Glossary | 3 mins
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Link spam is a term referring to low quality backlinks that are created for the sole purpose of boosting their target page’s organic rankings, with little or no regard of the link’s context, topical relevancy, or its impact on user experience.
Though link spam is treated the same way by Google regardless of details, it can occur in many different forms.
Spam posting is one of the most common forms of link spam, where a link builder will post an excessive number of links pointing to their target page on public platforms such as forums, blog comment sections, and site guestbooks.
Hidden links are another type of link spam, where a black hat SEO will hide backlinks on a referring page by making the anchor text’s colour match the background content, effectively making it invisible. This is used to engage in link spam without having too great an impact on the referring page’s user experience.
Link farming is another common form of link spam, where two webmasters will form a partnership in which they repeatedly link to each other for the purpose of SEO. Sites with excessive reciprocal links to each other were devalued by Google’s 2011 Panda update.
One or more of these methods can be used in a practice known as anchor text spamming, where a large number of low authority links are built pointing to the same site, all with the same anchor text. This is intended to help a page or site rank for specific keywords included in the repeated anchor text.
Though the practice is in decline, it’s not uncommon for webmasters and inexperienced SEOs to engage in link spam in an attempt to gain backlinks and improve their organic rankings. Though this was an effective method in the early days of search engines, Google’s algorithm is now sophisticated enough to identify link spam. Today, new, spammy links now offer no additional value to the pages that they target.
To avoid spam linking in your SEO efforts, it’s important to ensure that every new link you build is of a high quality, and doesn’t have any traits that Google might interpret as spammy. All new backlinks should be from authoritative referring domains, be topically relevant to the page on your site that they’re linking to, and have a clear intention to improve both sites’ user experience.
It’s also important to periodically audit your backlink profile for existing link spam to prevent these links from damaging your rankings too severely.
The easiest way to do this is to use a professional SEO tool like Ahrefs or Semrush to export your site’s backlink profile, sort your links by domain authority, and manually check the least authoritative backlinks for spammy practices. It can also be helpful to comb through these exports and manually check for anchor text spam. Once the spammy links are identified, you can copy the relevant links or domains into a disavow file and upload it to Google Search Console to prevent them causing any damage to your rankings.
By keeping high standards for all your link building prospects, and regularly pruning toxic links from your pages, you’ll be able to prevent spam links from devaluing your site and harming its ranking prospects.
Link Spam FAQs
How do you identify spam links?
Spam links are characterised by their appearance on low quality referring domains, and by their use of black hat link building tactics, such as spam posting, hidden link building, or link farming. The easiest way to identify spam links in your backlink profile is to export a backlink report from your SEO tool and manually assess each link starting with the ones from the least authoritative sources.
What is anchor text spam?
Anchor text spam is a form of link spam wherein an excessive amount of links are created with the same anchor text, aimed at helping the target page or domain rank for a keyword included in the anchor text.
Questions to ask your link builder