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Quality Backlinks VS Bad Backlinks – What’s the difference

So you want to build quality backlinks to your website and rank higher in Google. That’s what all SEOs want. With Google Penguin and other similar threats, you have to be very cautious at what type of backlinks you are building. If your website has lots of quality backlinks, good things will happen to your organic traffic. On the other side, bad backlinks will do more harm than good.

The question we often get from our users is “What makes a backlink good or bad? What is a quality backlink?”. That’s exactly what I will try to answer in this article.

To analyze if a backlink is good or bad, it all comes down to the quality of the website linking to you.

What is a quality backlink

A quality backlink comes from relevant authoritative domains in your niche. If the website linking to your site has a high Domain Authority and has similar content, your backlink will be good for SEO.

seo science

What is a bad backlink

A bad backlink comes from unrelated and untrusted sources. Sites that have been penalized and those that are violating Google’s Webmaster Guidelines can have a negative impact on your SEO.

To avoid having bad backlinks, you have to perform a quick website audit to all the sites you plan to build links on.

Below I will show you how to do a website analysis in less than two minutes and determine if it’s worth spending time to get a backlink from a certain domain.

Without any further ado, here’s how to do link building, and keep your website safe from Google penalties.

1. Have a quick look at the website

Even if a website has great SEO metrics, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will be good for your link building campaigns. One of the most important things to consider is site relevancy. If a website is not relevant to yours, you might end up building a bad backlink.
Google uses relevance as a trust signal. If your website sells baby chairs, getting a link from a site about guitars will not help you. Therefore, make sure the website you are analyzing is covering the same topics as you are and check if they are in the same niche. If the site is relevant, you might have a match.

2. Look at how often they publish new content

You can easily determine if a website is still active by looking at the date of their latest posts. If they site has not posted anything new for months, it could be abandoned because of several reasons, including a possible penalty.

Backlinks from websites that are updated often are considered of good quality.

3. Verify if the website has a penalty and if indexed in Google

You have to check if the website is indexed in Google. Do a search using

For example:


If Google shows no results, the website is probably penalized and removed from the search results. Even if it’s a rare scenario, you have to understand that getting links from websites that are penalized can harm your site.

You’ll be able to keep track of the index status of all backlinks pointing to you, with a Monitor Backlinks account. For the backlinks that have a red Google icon label, it means that the domain and page are not indexed in Google. When it’s yellow, only the page is not indexed.

A green Google icon shows you that both the domain and page are already indexed and sending link juice.


Most of the time, websites receive penalties without being deindexed from Google. To see if you are dealing with such a website, run a search for their brand name and see if they are ranking first. For example, if you do a search on Google for “Monitor Backlinks”, you’ll see our website ranking first. If the site had ranked on a different position, that could mean it has a penalty.

Links from domains that are penalized and not indexed in Google are bad backlinks and can penalize your website. Stay away from such sites.

4. Analyze their traffic

You can get traffic insights about the website you are analyzing by using SimilarWeb. Always pay close attention to the traffic sources and analyze if the data makes sense. If a site has very little search traffic, that can raise suspicious.


5. Analyze domain authority

Domain Authority is one of the most accurate SEO metrics. All sites with a Domain Authority above 30 can be a good source for quality backlinks.

If you can get backlinks only from sites with a domain authority above 50, you’ll have even better SEO results. However, to get started with link building, sites with a DA greater than 30 should be enough.

These are two ways to determine the Domain Authority of a site:

6. Is the website linking out using nofollow or dofollow attributes?

If you are building backlinks for the purpose of increasing your rankings in Google, you have to check if the website is using a rel nofollow attribute. Otherwise, you’ll end up having a link that will be good only for referral traffic.

7. Check TLD

The domain extension is another factor to consider. Try to get backlinks from websites that have similar audiences and have use TLDs. If you have a business in Australia, links from sites with a .IN extension will be useless.

8. Understand the audience

To understand the potential of getting a link from a website, look at the number of comments they are getting per post. Also, check how many followers they have on social media and how often their fans are engaging with their posts.

Websites that have a lot of user engagement are great and can be a very good opportunity to build high quality backlinks.

Final words

If you want to build more quality backlinks, make a habit of analyzing each website you are trying to get a link from. If a site has bad metrics or looks suspicious, move on to the next one. There are numerous other opportunities to build good backlinks.

Whether you are trying to publish a guest post or use the broken link building method, make sure you are getting backlinks only from sites that are good and not penalized.

The secret to successful SEO is to have links from authoritative websites and from the type of sites you would be proud to link to you.





Brian Loebig

Hi Felix, this is the best articles I have read this year on the value of back links. I especially appreciate the various tools you reference to help measure effectiveness. Whenever I bookmark an article it has to be good! Keep up the good work. 🙂


Thanks Brian. Your feedback is much appreciate it 🙂


There’s a fair bit there to disagree with.
Any chance you can substantiate some of it with proof/evidence/comments from Google?

Definitions : Good vs Bad Link.
a) You use definitives rather than “may” or “possibly”. I know that it is better to write and omit the “escapes”, but it would lessen your degree of inaccuracy.
b) You use the word “site”, when it would be better to use “page”. Links from relevant sites can be good, so can links from irrelevant sites but relevant pages.
c) Good links are those that;
* Pass relevant traffic,
** Pass some value (PR/Relevancy etc.),
*** Come from some form of recommendation,
**** Are as ‘natural’ and ‘voluntary’ as you can get,
***** Originate from relevant content (be it page or site or passingly related etc.)
d) Bad links are those that;
^ Don’t pass traffic
^^ Fall short of the guidelines (hidden etc.)
^^^ Don’t pass value
^^^^ Are obviously bought/sold/swapped/arranged
^^^^^ Are part of an obvious network
^^^^^^ Originate from a low-quality, low-value, low-trust, spammy page/site
e) There is a lot of swing/variance in those – getting a natural link from a site that then gets penalised does not necessarily mean the link is bad for your site! It depends why the origin site got dinged, and by what algo etc.

1. Have a quick look at the website
You state that links from non-relevant/unrelated sites will not help.
That’s not true.
Links are links – so long as they are “normal” (can be crawled and followed), they pass value.
It’s the amount of value that may change based on other factors, including degree of relation.

2. Look at how often they publish new content
So links from an authoritative, solid ever-green content site that is seldom updated is considered bad by you? Bang go all the links from sites/pages ran by university professors etc.
Some of those haven’t been touched in years, but they sure do carry PR and Relevance!
In reverse, just because a site is updated often has no relevance at all. You could get a link from a site that shoves in 100 pages a day, every day for the past 5 years. That does Not mean the site is trusted, considered relevant or will be thought of as “good”. Just “active”.

4. Analyze their traffic
So sites that are sensible, and have utilised multiple channels and are Not reliant on SE traffic are suspicious to you? Personally, sites like that deserve to be applauded for not being silly and being heavily reliant on SE traffic!
These are merely data-points. On their own, without additional data, forming an opinion on them is questionable. If the site has a lot of direct and referred traffic, that could simply mean the site is marketed very very well, highly popular on SM sites, marketed and still new to the SE’s … or it could be that it doesn’t rank that well for targeted terms but hits SM well … or it could be that the site is under a negative placement penalty etc. etc. etc.
You have to look at the site and it’s content along with the data from the tool and some Searches BEFORE you form an opinion.

6. Is the website linking out using nofollow or dofollow attributes?
The only caveat here is that “nofollow” is a suggestion. G may still pass value at their discretion. NoFollow was designed as a fail-safe plaster. Further, there is absolutely Nothing wrong with a link that generates quality traffic. That alone can generate natural/2nd generation links (which is what you Really want!)

7. Check TLD
Please show me something – anything – from Google that says something akin to that!
Links are links – they pass value. You may get additional or boosted value in certain circumstances, but otherwise the link still counts.
Having a .de domain and getting links from a .fr domain is not a bad thing at all. You still get PR and Relevancy passing through that link!
If you have a .de domain, and target an audience in Germany, and get links from other .de domains that target an audience in Germany, you “may” see some additional value – as far as .de searches go … “may”.

As I said, lots of things there to go over!
Careful couching with words like “may”, “might”, “possibly” and “potentially” would have saved a lot of that.

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