What is a
link neighborhood?

Link neighborhoods refer to the sites that you link to on your site, and sites that link to your site. There are good and bad link neighborhoods, and you want to be sure to live in a good link neighborhood.

Link Neighborhood: What Is It and Why Does It Matter?

When renting or buying a home, one of the deciding factors is what kind of neighborhood the home is located in. People want to know what school district they are in, what the crime rate is like, HOA requirements, and various other considerations to help determine if a neighborhood is worth living in. You can apply a similar mindset when determining your link neighborhood. Just as backlinks are an essential ranking factor for search engines, the link neighborhood can have an impact on how backlinks are viewed and assessed.

What Is a Link Neighborhood?

A link neighborhood refers to a group of sites that are connected by links. Both internal links and external links on a given web page send signals, both to readers and to web crawlers. If you think of this in terms of a neighborhood, in this scenario, the houses are the websites, and the streets are the links that bring them together. There are two different ways that link neighborhoods are created:

  1. External Links: Sites that you link to on your site (including internal linking to your own content);
  2. Backlinks: Sites that link to your site.

To elaborate, if you have a site that offers outdoor equipment, and you link to a hunter’s education site, you are now associated with that site. The same is true if the hunter’s education site decides to link to your site. The links that surround this link comprise the link neighborhood.

What Is a Good Link Neighborhood?

It can be easier to understand what a good link neighborhood is by thinking of it as a literal neighbor. If you take pristine care of your home, you want your neighbors to take care of their houses too — watering the lawn, pulling weeds, cleaning up trash, etc. When you have a nicely kept house, it becomes a place that people are more drawn to. The same is true for sites that you associate with. When you link to a site, you want them to have a polished site. The user experience should be optimized for ease of use and readability; the content should be credible, trustworthy, and authoritative. You might look twice at the authorship, the brand equity, and other signals of quality and credibility on the sources you cite. When you are acquiring links, or choosing sites to link to, you want to ensure that they are relevant to your audience, that they offer high-quality, unique content, and that the site is indexed by Google.

What Is a Bad Link Neighborhood?

When you are surrounded by poorly-taken-care-of homes, it reduces the value of your own home. The same is true for link neighborhoods. The following factors can help determine a bad link neighborhood:

  • Bad Links: these are links that lead to the three P’s: pills, porn, and poker;
  • Bad Content: when content is poorly-written, its value decreases tremendously. This includes inaccurate or misleading information, spelling and grammatical errors, misleading anchor text/internal citations, etc.; 
  • Excessive Ads: when you have an abundance of ads, it can take away from the effectiveness of an article (even if it is well-written). This is especially true of sites that are hosting topically unrelated ads;
  • Excessive External Links: when you externally link to a site, you are pointing to the site as the authority for the information you are mentioning. While this is necessary at times, doing so excessively can take away from your credibility for speaking on the topic;
  • Spam: unrelated information, unnecessary comments, irrelevant linking, and repeating key phrases excessively can come across as a spammy black hat SEO technique. This can diminish the value of your site;
  • Unrelated Links: sites that are unrelated — either topically, or the target audience/niche —  do not generally offer any value to your site.
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Why Do Link Neighborhoods Matter?

Links between sites are one of many SEO ranking factors that search engines take into account. The neighborhoods that you exist in can directly impact how search engines determine the quality of your content, and the site as a whole, to be. When you link to bad sites, or bad sites link to you, it is a poor reflection of your site — no matter how great your site and content may be. When you undertake a link building campaign, it is important to consider not just the domain authority (DA) of the sites linking to you, but the link neighborhood in which your new backlinks appear.

When you obtain links from high-authority pages, you can increase your SEO rankings. Google introduced PageRank as a measure to determine which content is high-quality and which content is not. This metric is based on the different backlinks pointing to a site, and the respective authority of the sites providing those backlinks. These backlinks act as “votes,” and search engine crawlers will measure the sum of the votes in order to decide where the site should appear in the search engine results pages (SERP). To elaborate, these linking-sites are saying “this source has quality information and deserves mention when speaking on this topic.”

For example, if site A decides to link to site B, Google will go to site A in order to determine the authority of the site passing their “vote.” If site A is determined to be an important, high-quality site, then site B will enjoy the benefits of being associated with a good neighborhood, and may see ranking increases due to that. On the other hand, if site A is determined to be a low-quality site in a bad neighborhood (e.g. spammy, invaluable information, etc.) then site B's information may be seen as less valuable, and the site may become associated with that bad link neighborhood.

How to Check Your Link Neighborhood?

It can be challenging to understand your link neighborhood if you are unaware of how to gain insight into this. You will want to perform a link audit on your site using a platform like Moz, Majestic, Ahrefs, etc., or look into SEO auditing services to help you.

Tips for Finding Good Link Neighborhoods

It can seem difficult to create viable link neighborhoods if you are not aware of different best practices, resources, or what to look for. You can use the tips below to help you determine viable sites for finding good link neighborhoods:

  • Trustworthiness: When you link to a site that provides pertinent, quality information, you appear more trustworthy. When you link to sites that provide irrelevant, inaccurate information, it hurts your site. The same is true if you choose to purchase backlinks;
  • Relevance: You want to be sure that the sites you share links with are relevant to your site. This includes making sure that your anchor text is not misleading or forced. Relevance should also include how fresh the article is. If you have links from old, abandoned sites with outdated content, they can ultimately be written-off as irrelevant;
  • Link Diversity: You want to be sure to create a diverse backlink profile. If your site contains a high number of links from one or two sites, then you have very little link diversity;
  • Outreach: When you outreach other webmasters, you can explain why your information deserves mention on their site. You want to be sure to research how to build quality backlinks, and that you are effectively outreaching — not using black hat techniques.
  • Disavow Bad Links: When you are notified of red flags in your backlink profile, you should take action to disavow those links. When you disavow bad links, you are indicating to search engine crawlers that you do not want to associate with low-quality or spammy sites.