Bad Backlinks Might Not Hurt Your SEO

So, why do some sites with what appear to be low quality backlinks get past Penguin and do exceedingly well on Google search? According to Matt Cutts, one reason is that “the algorithms haven’t gotten good enough yet” to catch them.

Really? The algorithm is good enough to punish sites so severely that they lose virtually all their organic-driven business, but it’s not good enough to penalize competitors using Russian link networks or keyword-rich anchor links in the footers of low-quality blogs? (I thought it was an isolated case, until I saw a comment from someone with the same problem.)

To be fair, Cutts also explains why you may not be getting the complete backlink picture if you’re not the site owner. Still, it’s hard to get past that not-good-enough statement, especially if you’ve gotten the short end of the Penguin stick.

And his statement that the idea that “there are some good links” that could be overshadowing the bad links would be helpful, if he hadn’t named CNN, the New Yorker, New York Times and the Chicago Tribune” as possibilities. I guess in his world, where Google is cited and linked to regularly from those sources, that’s a strategy. But that’s not the world most of us live in.

As for Cutts’ suggestion that you send Google a spam report or post on the Webmaster forum, our experience is that Google does not act on individual complaints.

I don’t suggest that this is a sign that it’s OK to use questionable backlinks to improve SEO. In fact, I strongly advise against it. But this type of answer from Cutts does move me closer to the “everything Google does is aimed at pushing people to Adwords” camp. Watch and see what you think.

About Lee Stral

Lee is a marketing consultant who has specialized in Internet marketing and Web site development since the Internet first showed promise as a marketing channel. Prior to founding Essential Presence, he was partner in an integrated marketing communications agency working with technology, professional service and non-profit organizations.

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