The old link building methods are backfiring and it is time to remove your site from any link schemes before they harm your ranking. A link scheme is any situation where you are linking to someone for perceived search engine ranking benefits rather than usefulness to people. For years it was considered a good idea to participate in reciprocal linking. Many sites noticed improvements in their rankings after including themselves in a reciprocal linking campaign. That is no longer the case. The original purpose of a link was to recommend a website that you feel would be useful to your website visitors. If you are making a link for any reason other than to recommend a website that would be beneficial to your visitors, you are participating in a link scheme. When you are link building and someone specifies that you must link to them in order for them to link to you, it is a link scheme. If you are making a link solely because they will link to you this is another link scheme. If you are not creating a link because you are recommending a site, you are creating a link because you are hoping it will increase your sites ranking or PageRank. This is dishonest and easily detected by Google. Simply put: High Quality Links - Create a link to a website you recommend for you visitors Poor Quality Links - Create a link designed to increase your site's ranking or PageRank.
Focus now needs to be on creating high quality links. Avoid links to web spammers or poor quality links, as your own ranking may be affected adversely by those links. If you are linking to a site that is deemed to be spammy or a link scheme your own ranking will eventually go down with theirs. Be selective when linking to other sites. Whenever you link to someone you are telling Google what is important to your website. Google will judge your website not only by who you link to, but also by what other pages the site you like with is using for links. For example, if you link to site A and they link to manipulative spam site B, C, and D, then Google may assume your link was also part of manipulation scheme. Your website is actually judged not only by who you link to, but also who links to your site. If you link back to these sites, you are only reinforcing the relationship. Be cautious when linking and only link to content that is beneficial to your users.
A bad neighborhood is a group of inter-linked websites that are not following the Google webmaster guidelines. All sites that are linked together in a bad neighborhood will be viewed the same. Every webpage is part of a neighborhood, and the quickest way to see what the neighborhood of your webpage is to use a simple Google search.
Put the following in the search box of Google:
This will result in a list of websites that Google feels is related to your website (unless your website is a few months old and there are no related results). Some of the related websites will seem obvious. For example, often you will find sites that you directly link to or sites that directly link to you. What you see in those results should make sense. If your webpage is about dogs, you should see a bunch of other websites about dogs. If you see websites that are not about dogs, but are instead about other random topics, you are in a bad neighborhood.
Many people find themselves confused when they see that Google somehow knows that your website is related to another even though there are no links between the sites. How does that happen? If you are linking to websites as a condition of receiving a link, then you are negatively associating your website with a bad neighborhood. The reason it happens is actually one of the key reasons that links schemes can be very destructive to your websites ranking in Google. Google has found many ways to determine what a website is about and the most recognized reason is links. What does a site link to and what sites are linked to it. A link scheme can be identified by why you are linking to a website. If you are making a link for any reason other than to recommend a website that is useful to your visitors then you are associating yourself with a link scheme. It is particularly important to not link to websites that use spam, or are in a bad neighborhood as this will negatively affect your website's ranking in Google. Remember that every link you create on your site identifies who you are and what your site is about.
Make sure all your links are high quality, relevant links that benefit your end user.