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Links - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Remember the old movie "The Good, The Bad and the Ugly"? It was a Spaghetti Western made in the mid-sixties. There were three main characters- Blondie, a bounty hunter who was "The Good", Angel Eyes, a merciless, sociopathic mercenary who was "The Bad", and Mexican bandito Tuco, "The Ugly". The goal of all three was to find a large cache of buried Confederate gold.

"Uh, yeah, Annie", you say, "I have heard of the movie, what has that got to do with links?"

Stay with me- I've got a tie-in here!

Link building has ever been fraught with danger for the brave souls who attempt to use it to find that "gold", or good search engine ranking. Here's the 'link' to the movie - backlinks fall into three categories that correspond with the three men in the movie:

The Good - these are the links we all want to get - solid, organic links from trusted sources. Links from well-known online magazines, like Southern Living or news sites like USA Today, or TV sites like Travel Channel. Links from writers who have stayed with you and are extolling your virtues on their blogs, links from professional organizations and charities you've helped, and directories that have a relevance to travel and lodging. The Good links will help you in your quest towards gold.

Now we're going to skip to The Ugly and save the worst for last - ugly links don't help you much, but could possibly hurt you. These are things like reciprocal links- for example, the car dealership links to you and you link to them. This is a zero-sum exercise. B&Bs have nothing to do with car dealerships and vice-versa. This won't help you. Another Ugly link is a link from a directory that doesn't have any relevance to your business. Don't bother going out to get these kinds of links, they won't help you, and could hurt you. These are links you want to avoid.

Now, the worst of the worst, The BAD - links that will hurt you. You should consider these links the enemy and do what you can to kill them before they get you. Sound dramatic? It's true. Bad links can lead to what Google calls a Manual Penalty. When that happens, you will not be found in Google. It means they have manually demoted your site. A lot of the reasoning behind that has to do with links: spammy links that have nothing to do with your business or industry and/or that use exact-match anchor text - this might have happened through the practice of trading links or buying links (Oh, please no!) - over-optimized links (think of a link to your rooms page that has anchor text like this: "Branson Bed and Breakfast rooms for the Missouri B&B traveler who loves Ozarks Bed and Breakfasts" - a little hyperbole, but you get the point), links in low-quality link-farm directories, forum posts with anchor text optimized links, links to pornography sites, and pharmaceutical pages (Viagra, Cyalis, etc). If you have The BAD links, you need to:

  • Delete old Link Partner/Link Resource pages from your site
  • Use Webmaster Tools and products like Open Site Explorer to find in-bound links
  • Keep a Google Sheets spreadsheet with links you want to destroy and mark the sheet as you go through - sort by domain to make it easier to ask for multiple links from one domain be removed
  • Mark off the sheet as the links are removed
  • After you've asked for removal three times with no response, initiate a Link Disavowal 

When dealing with bad links, remember this line from the movie, "When you have to shoot, shoot, don't talk."

Treating links like the heroes or criminals they are can help you keep your head above the Google waters and lead you to the hidden gold - first page placement in the search engine results pages.

Annie Buck
Local, Social Media and Education SupportAcorn  IS


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