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Can Any Inbound Linking Hurt My Ranking?

Can Any Inbound Linking Hurt My Ranking?

There are many mixed views on whether or not inbound links can hurt your site. Some experts say that “bad” links will not hurt your site and that any inbound link is positive or at worst neutral.  Other experts state that inbound links from questionable websites can hurt your rankings.

The truth is difficult to uncover but the JC Penney story provides a glimpse into how a possible black hat situation could affect your site ranking.

The J.C.  Penney company came up in search results as number one for just about every search term related to retail sales such as dresses, bedding, area rugs etc. The company was able to outperform many other high profile sites like Macy’s, Walmart, Gap, J. Crew, and Crate & Barrel. How did they do it?  Apparently, Penney’s results used methods commonly referred to as “black hat” SEO techniques that Google and the other search engines consider deceptive.  Links played a very large part in Penney’s ability to maintain the top spot for so long. Someone paid to have thousands of links placed on hundreds of sites scattered all over the web that led directly to JCPEnney.com.  Who was it? Penney’s says they did not do it. Penney’s did not authorise, nor were they aware of or involved in the posting of the links.Google sees this practice as a huge no-no.

JC Penney’s rankings were severely reduced by Google. So, one must be aware that whether or not you are actually responsible for bad incoming links to your site you can still suffer penalties imposed by the search engines should any potential abuse of incoming links be discovered.

You need to be careful to choose SEO agencies that operate in accordance with the regulations and policies of the search engines without resorting to “black hat” SEO techniques because it can affect your organic search engine results.

If one approaches this issue logically it seems quite possible based on the JC Penney situation that a competitor could frame you by

  • Paying shady link brokers to establish thousands of incoming links to your site from questionable sites
  • Specify anchor text like adult terms that trigger red flags for your site
  • File anonymous spam reports against you in an attempt to get your site penalized

The good news is that there are ways to protect yourself. Namely, monitor your site. There are several free tools you can use that run link reports on your website.

  • Google webmaster tools
  • Open site explorer
  • Yahoo site explorer
  • Majestic SEO

Some of these tools require code to be placed on your site.

Signs you May Have Bad Inbound Links On Your Site

  1. Missing elements, bad grammar, signs the linked site has been abandoned
  2. Hidden text, keyword stuffing
  3. Overwhelming amounts of links on a page
  4. Your anchor text is unrelated to the content of your website
  5. Lots of Ads, Adsense or affiliate links
  6. The incoming linked website isn’t cached or indexed by Google
  7. No clear contact details on the incoming linked site
  8. Hidden links appear when you disable Javascript/CSS
  9. The inbound site offers to sell links
  10. Your link appears in the header, footer and sidebar among other unrelated links