SEO Street Smarts – Don’t Get Lost in a Bad Neighborhood

One of the main points to any search or social media campaign is to get exposure for your brand. I want you to think of your brand like a house that you have for sale. By itself, it’s a beautiful house that could easily be sold for twice its actual value. But when you sell a house, you can’t just take into consideration the house itself when figuring out what you want your asking price to be. You have to consider the neighborhood as well. If your house is in a wonderful neighborhood, you can set a higher asking price than if your house is in a crappy, rundown neighborhood.

The price you want to set on any exposure for your brand is one click through to your website with the hopes that it will turn into a conversion. You can’t expect to get that click if your link is sandwiched in a bad neighborhood. And you can’t expect those links to count towards building your authority and rankings in the search engines either, as Google is slowly working to devalue any links coming from bad neighborhoods.

What Makes a Bad Neighborhood?

Defining elements of a bad neighborhood includes, but is not limited to the following:

  • Bad Links – If you see any links to what is known in the SEO world as negative PPC – pills, porn, or casinos – then get out of that neighborhood ASAP.
  • Too Many Links – When it comes to any page on a website, there should be a bigger ratio of content to links. The page shouldn’t be 90% links, 10 % regular content.
  • Spam – Sometimes, even though there are not too many links or bad links, there are still pages that have a disproportionate amount of spam on their pages. It may be to seemingly innocent sites, but chances are if no one is moderating the spam, the bad links are bound to come next.
  • Over Abundance of Ads – Google, ironically a distributor of ads via their own Adsense system, has been cracking down on sites that are more ads than content. Just like a page shouldn’t be 90% links, it shouldn’t be 90% ads either.
  • Poorly Written Content – This one is a little harder to spot, but if you are trying to place content on a site, and you see that the articles are poorly written, then you probably don’t want your content next to it. It’s a sign of sites that may be using “spun” content where someone takes one piece of work and uses software to replace a lot of words to make it seem original.

Now let’s take a look where you might encounter bad neighborhood elements with some examples of what to watch out for.


Blog commenting has been a popular form of link building for a while now. In some cases, however, it is nothing more than link spamming. Here, you will see that the links have no relationship to the post’s content.

blog spam example

This is a good sign that you are looking at an unmoderated neighborhood, and it is not where you want your link to be placed.


Another area for link spammers and other seedy content is within forums. If a forum is not heavily moderated, and you find posts like these, it’s a good idea not to join in on the discussion.

forum spam example

Usually when forums have been hit with this kind of spam, it’s a sign that the community has since moved on.

Resources Pages

If you are ever offered a link exchange (where you link to one site and the other site links to you) – beware. I strongly suggest not taking part in this type of linking, but if you absolutely feel you must, be sure it is with a reputable website that is fully aligned with your industry.

Keep in mind that you will need to check out the type of page they will place your link upon as well, as you wouldn’t want your link to be on a page like this.

resources pages

This page has hundreds (if not thousands) of links on it, and you can even see one of the tell-tale bad neighborhood PPC links right near the bottom of the page.


Similar to resource pages, if you find a directory that is allowing any and all kinds of sites to be listed in it, you will not want your link there. Even if they list the questionable sites under different categories, it is a matter of time before they list some right next to yours.

The simplest way to find out if a directory will list anyone is to do a few queries, such as this one.

bad directories example

This shows that even though they have someone moderating the site, they are allowing just about anyone in.

Article Directories

Before submitting your article to an article directory, you will want to do the same thing you do on regular directories – do a few searches to make sure they aren’t allowing articles on just any topic onto their site.

Also watch out for directories that are covered in ads, like this one.

article directories

This homepage is covered with 7 different blocks of ads plus a block of paid links (and one popup add that I didn’t catch in the screenshot). If they weren’t hit by the Panda update in the first round, they will be in future updates, leaving your article and link on a relatively useless site.

Hacked Sites

This one you shouldn’t come across too often, and it’s hard to know if you are encountering it at all in most cases, but I figured I should mention it. Some innocent seeming websites have a more sinister layer beyond the face of their website. Where? Within their code.

The following is an excerpt of hidden code on a .org site with a Google PageRank of 5, SEOMoz Domain Authority of 49 with 18,000+ backlinks.

hacked links

These are the least offensive four out of over 1,000 links that were added to this page within a DIV layer <div style=”position: absolute; left: -5432px; top: -5432px;”> which means you wouldn’t be able to see the links displayed on the website, but they are on their for search engines to see.

Even though they are not displayed on the site, they are still contributing to a bad neighborhood which goes to show that just because a toolbar gives them high authority rankings doesn’t mean it is a great site to be listed on.

Your Thoughts

The above types of sites and pages are usually the main culprits for being home to bad neighborhoods. What other ones have you found and would like to warn others to avoid? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and forward this article on to ensure that others know what to look out for too!

About the Author: Kristi Hines is a freelance writer, blogger, and social media enthusiast. Her blog Kikolani focuses on blog marketing, including social networking strategies and blogging tips.