Firstly, some of you might be asking, “what is a bad neighbourhood”?
When you link to a site from your own, it is the online equivalent of recommending a business to a friend. If they turn out to give a bad service then YOU catch it in the neck from your friend, and your reputation with your friend is tarnished slightly.
This is the same online with links. If you link to (recommend) a site, and it turns out that the site is a bad site in the eyes of the search engines, then YOU too will be seen as ‘bad by association’.
More information on Google Quality Guidelines can be found here Google Webmaster Information on Quality
OK SO now I have worried many of you, spoiled your breakfast, or sent you running to your links pages to look for bad neighbourhoods, I guess I should sort of help you identify these bad sites.
You can find a bad neighbourhood by going through the following process.
1 . Check page rank with the Google toolbar. If this is 0 or greyed out, that is a warning sign (new sites also have this so do not listen to people who say PR0 = ban they are confusing cause and effect).
2. Run a site:www.domain.com search on them, and if they come up with 0 pages in the index then that is also a warning
3. Run a search for their company name on Google and see what is brought up.
4. Check the ownership and age of domain. (this will help distinguish potential banned, from the site simply being new, as the signs are very similar)
5. Finally run a back link check.
This is where we get to the crux of the matter as links are the key. If a couple of year old site has no pages listed and no PR, then there is reason for caution. If however the site is showing no backlinks, then it might well be a genuine case of the site being new to the web.
If however the site is a few years old, has no PR, no pages listed, yet has hundreds of backlinks, there is a fair chance that site has a penalty against it.
These are simple checks designed to help answer the question of ‘am I linking to a bad neighbourhood’? I can not tell you how important it is that you vet your linking partners. There is a lot of false information about bad neighbourhoods, including stuff like. I don’t link to gambling sites because Google doesn’t like them. Google doesn’t care about the genre of sites, it cares about the specific practices that each site and cluster of sites uses. Sites like ‘William Hill Bookmakers’ are not banned, nor are they bad neighbourhoods, yet they ARE gambling sites. Sure gambling sex and pharmacy sites are more likely to get into bad linking practices and spamming, but if you are in the same business, then they are on topic links.
One last thing though. When linking, keep these questions in mind. Am I linking to and from the most relevant pages of the sites?. Is this link on topic? Will I get traffic from this link? I am NOT saying you have to stick to the sites where you can answer yes to all, but I AM saying that if you CAN say yes to all those questions, then you will have just given your internet marketing a big boost.