Bad Neighbourhood

Bad Neighbourhood is a term from search engine optimization. The proximity of a website to bad neighborhoods is mainly conveyed by outbound and inbound links (backlinks). A bad neighborhood is considered a potentially negative factor for the ranking of a website. Removing harmful links is therefore a task of off-page SEO.

Detailed explanation of Bad Neighbourhood

Show me your neighborhood and I’ll tell you who you are. This wisdom also applies to websites. Because you can compare the Internet with a city, where there are better and worse neighborhoods. One’s own house may be intact and presentable, but a bad neighborhood always gives rise to the suspicion that something is wrong in one’s own home.

The same applies to the worldwide web. The relationships of a website are mainly caused by the linking. Neighborliness can be established from two sides: A link from one’s own website to another or an incoming link from another domain establishes a relationship that is used by search engines as a factor for placement in the results lists.

Characteristics of Bad Internet Neighbors

Websites whose proximity is considered a Bad Neighborhood are characterized by various features. For example, they are known to use spam measures more often, sell backlinks themselves or otherwise conspicuously violate the guidelines of Google and Co. more often. Thin content [] is also a negative feature. In addition, there are websites that violate copyrights with duplicate content. Other characteristics:

  • A Pagerank of zero can – but does not have to – indicate a lack of seriousness. This is because many new websites automatically start with this Pagerank.
  • The link profile of the referring website is itself conspicuous.
  • The overall appearance of a website indicates inferior quality.

Backlinks as a ranking factor

Bad websites, with which one is connected by backlinks, can devalue the own position at Google. If the link building process reveals a suspicious number of websites that violate search engine guidelines, for example, with black-hat SEO techniques, this is considered a factor in the evaluation of one’s own Internet presence. This means for every webmaster that he not only has to be careful with his own linking, but should also regularly check which “bad neighbors” link to his own website. Proximity to such websites is harmful. Taking care of the environment is therefore an important element of search engine optimization.

Penalization by Google or other search engines takes place through various measures: namely, downgrading to lower positions in the SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages) or even complete removal from the index.

Important: An outbound link from your own site to a suspicious domain is much more dangerous than a backlink. After all, an own link is a recommendation made on one’s own responsibility. Especially dangerous is a link to pages that have already received a penalty from Google.

Do hosters harm the reputation?

Web hosting is also an SEO aspect – but only a very minor one. Those who keep their pages ready for retrieval on inexpensive but dubious servers can get into bad neighborhoods as a result. However, this only applies if massive violations accumulate at a hoster. Google itself points this out. Otherwise, it is always the link building, the content of a website and other proven SEO factors in the offpage and onpage area that decide.

Bad Neighborhood thus works not only via links, but in exceptional cases also via the location where the website is stored, i.e. via identical IP addresses or the use of a subnet. This can be avoided by relocating and using certificates for a secure HTTPS address.

What to do about Bad Neighbors?

To avoid Bad Neighborhood, it is first important to constantly analyze the link structure of your own website. For the backlinks, Google provides a simple option. The External Links page lists all URLs that lead to one’s own domain. If suspicious pages are found, a distinction must be made:

Outgoing links to harmful websites can be easily removed by oneself.
In the case of inbound links, first ask the responsible website operators to remove them. If this does not work, use Google Webmaster Tools to report unwanted backlinks. It is sufficient to send a list for this purpose.

If the damage has already been done and one’s own site has been downgraded due to a bad neighborhood, a so-called Reconsideration Request to Google will help. This request aims to have the page checked again manually. Often this leads to success and to the withdrawal of the downgrading.

The link pyramid shows a healthy link structure

Various studies have analyzed the link structure of successful websites and found startling similarities. Most of these sites have link building in the form of a pyramid, which gives search engines positive signals:

The foundation of the link pyramid consists of many, but simple and less high-quality links.
The top of the link pyramid consists of a few backlinks that are rated very highly by search engines (for example, with a good pagerank).
Because the number of backlinks decreases with increasing quality, the result is the image of a pyramid.

Of course, there is no ultimate link pyramid that ensures front positions in Google and Co. without further optimization measures. Nevertheless, there are always attempts to simulate a natural link building. With high-quality content, however, valuable backlinks usually result by themselves. This requires some patience – and concentration on onpage SEO with valuable content. By the way, search engines also consider the natural growth of a link structure for their classification of backlinks. So the all too sudden appearance of a perfect link pyramid can seem suspicious.


Websites that violate search engine guidelines can expect to be penalized by search engines. But also sites that work exclusively with white hat SEO are at risk – if too many suspicious sites link to them. Only a regular analysis of the backlinks protects against the dangers of Bad Neighborhood.


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