001 release of Planet of the Apes, you find a backlink to your website in the comments that doesn’t address anything in the article and is written horribly to the extent that you don’t understand what is being said.
Another type of backlink can be found on directories. There are a few traits to consider when reviewing your backlink on an online directory. One of the things to check for would be the external to internal ratio. If there are thousands of external links on one page with very few internal links, you may want to consider disavowing the backlink. Also, review the website that your backlink is listed on. How’s the quality of the website? Does it look like it was hastily created? Does it appear generic? These are some questions to consider when submitting a disavow.
Now that we’ve discussed some of the types of backlinks, it is time to dig a little deeper and identify additional traits of your backlinks.
If the domain that your backlink is found on is not indexed by Google, then this could most likely indicate that this domain has been penalized (Google is punishing them), and just like cooties, you’ll want to avoid them like the plague.
High external to internal link ratios have always struck me wrong. It is like your backlink is competing with hundreds or thousands of links. I typically compare this to buying a lotto ticket. There are thousands of them out there, and the chance of success (being clicked on) is so low that it typically isn’t worth it.
There are times where recognizing a spammy backlink is actually very easy by simply reviewing the domain name. An overly obvious example would be: www.youwillranknumberonebysubmittingalinkonthiswebsite.com. Surely if you saw this domain you could recognize it as a spammy website.
When it comes to backlinks, it really boils down to manually checking them out. Most of the time you should be able to visually identify something that is off. Once you have found backlinks that need to be disavowed, it will be time to take the necessary steps towards submitting them for a disavow.