Off-Page SEO

Unnatural Links

Shahid Maqbool

By Shahid Maqbool
On Jun 8, 2023

Unnatural Links

What are Unnatural Links?

In the world of SEO, unnatural links are links that websites get through tricks and dishonest ways. These links break the rules set by Google.

Unnatural links are seen as attempts to cheat the system and get higher search rankings than a website deserves. Some examples of unnatural links are paid links, trading links with other sites, link farms, and using tools to automatically create many links.

These kinds of links don't actually help users find good information. Their only purpose is trying to manipulate and boost rankings unfairly. They provide no real value.

Are they important?

Some websites try tricks to get more links. The goal is higher search rankings. But these fake link tricks often backfire and hurt rankings later on.

In the past, many websites used dishonest ways to get links. Google saw that websites were cheating unfairly. So Google made an update called "Penguin" to catch and punish these fake link tricks.

If Penguin sees a website has many fake, low-quality links, it will penalize that site. This means making the site rank much lower. Or sometimes, removing the site from Google completely.

To avoid penalties from Penguin, websites must follow Google's link rules. This means:

Examples of unnatural links

Google has listed several examples of spam links that go against their rules. Here are some examples of bad or unnatural links:

Buying or selling links

This includes paying for links, trading links with other sites, or being part of link networks. These are designed just to improve rankings.

How to fix?: Stop doing this and add them to your disavow list.

Low-quality directories

These are directories that exist just to host links, not to provide good information.

How to fix?: Remove your site immediately from those directories.

Excessive link exchanges

This is trading too many links with other sites without considering if they are relevant, just to boost rankings.

How to fix?: Disavow all those links.

Injected links

These are links added to a site without the owner's permission, often from hacking.

How to fix?: Disavow and ask the webmaster to nofollow the links.

Sitewide links

Links that appear on every page of a site, like in footers, are usually low-quality.

How to fix?: Disavow and ask for nofollow.


If a widget's link is not relevant to the widget or website, it's a bad link.

How to fix?: Add nofollow to all those links.

Press releases and syndicated content

If the purpose of a press release or syndicated article is just to add links rather than share real information, it's spam.

How to fix?: Clean up the content instead of disavowing the link.

Comments & forum spam

Leaving comments or forum posts just to add your website link is unnatural.

How to fix?: Disavow and stop inserting your links in blog comments.

Guest post links

If the guest post's purpose is just to get a link back to your site, that link is unnatural.

How to fix?: Ask for nofollow, remove, or disavow the links.

Bookmark/directory links

While some are okay, many bookmark/directory links are considered spam.

How to fix?: Remove from spammy ones and stick to reputable directories.

Redirected domains

Redirecting old domains to a new one can look manipulative to search engines. These domains are sometimes purchased solely for this purpose.

These links are considered unnatural because they are not transparent and do not provide a legitimate reason for the link.

How to fix?: Stop redirecting old domains. Manually contact website owners and ask them to update their links to point to your new domain if these are relevant to it.

How to detect them?

There are several ways to find unnatural links pointing to your website:

Use Google Search Console

Google Search Console shows a list of backlinks to your site. Check this list regularly and look for any suspicious or low-quality links.

Do a backlink audit

Use a backlink analysis tool to thoroughly check all the backlinks to your website. Look for links from spammy websites, unrelated websites, or sites with low authority.

Some good backlink audit tools are:


  • Sign up and enter your site's URL to get a backlink report

  • Go to the 'Backlink Audit' tool to analyze your backlinks

  • Click 'New Audit' and set the settings like crawl depth and frequency, and select the backlink sources to audit.

  • Click 'Start Audit' and review the results to identify any harmful or suspicious links

  • Export the report to analyze further


  • Log in and go to the "Site Explorer" tool

  • Enter your site's URL

  • Click the "Backlink" tab to see all backlinks

  • Use filters like domain rating, page rating, and link type to find low-quality or spammy links

  • Export the backlink list to analyze further

Analyze anchor text

When looking at the anchor text, watch out for signs of over-optimization or text that seems too focused on selling something.

For example, if most of your anchor text uses the exact same keyword phrases like "buy blue widgets online", this could be a red flag that the links are not natural.

Using the exact same keyword phrases too many times in links may look to Google like you are trying to trick their system. Google could penalize your website for this.

However, not all commercial anchor text is automatically bad. If the words in the link are relevant to the content they point to, and the link comes from a high-quality website, it is less likely to be seen as manipulative by Google.

Check for a sudden increase in backlinks

If you notice a sudden spike in the number of new backlinks, it could signal unnatural link building, especially from low-quality sites.

How to avoid them?

Create quality content

Make really high-quality and valuable content. When your content helps people, they will naturally want to link to it. This is the best way to get good backlinks.

Build relationships

Reach out to other website owners and get to know them. Offer to work together on content or let them post content on your site. This can help you earn good backlinks naturally.

Don't buy links

Avoid paying for links. Search engines see this as an unnatural link practice and you can get penalized.

Don't use automation tools

Avoid using tools that automatically create links for you. These often make low-quality, spammy links.

Monitor your backlinks

Regularly check what sites are linking to yours. Look for any suspicious or low-quality links. If you find any, remove or disavow them.

Use nofollow for sponsored links

If you have sponsored or paid links, use nofollow tags to tell search engines not to follow or count those links.

Disavow unnatural links

If you find unnatural links to your site that you can't remove, you can disavow them using Google's tool:

  • First, try contacting site owners to remove the bad links

  • If that doesn't work, make a list of the bad links

  • Upload that list to Google using their Disavow Links tool

The main point

Unnatural links can seriously hurt your site's rankings and visibility online. Whether on purpose or accidental, search engines may penalize you for appearing to manipulate rankings.

Focus instead on building high-quality, genuine links that truly help users. Avoid questionable link tactics or shortcuts.

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