The thing is, all backlinks are not created equal. You want to get the highest quality backlinks possible and stay away from certain types that can hurt your rankings.
Obvious Types of Bad Backlinks
Some of the most obvious types of bad backlinks come from link farms (websites that exist for the sole purpose of putting up lists of other websites) and sites that are obviously spam.
In both these cases, not only will getting those links not help you, but they’ll actually hurt you in the long run because your site gets associated with them.
However, even though these kinds of links are obviously bad choices, there are others which may at first seem innocent, but which are in fact just as problematic. These are backlinks that seem okay at first or may even be okay in moderation.
Links from Sites That Have Nothing to Do With Your Niche
You write about mattresses on your blog because you run a mattress store. Getting 50,000 backlinks may sound awesome. However, they’re all from sites selling fish supplies, dog food, cat food and other pet related products.
Now having a handful of these is fine – maybe someone from the dog food company mentioned buying mattresses for their dog and suggested your site as a place where quality mattresses are sold.
However, if you have 50,000 backlinks (or even 5,000) from these completely unrelated niches, it’s going to look very suspicious – as if you’re trying to game the system by paying for links. Google doesn’t like that and they may very well filter your site and deliberately drop you in the rankings for doing it.
Reciprocal Links or Triangular Link Schemes
Again, in moderation, there is nothing wrong with this. The key term however is moderation. The fact that your personal finance blog exchanges links with a few other personal finance blogs is fine. If you have 5,000 links on your site to other personal finance blogs and every single one of them links back to you, that’s a problem.
To get around this, some people have tried the triangular link scheme, whereby I link to your site on site A. You agree to link from your site to site C, which I happen to own as well. Google has caught on to this plan as well however and has begun penalizing those who play this game.
Finally, unless you yourself are running a site devoted to gambling, porn or other vices, it’s best to avoid backlinks from these kinds of web site since they send the wrong message to the search engines about the kind of website you run. Not to mention that the traffic from such links is probably not the kind you really want on your site.
An Important Note
It’s important to realize that with all of these kinds of link schemes, a few of them will not hurt your rankings (though they probably won’t help either). It has to be thousands of such links to get noticed by Google and ideally, links which are paid.
The reason for this is simple – so called “Google Bowling,” where competitors will try to derank you by putting in links on such websites to your site. Google controls for this and as such, in most cases, these bad links will not do anything, good or bad for your web site.