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18 Types of Backlinks Violating Google’s Guidelines (+ Infographic)

When doing SEO for your website, don’t take the bad with the good.

Get rid of the bad ASAP.

Especially those bad backlinks!

It’s vital to know which backlinks are violating Google’s webmaster guidelines.

These backlinks can cause vulnerability, and eventually a penalty.

In this article, I’ll talk about the unnatural backlinks that you should avoid, along with Matt Cutts’ take on these types of backlinks (since he’s the go-to Google expert, after all).

But first…

To follow along and put all this information to use right away, start by logging into your Monitor Backlinks account.

If you don’t already have a Monitor Backlinks SEO tool account, I recommend you take a quick time-out and sign up now. (Don’t worry, there’s a free 30-day trial so I’m not telling you to spend anything).

Once you’re logged in and have synced up your website’s information here, this tool will show you your entire backlink profile:



That’s what you’ll want to be looking at while you read this post.

But you can also opt to use the sweet and simple Free Backlink Checker offered by Monitor Backlinks for a quick check-in on your 300 most important backlinks and a few key SEO metrics. It’s good for a simple search:



But if you want to get serious about keeping a quality backlink profile, you’ll want to run with the full SEO tool I noted above. The full tool will give you automatic updates when anything changes in your backlink profile.

With the full tool, you’ll be sure to get plenty of advance notice in case of a bad backlink, spam links or even an impending penalty that could obliterate all your hard SEO work.

Either way, once you’ve logged into the Monitor Backlinks tool, you can use the backlinks data you see there to follow along with the rest of this blog post. I’ll help you identify all of the potentially bad backlinks pointing at your site!

18 Types of Backlinks Violating Google’s Guidelines

1. Link exchanges

Back in 2007, the link exchange was a very common way to build backlinks.

Webmasters started doing hundreds of link exchanges and, eventually, Google had to take action against this method.

If you’re pointing a few backlinks to some of your friends, there’s no reason to worry. But, doing this on hundreds of websites will raise a red flag to Google that you’re doing something suspicious.

The safest strategy today is one-way link building.

2. Participating in blog networks

Since 2012, Google has started to penalize numerous blog networks and websites that have such backlinks. Almost every month, Matt Cutts announces that they’ve penalized a new network.

If your website has backlinks from blog networks, you are in danger of being penalized.

3. Widget backlinks

Google recommends including rel= “nofollow” to widgets. Very important websites, such as GoDaddy, have been penalized for utilizing widgets as a link building method.

If you have a plugin or a badge, and you want people to be able to embed it on their website, give them the possibility to choose to link or not to.


4. Advertorials

If you’re doing sponsored articles or if you accept such posts on your website, which include a dofollow backlink, Google will consider that you are violating their guidelines. Matt recommends to nofollow all advertorial backlinks.

Google has penalized important websites for using this method as a link building technique, including Interflora and a few well-known newspaper websites.

5. Paid links that pass PageRank

Whether we’re talking about text links or image links, Google doesn’t want you to pass PageRank with the links you paid for. They consider this link as unnatural, and recommend you to add a rel nofollow to all of your sponsored backlinks.

6. Article directories

Websites such as EzineArticles and ArticleBase don’t provide real value to users, and, therefore, Google devalued them. Their only purpose is to generate endless articles on the same topic, with a dofollow link at the bottom of the content.

7. Hacking and hiding links in CSS and Javascript

The worst thing you can do is to hack other websites to leave your backlink. Search engine robots have evolved, and they’re now able to understand what backlinks they’re crawling.

Hiding your backlinks on other websites,  or even yours, is a sneaky way to build backlinks and you should avoid it.

8. Site-wide and footer backlinks

Backlinks from blog sidebars and footers will be placed on every page of your website. Therefore, it can be the case that some of the links will not be relevant, and may look like a spammy way to build backlinks.

9. Low distribution of anchor text

No matter from what platform the backlinks are coming from, if you’re building backlinks and repeating the same keyword over and over again, most likely your website will be penalized. Google has become very good at detecting patterns.

10. Backlinks from foreign language websites

If you have a website written in English and you have hundreds of backlinks coming from Russian or Indian websites, this will raise a flag to Google that something suspicious is going on with your website.

Relevancy is highly important, and it’s best to avoid building backlinks from websites written in a foreign language.

11. Low-quality guest posting

There’s been a long debate about guest blogging, and Matt Cutts has done numerous videos about this. Like any link building method, eventually it gets abused, and Google has to take action against it.

Quality guest blogging will never die, as I demonstrated a few weeks ago here, but spammy guest posting will get you penalized in the coming future.

12. Backlinks that are automatically generated

Even if it may sound like a fantastic deal to buy 10,000 backlinks for $5 on Fiverr, don’t! All those backlinks are automatically generated, and they’ll get your website penalized in days.

Stay away from all the backlinks that can be generated by bots, such as comments, forum posts and web 2.0 websites (Squidoo, HubPages).

13. Low quality web directories

Directories are another old technique that used to work a while ago, but not today. Paid or free, it doesn’t matter.

Instead of building hundreds of links from directories, concentrate your efforts on submitting your website on the most popular directories such as Yellow Pages and Best of the Web.

14. Bookmark websites

Just as the other automated techniques, websites where users can place their personal bookmarks should be avoided.

15. Irrelevant backlinks

Relevancy is crucial. If you have a website that sells car parts, and you have hundreds of backlinks from websites that sell baby toys, it makes no sense. Google’s algorithm can determine if a backlink is relevant or irrelevant.

16. Backlinks from websites with duplicate and spinned content

Google encourage publishers to write unique and useful content, that provides real value to users. On the other side, they devalue websites with low quality and duplicate content.

Therefore, backlinks coming from websites with spun or copied articles will bury your rankings.

17. Low quality backlinks

If it’s easy to build a backlink to your website, it means it doesn’t carry much value. Backlinks such as forum profiles and signatures, free directories, wiki pages and other similar platforms, will violate Google’s webmaster policy.

The harder it is for you to earn it, the more valuable it is.

18. Any link intended to manipulate PageRank

What a surprise, right? Google is against any type of backlink that intends to manipulate search engine rankings.

What does this mean to SEOs?

Well, it means that link building must be done with caution, and you should never leave footprints. Avoid participating in link schemes that are violating Google’s guidelines.


If you want to share this information with your audience, we have created an infographic that you can embed on your site. Use the code below.


infographic - backlinks violating google's guidelines



Scott Kelley

Good list Felix. I especially appreciate the references and videos. Most people don’t take the time to do that.

Felix Tarcomnicu

Thanks Scott!


19. If you have blog & is speaking about SEO, Content Marketing, Tips & Tutorials etc. And if you wrote a post on PanCakes then Matt Cutts & team will visit your blog & single out that post & penalize your whole website just because it is irrelevant.


“If it’s easy to build a backlink to your website, it means it doesn’t carry much value.”

That’s as subjective (on Google’s part, not yours Felix) and true as anything I’ve read. Google’s naming it a Manual Penalty shows the weakness of their algorithm. Once they jump from machine to people their process becomes a black box full of judgement calls.

In the end, Google wants it to be easier to buy AdWords than create backlinks.

Harsh Wardhan Singh

Very important article for all the SEOs to beware of these.

@felixtarcomnicu:disqus Just one thing – In the title it seems a typo. It should be ‘Guidelines’ instead of ‘Guideliness’.


Muhammad Haris

Thanks Felix for very important information.
my question is: is SEO died if not how to get backlinks. thanks again


SEO is not dead. It’s just changing.Spammy links can’t rank websites anymore.

Check what works well for the websites that are currently ranked on the first positions. Here are two tutorials you might find useful:


The true value in edu backlinks comes from the same place as any other authoritative site on the web. Sites with edu domains typically have high authority as they have been around for a long time and have many trusted and quality sites linking to them.


Great rundown Felix.

I particularly admire the references and features. A great many people don’t take the time to do that.




Really successful SEO begins with quality. Cramming and spamming may produce temporary results but as a long-term strategy it is never sustainable.


Thanks for the article. I must say I find this whole SEO business very confusing: first of all everybody says something different and second of all nothing seems to be allowed any more. You can be penalized for somebody else linking your website in a suspicious way without even being aware of it. Traps and minefields everywhere you look…
Maybe you could also do an article on legitimate ways to build high-quality backlinks? That would be awesome and very, very useful to a lot of confused and lost people like myself :-)!


very good article on off-page seo thank you for your valuable technical


Awesome article. I really appreciate the videos

Pradip Ghatak

I think don’t do anything intentionally or non-intentional to get benefited by the Search Engine. Just think about your users benefits or social impact. Update your website with fresh, relevant and quality content and follow all the basic Google Webmaster guidelines. That’s all.


Great article Felix,

I agree with Eslater these are all schemes for Google to make more money through Adwords and become even more a monopoly enterprise than they already are. When was the last time you heard Bing or yahoo coming with such strick rules?

Anuj Kumar

Nice Article,
Nowdays In a hurry to get visitors many people does these and infact I also did it, was penalysed by google on may 20 2015 when my ranking suddenly changes to shocking figure but now I understand and would not violate the policies remember slow and steady wins the race.


I was surprised to know that backlinks such as forum profiles, signatures, free directories, wiki pages and other similar platforms, will violate Google’s webmaster policy.


On every website we build for a client, we’ve always included a backlink to our own website in the footer of the client’s site. It seems logical that one of the best ways to get new customers is when someone likes the design of the website they are looking at, so click through to the design team who designed it. But judging from this article, we are forbidden to include backlinks in the websites we design? Doesn’t make sense. How are we supposed to build up a following without being penalized by Google?

Felix Tarcomnicu

Hi Brian,

You should consider adding a rel nofollow to those backlinks to avoid any vulnerabilities and make sure you will not be penalized.

Gabriel Nwatarali

Thanks for this information Felix. It was nice to read this all in one place, rather than everywhere. You really curated this information well. With regards to low quality backlinks, I am assuming that this means that we have to research website Trust Flow before considering it at this point. Quality VS Quantity is the play ground now, although its hard to get all quality backlinks but I guess that’s the whole point.

Felix Tarcomnicu

Thanks Gabriel. I’m glad you found it useful

Jake at Spy-Tronix

Hi – Felix, Just came across your site this morning and it was very helpful. Of course, listening to Matt Cutts is always valuable information, but you laid it out in a good and easy to follow way. The good ol’ days of quickly ranking sites with thousands of backlinks are over. 🙂

All the best and thank you for your great post – Jake at Spy-Tronix!

Mickey Mouse Games

It is better to build quality backlinks with different keywords including both dofollow and nofollow

Seb Brantigan

Hey Felix! Watched every single one of these videos by Matt, What better way to get SEO advice than from the horses’ mouth? Very insightful stuff will be following you and Matt more closely as SEO changes pretty much 24/7 lol 🙂


My website has numbers of links to it as some backlinks are on social media like Facebook , YouTube ,google+ and few are on other websites but whenever I check online on other websites it doesn’t show any backlinks.
Can You Help Me why is it happening??

Uptick Consulting

Great article and each point is very accurate. Directories are beneficial for SEO if they are of high quality, and there are a lot of high PR ones available in many different niches. Therefore, I disagree slightly as in I believe many directories can be beneficial, especially for citation purposes with local SEO.

Ajit Kumar

Nice article felix,
Every seo needs to know the basic of backlinks. thanks for sharing this article

Noman Anwar

Love that all Matt Cutt’s Video’s, very informative. I need to watch Hidden links through CSS and Javascript.


Thanks for the advices! I’m considering sponsored articles and i thought that ‘dofollow’ is necessary. Thanks to you I won’t do that mistake 🙂

Vasile Mironeasa

All the best to you Felix , your advice is constructive as well , Thanks !


I loved the tips and article, buts is frustrating if you have great content, a website 10 years and see new competitors with lower and bad content pages take you positions quickly with buying links.
I wanted all these google penalties were real and fast but they are not.
You’ll be just whining and seeing its competitors rise and rise.
And start ask yourself what is wrong with your page ?
Unfortunately google is not fair and is a technology with many gaps and loopholes.

To give you an idea a website copy you content and going up the original.
It may take months or years to out and your original page can be cut by duplicity.
The solution is quickly open the complaint but sometimes it is boring and they do not accept the first.
It is a dark box without exit and sure direction the more we think we understand it more it changes.

Aaron Hall

According to this article I should be on the last page of Google for what I am ranking my site for because I use a little bit of a lot of these types of links. I am no on the last page however and let me tell you why. First of all I want to give you my perspective of what SEO is.
SEO is promoting your website getting traffic getting people on your website and viewing pages and if your site viewers are filling out your contact forms or clicking on your phone links that’s golden.
And guess what if you can out work your competitors by placing more links and getting more traffic you are going to win in the searches.

SEO is not about having a secret formula and getting only high quality backlinks if I was to do that I would be doing next to nothing and getting next to no backlinks and I would be ranking on page 10.

I buy expired domains and create blog networks and use Blogger and Tumblr, I use backlinking services and I tweak my website often. I work on getting traffic all the time regularly and it reflects in my high Google my business listings and my front page organic listings. Stop putting so much faith in what Matt Cutts is saying he works for Google they make money by selling adds on their search engine do you honestly believe that they are going to let him tell everyone how to get high listings so that they no-longer have to use the addwords, thinks about it.

Just try working regularly getting links any kind that you can except the Spammy type that people are going to erase. Make little descriptions of what you do kinda like what you use for the meta description of what ever page you are linking to and then make some blog networks using domains with PR and also using Blogger and Tumblr and watch what happens.

So that is my formula I promote and I out-work my competitors Google rewards me because they see the effort every business owner needs to be doing excactly what I am doing to promote his brand and website.

Kai Liu (New York Food Photographer) many rules..Did not know before. I guess SEO is just a time consuming, hard work. No shortcut.


Nice article. Am getting more confused with this SEO geek. GOOGLE should scrap the word SEO and allow pages to rank naturally

Vineeth Mungath

Thank you Felix for writing this awesome article. The offical videos makes your post very relevant.


SEO is hard. I’ve spent quite a while learning and adapting for my little bricks and mortar business, but when the service you offer is so specific finding keywords locally can be difficult. Not to mention domain authority etc. It means that the little guys have to do a lot of extra work above businesses that have been around for ages that have perhaps never had to do anything. I wish google reviews and ratings also played a part (maybe they do?) as some businesses have shocking reviews and yet still appear in number 1 position. My website has nothing to do with SEO, but how do we know for sure that relevancy is important? If someone naturally links to us we can’t control the context of why the link exists. It also seems unfair that Google would penalise you for other people linking to you from irrelevant websites. I understand the logic behind it, but if Google is seeking more natural links and becoming more sophisticated then wouldn’t relevancy be less of an issue moving forward?

Abhishek Jain

Well I really dont believe that these types of backlinks are violating google guidelines. They still carry an important weight in SEO. The only thing is the repetition of these processes for the same website which Google consider as spam. What are your views?



I agree Abhishek. Google want to warn people away from using tactics that work and are effective. SEO is about risk management and balance.

Kurban Ali

Thanks Felix Tarcomnicu for sharing this important part of link building. I am in love with the infographic. I have a question to you. Why you think bookmark links as violating guidelines? It is very easy to get link from Bookmarking sites, is that the reason?


I agree. Catering to Google’s whims was tough/a questionable marketing strategy when they actually valued quality content. Now that they’re more interested in monetizing organic searches than they are providing end users with quality material, I think it’s time to find other ways of getting people to one’s site.

Manshu Ydoxy

Excellent guide for the backlinks. if anyone increase website ranking then White hat techniques is very good for backlinks. Your content is very useful and I fully agree with you. Good work.

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