The Best (& Worst) Types of Backlinks

  • Links can help build up the authority of your site, but not all backlinks are created equal. 
  • In fact, some backlinks can actually be toxic to your site. 
  • Good backlinks include editorial-based backlinks, organic backlinks and, to an extent, guest post backlinks. 
  • Paid links, content spammed links, and links from low-quality websites can potentially get your site penalized. 

If you are familiar with SEO then you are probably well aware that backlinks are good for your website. Unfortunately, that isn’t true for all of them. Not all backlinks are created equal and, in fact, some can cause more harm than good. So, take a seat, grab your favorite drink (my personal favorite is a WhisKeyword Sour), sit back, and let’s dive in!

What makes a great backlink? 

Before we begin diving into examples of the best and worst types of backlinks, we felt it might be a good idea to first explain what makes a backlink good.

Domain & Page Authority

Authority is a vanity metric used in SEO to gauge the SEO value of a particular domain or webpage. The metric is an attempt to replicate and estimate the ‘PageRank’ of a certain resource on the web. The higher your score, the more authoritative you are in search, and thus, the easier it can be for your site to rank. Based on what we know about Google’s algorithm, backlinks allow authority and the concept of “link equity” to be passed through to other sites through hyperlinks. Therefore, a link from a site with high authority will be more valuable than a link from a site without much authority. 

Dofollow vs nofollow

In 2005, Matt Cutts and Jason Shellen introduced the ‘nofollow’ html tag as a way to fight comment spam. By implementing the ‘nofollow’ tag on your links, you’d effectively tell Google that you do not advocate for the site you are linking to. Thus, Google would know not to pass on link equity or directly crawl the page being linked to. “Dofollow” links, on the other hand, represent a vote of confidence for the site, thus passing “link equity” along. By not adding a ‘nofollow’ tag to your link, you are telling Google, “I advocate for the site being linked to therefore link equity would be passed along.”


The contextual relevance of a site also plays an important role in what makes a good backlink. Backlinks from irrelevant sites or articles have less impact than backlinks from hyper-relevant websites. Relevant sites typically contain related keywords allowing Google to make those connections between your site and the site that’s linking to you. Additionally, links from relevant sites allow you to receive more relevant referral traffic.

Now that we know what makes a good backlink, let’s dive into some examples of the good, the bad, and the ugly!

The Good

Editorial-based backlinks

Editorial backlinks are usually organic links that come from large publications with high-quality content and strong authority in search. These are the absolute best types of backlinks you can receive because of the strength of the domains.

Organic backlinks

Backlinks that are naturally occurring are examples of great links. These are links where writers come across your content on social media or via search and link to it within articles. Organic backlinks are some of the best backlinks your site can score because you didn’t have to beg for it and also because it means your content is good enough to link to! 

Guest blog backlinks (to an extent)

Guest blog backlinks (in some cases) can be similar to editorial backlinks. If the content produced is high quality and contains naturally placed links then these could be potentially considered just as good for your site as an organically occurring link.

The Bad

Guest blog backlinks (with poor content)

Content is king no matter what and poorly written content is not useful one bit. Poorly written guest blogs with tons of mistakes probably won’t help you get points with Google. Google’s taking quality signals into account so links from poorly written content probably won’t carry as much weight as high-quality content.

Sitewide links

If you’re still going after sitewide links then you may need to reevaluate your link building strategy ASAP. These links aren’t really considered to be high quality. In fact, sometimes they could hurt you if you’re using them to gain multiple links from a single domain. Depending on the context of the link, these can be decent links to gain but there must be a really good reason for receiving a link from a footer or header that appears on every page on a site. 

Press release backlinks

Backlinks from press releases have become a bit of an outdated tactic and overused by many link builders. In recent years, Google has devalued links coming from press releases. These aren’t bad links but they aren’t very good if your intention is to game algorithms.

The Ugly

Paid links

Links acquired from monetary exchanges are the worst type of backlinks you can receive. It’s that simple. Google makes itself very clear that these links go against its quality guidelines and engaging in such exchanges can mean a penalty in search.

Comment spammed links

Comment spam links are another extremely outdated tactic. These are links within the comments of blogs or other sites. Unless you’re providing real value within your comment and linking to extremely relevant sources then these links aren’t good at all. It’s important to note that comment spamming in mass could potentially get your site penalized.

Backlinks from poor websites

Links acquired from sites with poor authority scores or shaky SEO pasts can hurt your site. Generally, these are sites that have content ridden with mistakes or sites that exist solely to sell backlinks. Avoid these sites at all costs!

Disavowing Links

If there are links you’ve found pointing to your site that fall in the “ugly” category then you might want to consider disavowing those links. Link disavows are a best practice in SEO in which you let Google know which backlinks you don’t approve of. This practice consists of manually reviewing each toxic link in your backlink profile and including the most toxic ones in a TXT file. 

Need help securing more backlinks for your site? Need help cleaning up links from a past link building agency’s black hat practices? Contact the white hat link building pros here at Redefine; we look forward to helping you!

Author avatar
Jason Martinez
Jason is a Cal Poly Pomona Alum, extreme fan of marketing, and social media advocate. As a Brand Marketing Manager at Redefine Marketing Group, he is responsible for the development and execution of strategy for reputation management, link building, and social media marketing for both the agency and its clients.
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