Links can have a significant impact on your search performance. The question to ask yourself is whether the links on your site are having a good impact or a bad impact.

Good links will have a positive effect on your website and help you achieve higher rankings. Bad links can have the opposite effect, plus leave you open to being penalized by Google. Since you want to avoid penalizations, it’s important to run a full backlink analysis to get an idea of what types of links are pointing to your site.

How do you know which links are good and which ones are bad?

In this article, we are going to take a more in-depth look at good links vs bad links so that you can build a better link profile for your website.

What Makes a Link Good?

You probably hear all the time that quality links are what you should be aiming for. It’s understandable why the experts continue to hone in on this advice, as good links play a major role in the organic search rankings. When it comes to what makes a link good vs bad, however, there is not as much information.

Here are a few things to think about when considering the quality of a link.

A good link is relevant to your page’s content.

The best links should come from pages that are relevant to your own page’s content. Closely connected content is important because it benefits your readers so that they may continue on in their research using the links you’ve provided.

A good link comes from a trustworthy site.

Quality links come from trustworthy sites, not spam ones. Experts agree that 70 percent of a site’s ability to get good search rankings can be attributed from the sites that link to it. Pay close attention to where your links are coming from and whether or not they are trusted by Google. If you have a hard time getting links from trustworthy sites directly (which is common), aim for a website that has a lot of trusted sites that link to it.

A good link is placed inside the content.

Where the link is placed can also have an effect on SEO. For instance, links in footers or sidebars don’t offer much value. Contextual links, or those inside the content, are the best. Contextual links can be either external or internal, and they should be as relevant as possible. Google is able to determine how the content surrounding the link relates to the link itself.

A good link flows naturally within the content.

Links need to flow naturally within the content. If there is an obstruction in the flow, Google may see this as being spammy. It’s up to you how you want to add in the links to make them most natural, but many writers find that creating the content and then working in the links is ideal.

A good link is found in longer content.

How long is the content that the link is placed in? Links that are included in long-form content carry more weight than those embedded in shorter posts. Overall, long-form content tends to rank higher and drive more organic traffic. Because people like longer content, Google likes it better, too. Links included in long content are viewed as being more powerful and valuable.

A good link comes from a site with high domain authority.

Links that come from a high domain authority are automatically counted as good links, unless they are not relevant to your content. But it’s important to know that Google may not see the link as quality right away. It won’t be until people start clicking on the link and engaging with the content that Google will see it as good.

Dofollow and nofollow links should be used together.

It’s a common misconception that only dofollow links should be used because they are the ones that give you the juice. But it’s important to use nofollow links, too. As a matter of fact, Matt Cutts stated that too many dofollow links can harm your website’s rankings, whereas too many nofollow links will not. Bottom line: Use both dofollow and nofollow links, but focus more on dofollow links to get the rankings you want.

What Makes a Link Bad?

Now that you know some of the factors that make a link good, let’s go over the basics of what makes a link bad. In short, bad links are those that go against Google’s guidelines. When Google picks up on the fact that your site is not following the rules, you run the risk of being penalized. Let’s take a closer look at what “bad” means in Google’s book.

A bad link comes from pages with spammy links.

If you get a link from a page that’s also linked to spammy pages, this isn’t going to look good to Google. If the other links are spammy, why wouldn’t yours be, too? Some of the things to look for on pages with spammy links are over-optimized anchors and many dofollow links to specific webpages.

A bad link comes from unrelated content.

Remember when we talked about the importance of including relevant links in your content? Links that come from unrelated sites or pages will be regarded as bad links. Whatever your field is in, try to stick to sources that are relatable. If you must branch out to a different industry for a specific purpose, use your brand name as anchor text.

A bad link is placed sitewide and in the footers.

It’s not always a bad thing to use sitewide links in your content. Google will count them as a single link because they are from the same domain name. That said, if Google sees that you are adding off-topic sitewide and footer links, this could be viewed as manipulative and spammy.

A bad link comes from a site with a low domain authority.

Moz developed the website metric domain authority, and it’s now a trusted metric by SEO experts, site owners and Google. Many factors go into domain authority, but they are primarily link profile factors, such as how many links are pointing back to a site and how authoritative those sites are. Try to get your links from sites that have at least 30 percent authority.

A bad link comes from a site with low-quality content.

Google penalizes sites with thin content, automatically generated content and low-quality guest posts. You can usually tell right away which sites have high quality, well-researched and engaging content and which ones don’t. Steer clear from getting links from the latter as they don’t offer your readers any substance or value.

Over-optimized anchor texts are considered bad links.

Over-optimized anchor texts can have a negative impact on your search traffic and rankings, so watch for links coming from them. It used to be that site owners were able to improve their rankings using over-optimized anchor text, but this isn’t the case anymore. This is seen as manipulative by Google and will definitely knock your organic rankings.


Link building is an important part of your overall SEO strategy. Though there are many factors that make links good or bad, you shouldn’t be afraid to use them. When used correctly, links add a lot of value for the reader, and therefore, Google will reward your efforts.

As you look to add links into your content, make sure they come from the right sources and flow well within the content. The more good links you have, the more Google will view your site as being authoritative and high in quality.