In the not too distant past, a new website could race up the rankings with a strong link building strategy. The more incoming links the site had, the faster it rose. People launched blogs, and entire businesses, by gathering links from every conceivable place. Whether those incoming links were from reputable site was irrelevant.
Then, everything shifted. More specifically, Google’s algorithms shifted and the blogosphere quickly lit up with claims that links were dead. Worse, it was being stated that certain links could hurt your ranking. Overnight links became taboo.
As is the case with most extremes, neither end of the spectrum tells the complete story. Yes, things have changed in regards to links and how/if they help build the credibility, authority and ranking of a website.
Having a lot of incoming links will always be a good thing. What’s different know, is that those links need to be from quality sites.
One incoming link from a quality site, a site that has a high Page Rank or a high domain authority score will count for a lot. A whole lot. One really good link will count more than lots of links from just so-so sites. So, when looked at this way, the pendulum is swinging towards quality.
A high-quality link can be defined a number of ways. The most obvious definition of a high quality link is based on the authority of the site. Does is it have a high page rank? Does is have a site get a lot of traffic. Does the site have valuable content? If so, that link will help you.
But that’s not the only way a link is deemed quality. Google will also check to see if the incoming site has related content. If it does, great. If it doesn’t, well, then it just might be a spammy link.
Lastly, Google is going to look at the anchor text used in the incoming link. If those words are relevant to your site, and even better relevant to both sites, the link will be viewed as valuable.
Bad links are considered bad if they’re from spammy sites. That means sites with little value in Google’s eyes. Sites with little content. Sites with little social pull. Sites with little, real, traffic.
Incoming links from these types of sites will not only help you, they will hurt you. The more incoming spammy links you have, the more Google will question the value of your own site.
This is why Google’s head of web spam, Matt Cutts, recently stated that guest blogging was dead. His point was specifically meant to warn bloggers to stop wasting their time writing for low-quality blogs. In particular if the point of writing for that blog was just to gain the incoming link from the site.
A few bad links won’t mar your site or brand forever. But the bottom line is pretty simple: bad links are bad, even if you’ve got lots of them. Good links are good, even if you’ve only got a few of them.