Have you ever heard the phrase ‘falling in with a bad crowd’? Well, if you link to websites that search engines consider ‘bad’, that’s the search engine optimization equivalent of falling in with a bad crowd. While your website may not be intrinsically ‘bad’ in itself, if you promote (by linking) sites that violate the terms and conditions of major search engines, you’ll be tarred with the same brush. While it’s unlikely your site will be completely blacklisted, you may see a sharp fall in rankings position – or be removed from the search rankings altogether.
This, of course, begs the question: how do I know what a ‘bad’ site is? After all, if someone links to you, you’re probably going to want to do the decent thing and return the favor That’s what so much of website building, networking and promotion is all about – right? So how can you be sure you’re not destroying your own search engine chances by linking to a poor site that search engines consider bad?
It’s tricky, but the basic answer is to use your gut. How does the website look? Does it look professionally designed, properly maintained? Is the content unique, or does it all sound familiar, or is the English terribly written?
On a more technical basis, you can check the PageRank of the site, and also its standings with Alexa. This should give a good understanding of the website in question’s general standing, and whether or not it’s the kind of crowd you want to be associating with. Also familiarize yourself with the Google terms of service, and scan the site for any obvious violations. If it passes, feel free to post a link back.