A bad neighborhood, in an SEO context, is a group of linked websites with poor reputations and search rankings. Search engines often lower the search result ranks of pages deemed bad neighbors, so they don’t affect the quality of search results by appearing higher in the results than they deserve.
A site can be considered a bad neighbor as a result of its own behavior or can be seen as part of a bad neighborhood through association with bad sites. Some of the worst sites to link to fall into a category created by SEO specialists: PPC (pills, porn and casinos). Outbound links to disreputable sites can and will lower a site’s reputation. Linking to sites that tend to deceive users with titles and unrelated links will also place a site in a bad neighborhood.
Some criteria for judging a bad neighbor include:
- Links to disreputable sites.
- High link-to-content ratio.
- Link spamming and lack of moderation.
- Too many advertisements.
- Poorly written content.
Bad neighborhoods also lower the reputation of websites that link to them. A respectable site may have quality content, be well-optimized for search engines and refrain from attempting to cheat search algorithms but still be ranked lower if it links to a bad neighborhood or even a single bad neighbor. However, a site is generally not penalized for inbound links from bad neighborhoods because it is understood that a site has little control over what sites link to it.
Blacklists and link exchange tools for filtering bad neighborhoods can help ensure association does not taint a website's reputation. A trick to assist in determining if a site is a bad neighbor is an index search of the site. An index search of Google can be performed by typing “site:” followed directly (no space) by the website address and suffix. If the search returns no results, then the site is likely blacklisted by the search engine, and linking to it should be avoided.