A lot of people tend to focus more on backlinks than on anything else, although backlinks are a fairly easy way of ranking fast but way too many people go overboard with them. You have probably heard already that content is king, which is true for the most part but a couple of backlinks, in theory, wouldn’t hurt. A lot of beginners make the big mistake of jumping on the backlinks bandwagon, and they simply lose focus on what is really important which is content.
Yes, you can have too many backlinks, although this also depends on the niche and competition. Some niches are so competitive that you will not be able to rank without a lot of links, although there is a fine line between enough backlinks to rank and way too many backlinks. Too many backlinks often cause problems like, deindexing, google penalty, manual penalty, irrelevant backlinks and they are extremely difficult to index.
Backlinking is a big industry, and no matter where you go for advice you will constantly hear people saying that you need more high-quality backlinks. The truth is that one high-quality backlink will easily outshine hundreds of backlinks, and it will impact your rankings as well. Way too many people focus on the number of backlinks rather than the quality of them. Another major problem is that most people have no clue what a high-quality backlink is.
If you have ever visited a marketplace that sells backlinks like Fiverr, Seoclerks or even forums you have noticed that everybody is selling high-quality backlinks. The truth is that most of them are selling backlinks which are made by some kind of software, although most of them will claim that the backlinks are manually made. Oftentimes people do not want to wait 6-8 months before they rank and this is understandable.
Sooner or later they end up with too many backlinks and google can spot this from a mile away and you might even get penalized. Even if your backlinks are high quality, if you have too much of them then that is a big red flag in Google’s eyes. Although you can still rank in low competition niches without any backlinks, for more information check out my recent article Can you rank a website without Backlinks? ( Fact or Fiction? ).
It looks unnatural
If you have too many backlinks than it looks unnatural, google will instantly notice that you are trying to manipulate the rankings. This is the same case if you are building “whitehat” backlinks, basically, any links which are linking to your site from other sites are considered a backlink and you can definitely have way too many of them. If you have a new website and you start building backlinks then this also looks unnatural in Google’s eyes.
Google knows that websites that are not focusing on building backlinks do not get backlinks in the first couple of months. This is why it is extremely easy to rank on the first page with low competition keywords without any backlinks. Once the article is starting to get some traffic then you can start building some backlinks, as this way the backlinks look more natural. If you are at the point of choosing a domain for your blog then check out my recent article How to choose a good domain name for your blog ( In 15 Steps ).
Google often penalizes websites which have way too many backlinks, their quality doesn’t even matter. If your article is getting around 100 visitors a month and it has thousands of backlinks then it is an instant red flag for Google, and with some logic, you can understand why. In order for any website to get backlinks organically it needs to have traffic, I mean real traffic from search and from social media, not the kind you buy on some forum.
Google penalties come in several forms although generally, they are either a soft or a hard penalty. A soft penalty is when you lose the rankings for the keyword, usually just a couple of positions. A hard penalty is when your article simply disappears from search, maybe it falls back on page 10 or it can even completely drop off nowhere to be found. If you don’t know what kind of blog you should start then check out my recent article What kind of blog should I start? ( Top 6 Options ).
Having your website deindexed by google is one of the biggest fears of most webmasters. Generally speaking, if you are not doing anything shady but you have a lot of backlinks you can still get deindexed by google, although this depends on the niche. If you are doing something shady and you also have thousands of backlinks than the minute your site ranks you can wait for a potential penalty or even deindexation.
The good news is that deindexing expires after a while, the bad news is that it usually takes a couple of years. Even if you have waited a couple of years for the deindexation to expire the moment it has expired you might get hit once again by Google.
There are some niches that are soo competitive that you will never rank without backlinks. Usually, the websites which are ranked for these terms are fairly old and most of them are an authority in the niche. If you are targeting such a niche, you can simply not wait years until your domain becomes an authority and then focus on the more buyer intent keywords. This is why many people jump on building backlinks the minute they post their article.
High competition niches are dominated by big sites, which do not seem to be affected by any Google update. As there are only 10 positions on Google’s first page, and only the first 3 tend to get traffic, you do not have a lot of options when it comes to outranking them other than building backlinks. Thankfully not all niches are as competitive and there are plenty of niches where just a couple of well-made backlinks can make a big difference, although any keywords with buyer intent will be extremely competitive.
One of the main reasons people tend to build way too many backlinks is because they take a look at the backlink profile of the top ranking websites and they want to either outrank them with higher quality backlinks or with as many backlinks as possible. Usually, the tools used for spying on the backlinks of the competition are Ahrefs, Moz, and Semrush, the problem with these is that they are not accurate enough, although you won’t find any better alternative than these 3.
What these backlink analysis tools are showing is completely different from what a webmaster sees in the search console, and it is a high probability that the search console isn’t even accurate as google doesn’t really want to let you know what is impacting your rankings.
One of the biggest problems with having too many backlinks is that they are a nightmare to index. There are a lot of indexing services which you can find, some are free and some are extremely expensive. All of them do more or less the same thing, which is basically trying to index the submitted backlinks, although I should put an emphasis on “trying” as all of them fail. A couple of years ago a good indexing service was a must-have tool if you were focusing on backlinks.
Today, however, they are mostly useless, the indexing rate fluctuates around the 10-30% at best, and you will not be able to index the high-quality backlinks easily. Even if a portion of the backlinks get indexed that still doesn’t mean that Google will not ignore them. If you are focusing on building as many backlinks as possible you might find that you will not able to index most of them, and at that point, the not indexed backlinks are simply pointless.
Another big problem with having a lot of backlinks is that a big chunk of them if not all will be irrelevant to your niche. Google has made an update specially designed to combat these kinds of links, they are simply not considered anymore. A couple of years ago a common tactic by black hatters was to buy an expired domain in the political niche, usually candidates who were in a race for a position.
These expired domains had hundreds if not thousands of high authority backlinks, from then on they would either redirect the expired domain to their money site or use it as a PBN, both ways worked and it was possible to rank for a highly competitive niche in a matter of weeks.
Increased spam score
Some backlink analyzing tools do include a spam score like Moz. Generally speaking, the spam score looks at the number of backlinks, how relevant they are to the niche, and the quality of them. The problem with a lot of backlinks is that you will most likely increase your spam score. Although the spam score is not a metric used by google but odds are that google also uses some kind of metric to determine the spam score of a website although they do not show it publicly.
Websites with a high spam score can still rank, but the problem comes when you are trying to sell the website. Most people who are old-timers in the SEO game know that they have to take the spam score with a grain of salt, but a beginner will back down extremely fast if the website’s spam score is considered even moderately high.
Sometimes a website with a lot of backlinks does avoid any algorithmic penalties, although mostly by luck than anything else. The problem is that Google knows that they have made a system that can be easily manipulated, their AI is smart but if you feed the AI with what it needs then you can still rank. Google has thousands of manual reviewers, mostly outsourced from third world countries, these do not directly impact the ranking of a website but they can definitely contribute to how google looks at them.
Sometimes google lets you know if you have a manual penalty, but most of the time they don’t even bother. Even if they notify you that you have a manual penalty they are so vague in the reason why you got a penalty that you can’t do anything with the information. The biggest problem with manual penalties is with the reviewers themselves, basically, they can protect their own websites and destroy the competition, and this is a widespread problem.
A couple of years ago I was focused on CPA marketing, and I remember that there was one website that was flagging the competition, which most of the time ended up in having the website deindexed. People started to notice that there were a couple of websites that were never affected, and after some research, they found out that the authority in this domain who was responsible of taking down websites was actually another affiliate. They even had a website, and the irony is that the website even became an established authority and they had the power to deindex anything the wanted.
Churn and burn
Having too many backlinks doesn’t always mean a bad thing, sometimes they can rank your website extremely fast. This is also called the churn and burn tactic, which a lot of webmasters claim that it isn’t working but the truth is that if you know what you are doing then you can still rank in a couple of days with this method, although it also depends on the niche. Churn and burn simply means that you build as many backlinks as fast as possible, their quality or relevancy doesn’t really matter.
The downsides of this tactic are that sooner or later your website will either be penalized or simply deindexed. Working on a penalized is rather pointless, there is no guarantee that it will ever recover and it is better just to move on rather than wasting your website.
As you can see SEO is not a numbers game, it used to be but not anymore. If you look at the first position results for most niches than you will see that most websites have few but fairly high-quality backlinks, which easily outrank websites that have hundreds if not thousands of backlinks.