What is an SEO Neighborhood? What makes it good or bad?

Something you’ll hear and see a lot with SEO tools or at shows is an SEO or link neighborhood.  If you weren’t around when they came up with the term, it could be a confusing to a newer SEO.  An SEO neighborhood or link neighborhood is kind of like a community in a suburb with houses and streets connecting them.  The houses are websites and the streets are the links that work their way to connect them to each other.  If one house has overgrown grass, appliances on the front porch and needs to be painted, it could lower the value of the other houses in the connected neighborhood.  If all of the houses are in ruins and only one house is good, that house could be avoided or not be worth much or suffer a property value loss and miss buyers because of the neighborhood it is in.  So how does this compare to SEO?

Think about your website and the sites linking into you.  If you have a company or a website, do you have a PR firm that is giving away products to review to freebie sites or even Mommy Bloggers?  If you are a Blogger or site owner, do you have companies giving you things in exchange for links and reviews?  Now look at your backlinks and the links you are giving out and find these sites that are connected to you.  Go to Google and type in “site:(enter the url of the site linking to you)” now enter the word “viagra”, “payday loans”, “poker”, “porn” or “gambling”.  You can also try completely unrelated terms like purple widgets if you sell blue bobbles.  The more diverse and random the outbound links (links from their site to other sites) or the more adult and unrelated or offensive the outbound links are, the worse the neighborhood is.  If the neighborhood is bad, it also has a negative impact on your site and the quality of it in the eyes of a search engine.

Picture your website as a clean house with a great looking yard, perfect paint job and nothing wrong.  Now there are a couple more houses like that in the neighborhood.  You want your house to be associated with them and probably directly connected.  Now picture the rest of the homes.  Some are in decent condition and others are horrible.  This is an ok neighborhood that has a chance to be up and coming if it cleans up.  If most of the houses clean up, it is more desirable for new neighbors and people will want to come to it.  The prices will rise and everyone will benefit.  If more of the houses end up in worse condition, no matter how hard you work at keeping your house up, nobody will want to be there and it will be looked down upon.  This will cause property values to drop.  Even though your house is amazing, your neighborhood pulled you down and caused no one else to want to live there.  The same thing happens with the sites that link to you and that you link out to.

If they have links pointing to crappy sites, non related sites or to sites that have adult content on them, your site is now associated with those sites.  You need to go through and write to the site owners and ask them to remove links.  If they won’t remove them, you could try using the disavow tool in webmaster tools.  Your goal as a website owner isn’t just to keep your site clean and looking nice for your visitors, but you also need to worry about the neighborhoods you are in.  You also need to think about the content on your site and where you are linking to.

If you started to do reviews and are linking to everyone who sends you free product, you may be creating an irrelevant and sloppy neighborhood.  If you are entering contests and linking to other sites with contests and giveaways, you are now part of that neighborhood with little to no relevance to the actual topic and content of your sites.  If your site used to have a ton of copy because it started out as a mommy blog or a content site, but now every fifth post is a thin content giveaway, you have lowered the value of your site and changed the topic or focus.  This also creates an uglier house in the neighborhood as a heads up.  If you allow comments with links on your site, think about the keywords being linked off of, the sites being linked to and the neighborhood you created by allowing this.  Now think about all of your friends who linked to you or blog rolled you and started doing a ton of reviews or linking to random sites and advertisers.  You are now part of their neighborhoods.  If their neighborhoods are bad, they are taking you down with them.

If you think about your website like your house and property value, you can start to understand what an SEO neighborhood and link neighborhood is.  By keeping your site with like minded and content relevant sites, your neighborhood is more valuable and you can be rewarded by the search engines.  If it is slightly dirty or some of the neighborhood is not kept up nicely, your house or site is worth less and probably won’t be as appealing to buyers or for the search engines to rank.  If your house is great and your site has a ton of clean content and only links to relevant and authoritative sites, but everything linking to you is in a decent to bad neighborhood, your site and your house can end up taking a property value hit and a hit in the search engines.  Possible buyers for your house probably won’t want to live in that neighborhood either, even though your house was amazing.  The buyers are the search engines and if they wouldn’t want to live in the neighborhood because of the run down houses, loud neighbors and unsafe feeling, they won’t want to buy no matter how nice your house is.  The search engines won’t want to rank you for the same reasons.

The most important thing to remember is to keep your site clean and to create a good neighborhood.  The next thing is to make sure the neighborhoods you are a part of are similar to yours.  Make sure they don’t have a ton of random links, link to content that isn’t relevant to you and that they have good content, a clean site and are also as relevant to the content on your site as well.  If you do this your SEO will be much stronger, your neighborhoods will reward you and your site may be able to gain more traffic.

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