In the world of SEO, the term “unnatural links” often incites a sense of intrigue and apprehension. Learning how to deal with them is paramount for every SEO professional and website owner. Let’s delve into what unnatural links are, why they are important, and how to manage them.

The term "unnatural links" refers to artificial, deceitful, or manipulative links that are pointed toward your website. Favored by webmasters in the past to gain an aggressive advantage in ranking, Google has since cracked down on such practices, labeling them as 'unnatural' or 'bad' links.

In a more comprehensive light, unnatural links are any links that exist solely to manipulate a site’s ranking, irrespective of the quality of the content. These could be paid links, link schemes, automated link creation, or links from low-quality or irrelevant sites. Google views these acts as an infringement of their Webmaster Guidelines and hence devalues them or worse, penalizes your website.

Understanding unnatural links is not just about knowing what they are, but also how they can impact your website’s SEO. The rationale behind Google’s opposition to unnatural links is simple—the algorithm wants to proffer the most relevant, high-quality information to its users. Unnatural links, bereft of any value to the users, can distort this goal, generating skewed search results that fail to add value.

Their importance lies not in their creation, but in their identification and removal.

When the Google Penguin algorithm update swept the SEO world in 2012, the focus on the quality of incoming links increased exponentially. Websites with an influx of unnatural links found themselves plummeting in ranking or worse, being de-indexed. This aversion was rooted in Google’s intent to discourage manipulative SEO tactics and promote websites that offered valuable content. Thus, being able to identify and disavow these unnatural links became an essential skill for every SEO professional.

The necessity of understanding unnatural links also manifests in the risk of negative SEO. Competitors or disgruntled ex-partners may instigate an attack, flooding your website with spammy, low-quality links in an attempt to trigger a Google penalty. Being aware of the importance of unnatural links and how they can be used against you can help you take proactive measures to protect your website.

Unnatural links broadly fall under three categories: paid links, reciprocal links, and large-scale article marketing or guest post links with keyword-rich anchor texts.

Paid links are a form of unnatural links where either money or goods/services are exchanged for a hyperlink. From an SEO perspective, paid links violate Google’s guidelines because they seek to game the search engine’s algorithm, casting a shadow on the integrity of the search results.

Reciprocal links, a popular tactic in the past, involved a basic quid pro quo— ‘you link to me, and I’ll link to you’. Although not all reciprocal links are considered unnatural, an abused practice where an excessive amount of irrelevant, low-quality reciprocal links were exchanged, got flagged by Google.

Lastly, large-scale article marketing or guest post links with heavy keyword-rich anchors were seen as manipulative tactics to boost page ranking and hence, were cast under the umbrella of unnatural links. These are often blanket, irrelevant links that provide no added value to the user.

These are hyperlinks that are present on every page of a website. Usually found in the footer, header, or sidebar of a website, they’re most commonly associated with web design credits or an unscrupulous attempt at SEO manipulation.

These are unsolicited links added within the comments section of a blog or forum post seeking to divert traffic or build unnatural backlinks.

PBN links are a type of link scheme where websites are artificially created for the sole purpose of generating backlinks to a particular website, with the intent of manipulating search engine rankings.

Navigating the world of unnatural links can be a daunting task, especially when the stakes are so high. Here are a few handy tips:

Perform regular audits

Staying proactive is key. Regularly audit your backlinks profile to identify and weed out any unnatural links that may harm your site’s ranking.

Use Google’s Disavow tool

When you have identified any harmful links pointing to your site, use Google’s Disavow tool to inform Google that you’d like them to ignore these links.

Instead of resorting to poor link practices, focus on organic link-building strategies. Quality content, valuable information, and a good user experience will attract organic, natural links.

Conclusion

Unnatural links, with their potential adverse impact on your website’s ranking, demand your attention. Understanding their different types, recognizing their existence in your backlinks profile, and knowing how to deal with them are critical steps you must take to retain your website’s integrity and ranking in Google searches.

The journey might seem intimidating, but with regular audits, careful disavowal, and focus on quality, organic link-building practices, managing unnatural links need not be an insurmountable challenge. Remember, in the world of SEO, offering value to your users will always win over manipulating the system.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Unnatural links are artificial, deceptive, or manipulative links pointing toward your site, which exist solely to manipulate page rank and violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

Perform regular audits of your backlinks profile using tools like Google’s Search Console, SEMRush, or Ahrefs. Look for spammy, low-quality, irrelevant, or keyword-stuffed unnatural links in the report.

If you find unnatural links pointing to your site, reach out to the respective webmasters and request them to remove the links. If that doesn’t work, use Google’s Disavow tool to ask Google to ignore these links.

Back to Glossary
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Search algorithm

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Meta redirect

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Duplicate content

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