Good backlinks vs bad backlinks – what’s the difference?14 min read

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Good backlinks vs bad backlinks - what's the difference

Not all backlinks are created equal. Understanding the difference between good backlinks vs bad backlinks is key for your SEO efforts.


In short, good backlinks will boost your SERP performance while bad backlinks can significantly harm it.

In the article we explore the importance of good backlinks a bit further. We also look at different strategies you can use to secure quality links and build a healthy backlink profile. We also look at a few tools that will help you with the job.

Let’s get right to it!

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  • Backlinks act as votes of credibility and relevance, influencing search engine rankings.
  • Google and other search engines view backlinks from other websites as endorsements, boosting websites’ visibility in search results.
  • Quality trumps quantity in backlinks; a few relevant backlinks outweigh multiple low-quality spammy links.
  • Good links come from relevant authoritative domains, enhancing a site’s SEO and online visibility.
  • Bad backlinks come from irrelevant and spammy web pages. Such links can harm SEO and lead to penalties.
  • Regular backlink audits, using tools like Ahrefs or SEMrush, help identify and address harmful backlinks.
  • Effective link-building strategies for acquiring include outreachguest blogging, and the skyscraper technique. Avoid spammy backlink tactics like paying for links to build links as they can incur penalties.
  • Monitoring and maintaining a backlink profile is crucial for SEO health, and tools likeBacklinkManagercan centralize and automate this process.
  • If you want to see how BacklinkManager helps SEOs track their hard-earned links, book the demo!

The Importance of Backlinks in SEO

Backlinks, also referred to as inbound links, are links from one website to another. When website A links to website B, website B has a backlink from website A. Please note we use the term in reference to external links, not internal links.

In simple terms, these links are like votes of credibility and relevance. The more credible websites link to you, the more faith search engines have in your content, and the higher they rank you in search engine results.

Google ranking factors. Source: SparkToro.

But what exactly is it about backlinks that make them so important in the world of SEO?

Let’s dive deeper into this topic and explore how backlinks impact search rankings and why quality matters more than quantity when it comes to backlinks.

How Backlinks Impact Search Engine Rankings

Google views backlinks as endorsements.

If a respected website links to yours, it means that your content is valuable and worth showing to users. This makes your website more likely to appear in the top search results, increasing your visibility and potential to gain more organic traffic. Other search engines work in a similar way.

Imagine you are an SEO expert working for a B2B SaaS business. Your software is a product growth platform.

If a well-known tech blogger or a reputable magazine includes a link to your website in one of their articles, it tells search engines that your website is an authoritative source in your industry. As a result, search engines will give your website higher rankings when users search for relevant keywords like “product growth tools” or “user onboarding tools”

SERP results

However, it’s not just about the number of backlinks, but also their quality.

Why Quality Matters More Than Quantity in Backlinks

While it might be tempting to pile on as many backlinks as possible, quality trumps quantity when it comes to SEO.

A single quality backlink, from a highly reputable and relevant website is worth more than numerous backlinks from low-quality or irrelevant sources.

When search engines evaluate the quality of backlinks, they consider various factors such as the authority and relevance of the linking website, the anchor text used for the link, and the overall context of the link.

For example, if you have a backlink from a well-known industry expert’s blog post where they mention your website as a reliable source for information on handmade jewelry, it carries more weight than a backlink from a random forum post with unrelated content.

It’s also important to note that the quality of backlinks can change over time. A website that was once reputable may become less credible due to changes in its content or practices. Therefore, regularly monitoring and auditing your backlinks is crucial to maintain a healthy backlink profile.

What exactly makes a good backlink?

Defining Good Backlinks

Good backlinks, or high-quality backlinks, come from authoritative, relevant websites that have a high domain authority and are trustworthy. Such backlinks significantly improve your website’s SEO, boosting your online visibility.

Characteristics of High-Quality Backlinks

High-quality backlinks often share several characteristics.

For instance, they come from websites that are relevant to your industry or niche. When a website within your industry links back to your site, it’s a signal for search engines that your content is valuable.

In addition to relevance, high-quality backlinks come from websites with significant traffic. When a website has a large number of visitors, it indicates that the site is popular and respected within its community. Getting backlinks from such websites can greatly enhance your own website’s credibility.

Domain authority analysis

Another important characteristic of good backlinks is the age of the linking website. Backlinks from websites that have been online for a long time are generally considered more valuable. This is because search engines tend to trust established websites more than newly created ones.

Furthermore, high-quality backlinks are typically natural links contextually placed within the content. This means that the link is organically integrated into the text and provides additional information or resources related to the topic at hand. Contextual backlinks are seen as more natural and valuable compared to links placed in sidebars or footers.

Lastly, good backlinks are often follow links. When a backlink is followed, it means that search engines recognize and pass on the SEO value from the linking site to yours. These links can help improve your website’s visibility and search engine rankings.

Examples of Good Backlinks

Now that we have a better understanding of the characteristics of high-quality backlinks, let’s explore some examples of where you might find them.

One common source of good backlinks is respected industry blogs. When influential bloggers within your industry link to your website, it not only drives traffic but also enhances your credibility within your niche. These backlinks can be obtained through guest posting, contributing valuable content, or simply building relationships with key influencers.

Local business organizations are another great source of top-quality links. Joining local chambers of commerce or industry associations can provide opportunities to connect with other businesses and gain valuable backlinks. These organizations often have websites with high domain authority, making their backlinks highly valuable for your SEO efforts.

Furthermore, educational institutions such as universities or colleges can be excellent sources of backlinks. If you have relevant content that can benefit students or faculty members, reaching out to these institutions for collaboration or guest posting opportunities can lead to valuable backlinks and increased visibility.

Last but not least, news websites are also desirable sources of good backlinks. If your business or website has been featured in the news, make sure to reach out to the publications and request a backlink to your website. These backlinks not only boost your SEO but also provide social proof and credibility to your brand.

What about bad backlinks then?

Identifying Bad Backlinks

Bad backlinks, also known as spammy backlinks or toxic backlinks, can damage your website’s SEO and potentially lead to search engine penalties.

Common Traits of Low-Quality Backlinks

Bad backlinks often come from spammy or irrelevant websites, have little to no relevance to your content, and may use inappropriate anchor text. These backlinks are like unwanted guests crashing a party—they bring no value and disrupt the overall experience.

Spammy websites that generate low-quality backlinks often rely on automated tools, link schemes or link farms to create a large number of links in a short period of time. These links are usually placed in irrelevant places, such as comment sections or forum signatures, and offer no real value to the users.

Using ink schemes can lead to Google penalties

Another common trait of low-quality backlinks is their lack of relevance to your website’s content. For example, if you run a fitness blog and receive backlinks from websites selling pharmaceutical products, search engines may view these irrelevant links as suspicious and potentially harmful to your website’s credibility.

In addition, bad backlinks may use inappropriate anchor text. Anchor text is the clickable text that appears in a hyperlink, and it is meant to provide users with a brief description of the linked content. However, some low-quality backlinks may use generic or keyword-stuffed anchor text that does not provide any meaningful context.

Finally, paid links is frowned upon by search engines and can harm your SEO performance. Search engines have become increasingly sophisticated in paid backlinks and they don’t shy away from penalizing websites that engage in such practices.

Potential Consequences of Bad Backlinks

If search engines identify that a website has a significant number of bad backlinks, they may penalize it by lowering its ranking or even removing it from search engine results altogether. This can have a devastating impact on your website’s visibility and organic traffic, making it difficult for users to find your content.

Google Penalty Infographic. Source: Semrush.
Source. Semrush.

Search engine penalties can be time-consuming and costly to recover from. Not only do you have to identify and disavow the bad backlinks, but you also need to rebuild your website’s reputation and regain the trust of search engines.

Furthermore, bad backlinks can negatively affect the user experience on your website.

If users click on a bad backlink, expecting relevant and valuable content, only to be redirected to a spammy or irrelevant website, they are likely to leave your website and never return. This can increase your bounce rate and send negative signals to search engines about the quality of your website.

With the potential harm bad backlinks can cause, it becomes essential to audit your backlink profile regularly.

How to Audit Your Backlink Profile

backlink audit is an examination of all the sites that link back to your website.

Regular audits let you identify harmful backlinks, allowing you to take necessary action to avoid penalties. By identifying and addressing any low-quality backlinks, you can protect your website’s SEO and ensure that your online presence remains strong and reputable.

Step-by-Step Guide to Conducting a Backlink Profile Audit:

  1. Gather Your Backlink Data. Use tools like Ahrefs, SEMrush, or Moz to export a list of all the backlinks pointing to your website.
  2. Categorize Your Backlinks. Sort your backlinks based on domain authority. Identify the anchor text used for each backlink.
  3. Identify and Remove Low-Quality Links. Look for backlinks from irrelevant or spammy websites, and websites with low domain authority.
  4. Analyze Anchor Text Distribution. Ensure that your anchor text is diverse and not overly optimized for specific keywords. Avoid having a high percentage of exact-match anchor text, as this can be a red flag for search engines.
  5. Check for Lost Backlinks. Identify any valuable backlinks that you’ve recently lost. Reach out to the website owners to see if there’s an opportunity to regain the lost link.
  6. Identify Linking Domains. Ensure that your backlinks come from a diverse range of domains. Avoid having too many links from a single domain, as this can appear unnatural.
  7. Review Nofollow vs. Dofollow Links. While nofollow links don’t pass PageRank, they can still be valuable for traffic and brand exposure. Ensure you have a natural mix of both nofollow and dofollow links.
  8. Take Action on Harmful Links. Reach out to website owners to request the removal of low-quality or harmful links. If you’re unable to get the link removed, consider using Google’s Disavow Tool to disavow the link.

Tools for Backlink Analysis

There are several tools available for backlink analysis, including Ahrefs, SEMrush, and Moz. These tools provide thorough overviews of your backlink profile and can help identify any toxic backlinks that should be addressed.

Ahrefs: The Comprehensive Backlink Analyzer

Ahrefs is renowned for its extensive backlink database, making it an invaluable tool for any SEO professional.

With its Site Explorer, users can gain insights into their backlink profile, organic traffic, and top-performing content. Ahrefs also offers a Content Explorer that identifies the most shared content for any topic, and a Keyword Explorer that provides keyword suggestions, search volume, and ranking difficulty.

Its competitive analysis feature allows users to monitor their competitors and identify gaps in their own strategy.

Good backlinks vs bad backlinks: Ahrefs dashboard

SEMrush: More Than Just Backlinks

SEMrush offers a comprehensive backlink checker with a vast database.

It provides insights into competitors, new prospects, and backlink profile comparisons. Users can delve into their competitor’s backlink profiles to discover link-building opportunities and understand the strategies employed by competitors.

SEMrush’s backlink report offers sorting, filtering, and exporting functions, making the process of analyzing backlinks efficient.

The tool also provides metrics like Authority Score, anchor text, and the first and last seen dates of backlinks.

Good backlinks vs bad backlinks: SEMrush dashboard

Moz: Prioritizing Link Quality and Domain Authority

Moz’s Link Explorer provides a detailed analysis of backlink profiles, helping users understand their website’s authority and rankings.

It offers insights into the quality and nature of backlinks pointing to a site. Users can compare their link profile to competitors, identify broken links, and monitor new and lost links.

Moz also provides a Spam Score for backlinks, helping users identify and rectify potentially harmful links.

The tool’s Link Intersect feature identifies sites linking to competitors but not to the user’s site, offering potential link-building opportunities.

Moz link explorer will help you identify bad backlinks to your site.

Steps to Remove or Disavow Bad Backlinks

The process of removing bad backlinks often starts by reaching out to the site owners and asking them to remove the link. If this is unsuccessful, you can use Google’s Disavow Tool in the Google Search Console to inform Google not to take these bad links into account when assessing your site’s value.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Identify Harmful Backlinks. Start by conducting a thorough backlink audit using tools like Ahrefs, SEMrush, or Moz.
  2. Create a Disavow File. Create a plain text file (.txt) to list all the domains or URLs you want to disavow. To disavow an entire domain, use the format: domain: and to disavow a specific URL, list it like:
  3. Log in to Google Search Console and Navigate to the Disavow Tool.
  4. Upload Your Disavow File. Click on the “Disavow Links” button, “Choose File” and select the .txt file you created earlier. Click “Submit.”

Use Google Disavow Tool to remove bad links

Building a Healthy Backlink Profile

A healthy backlink profile comprises predominantly good backlinks from a variety of reputable and relevant sources. Building such a backlink profile also involves strategic, ethical SEO practices.

Strategies for Acquiring Good Backlinks

Some effective strategies for acquiring good backlinks include:

  1. Content Creation & Promotion: Producing and sharing high-quality content to attract natural backlinks.
  2. Guest Blogging: Contributing articles to industry-related websites with a backlink.
  3. Broken Link Building: Replacing broken links on sites with links to your relevant content.
  4. Skyscraper Technique: Improving upon top content in your niche and promoting for links.
  5. Local Directories: Listing your business on reputable local directories.
  6. Building Relationships: Engaging with industry influencers and participating in relevant discussions.
  7. Testimonials & Reviews: Providing testimonials for products/services to get a backlink in return.
  8. Infographics: Designing and sharing compelling visual content for shareability.
  9. Competitor Analysis: Targeting backlink sources similar to your competitors.
  10. Resource Page Link Building: Creating and promoting valuable industry-specific resources.
  11. Sponsorships & Partnerships: Sponsoring events or initiatives for visibility and backlinks.
  12. Press Releases: Distributing newsworthy business updates for media coverage.
  13. HARO: Providing expert assistance to journalists in exchange for a backlink.
  14. Unlinked Mentions: Converting brand mentions into backlinks.

Monitoring and Maintaining Your Backlink Profile

Regular monitoring and maintenance of your backlink profile ensure it remains healthy. This means conducting regular backlink audits, removing or disavowing bad backlinks, and continually striving to gain more good backlinks.

To streamline this process, consider using tools like BacklinkManager.

BacklinkManager is a link management software that not only monitors the status of your backlinks but also aids in managing collaborations with other website owners during the link-building process.

Good backlinks vs bad backlinks: BacklinkManager will help you control the quality of your links

By automating and centralizing your backlink management, you can ensure a more efficient and effective approach to maintaining a healthy backlink profile.


Understanding the difference between good and bad backlinks, and how to conduct a backlink audit, can significantly improve your SEO strategy. With the right tools and practices, you can build and maintain a healthy backlink profile that aids your website’s visibility and organic traffic growth.

Remember, when it comes to SEO and backlinks, quality always matters more than quantity.

If you want to see how BacklinkManager can help you monitor your backlinks, book the demo!