Can Inbound Linking Hurt my Search Ranking?
This is a really hot topic of conversation amongst SEO’s. If you search the web forums, you’ll no doubt find some heated discussions on whether or not it is feasible for inbound links to have a negative impact on your search ranking position. Generally speaking, inbound links are extremely helpful. However, linker beware, if you link badly, choosing quantity over quality, this could have a negative effect on your ranking.
It is not disputed that search engines rely heavily on the interlinking nature of websites. This is particularly prevalent for Google, whose ranking factors in linking more than any other search engine. As such, the easiest way to influence your search ranking is to point inbound links at it.
There are some arguments that are regularly raised in relation to inbound links being so heavily relied upon. You may ask, as links are so influential, what would happen if one of your competitors was able to sabotage your search ranking by any unscrupulous method possible? What if they could point inbound links at your website that meant your rating plummeted or even got your website banned? The answer – it would totally undermine the search engine and the way that its ranking operates. As such, it is highly unlikely that inbound links will adversely affect your search engine position. Every man and his spamming dog would be working to adversely affect competitor websites if this were the case.
There are a number of arguments that people will use against the view above. One of them, which I’d like to put to bed, is “what if Google is only penalising inbound links that are obviously from text link ads…Google could look for a link on the footer of the site, or links that are bunched up together, or that exist on totally unrelated sites”? Again, this would be so easy for a sabotaging webmaster to mimic on a newly created site in order to get one over on its competitors, that there is no way that this can be the case.
Google itself has also backed up these points: “There is almost nothing a competitor can do to harm your ranking or have your site removed from our index. Your rank and your inclusion are dependent on factors under your control as a webmaster, including content choices and site design”. (You can find this on Google webmaster FAQ). It thereby follows that nothing that is beyond your control as webmaster can harm your search engine ranking and inbound links are beyond the webmaster’s control.
You may, of course, be penalized for illegitimate external linking. It is strongly advised that you do not link to any website or group of sites that may be involved in shady or unethical search practices. If you do, you could end up on Google’s blacklist and ruin your SEO strategy altogether. You should therefore regularly check to ensure that all external links point to trusted and reliable sources.
Finally, it seems reasonable to assert that Google likely has some other measures in place to manage / minimise the effects of certain types of links. For example, it’s possible that Google may even block or reduce the search engine ranking effect of backlinks that are not semantically related to the site in question.
Overall, Google’s main priorities are the relevance and impartiality of its organic search. As this is the case, they will always take steps to ensure that people cannot artificially manipulate search engine rankings in a way that would damage these overarching objectives. Sure, Google will have the capability to do it, it’s just not something that is in their best interest. However, it is fair to assume that if you will get penalised for bad links. If you do not check for bad links and proactively remove them, it could well affect your SEO ranking.