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3 free tools to make sure your site is in good company

Written by David Harry   
Tuesday, 12 May 2009 07:07

1, 2, 3 - find bad neighbour and flee!

(The following is a guest post from Alex Chudnovsky from Majestic SEO)

The issue of bad neighbourhoods has been a frequent topic of discussions among SEOs for a very long time. It is widely considered that it is one of the ranking factors that can have substantial negative effect on your site. Google itself talks about bad neighbourhoods suggesting to avoid linking to them. More recently David posted about host level spam detection and how it can affect sites. The highest risk group is shared hosting that can have thousands of domains from different owners hosted on the same IP address: this makes it more likely that a heavily spammed website would be your neighbour, however even sites on dedicated IPs are not immune to this problem - the IP may have been used before by a known to search engines bad domain.

Intuitively it seems obvious that it is best to avoid risk of hosting your site in a place where bad domains may also be hosted, but how does one check for their presence? Traditionally reverse DNS tools were used for this purpose to show other domains hosted on the same IP. This approach has 2 serious drawbacks:

  1. Neighbouring domains are not prioritised by backlink counts so checking them all manually is time consuming
  2. Class-C subnet level is not covered

Now we'll look at how to use 3 free tools to check on your neighbours.

Tool #1: Domain neighbourhood checker

You can check list of domains hosted with a particular domain on the same IP address or subnet by using free Majestic-SEO domain neighbourhood checker tool. On the screenshot to the left you can see our project domain and its top neighbours:

Neighbours on old IP used by

When we run this check for our own site we noticed "" with a fair few backlinks hosted on the same IP with our site. The theme of that site and it's apparent lack of ranking for term loans121 gives the impression of penalty.

Tool #2: Backlink history

Our next move was to check this domain using our backlink history comparison tool. This tools allows to analyse visually unnatural link velocity (the rate at which links are gained):

Backlink history for

What this screenshot tells us is that this site obtained most of its external backlinks were acquired a couple of years ago and after the rate at which new backlinks were found slowed down considerably. This could be a sign of unnatural link acquisition that can result in a penalty. We might never be certain whether this particular site is penalised or not, but do we really want to take risks of being hosted on the same IP with someone like them?

Tool #3: Checking top pages

Our next move was to check if we have any bad neighbours on our subnet, the screenshot below shows domains ranked by number of referring domains pointing to them:

Neighbours on old subnet used by

The top site (above ours!) caught our attention - (we don't link to them intentionally here) appears to be an innocent site for National Independent Schools' Drama Association, but why would it get so many backlinks? We queried our search engine for top pages on their domain shown on screenshot below:

Search results showing top pages on domain

OMG, that's some drama they are teaching there! Or maybe they don't! It turned out that those heavily backlinked urls on that domain no longer existed, however it is clear that this domain was hacked and then heavily spammed. Not a good sign security wise for sure!

Looking for better neighbours...

We decided to move away and get some better neighbours, screenshot below shows that we now got the best neighbours there can be:

New neighbours on IP used by

That's right - no other sites were hosted on that IP before, that's the best kind of neighbours! A couple of sites on our Class-C subnet are not ideal, but at least we have clean IP address for ourselves.


In real life bad neighbours can be rather obvious, but online you may not even know that you have them until you face unexpected drop in rankings due to penalty that may apply to IP address or even subnet. Be sure to use these free Majestic-SEO tools to check whether you have bad neighbours or not:

  1. Check domains neighbours on IP and C-Class subnet
  2. Check pattern of backlinks acquisition over time
  3. Check top pages for suspect domains

Don't hesitate to move your site if you have bad neighbours, you don't have to put up with them online!

About author: Alex Chudnovsky is the Managing Director of Majestic-12 Ltd (trading as Majestic-SEO) and can be also be found on Twitter. I'd like to thank Alex for some great convos of late and look forward to the evolution of Majestic into one of the TOP SEO tools on the web today (if you haven't already, be sure to go check it out!).

More reading;

Bad Neighborhood Link Checker - The Tool
Bad Neighbourhood = Google Penalty - Do You Link To One? - Hobo Web
How to check if a site is serving up Malware - Site Reference
Google looks for patterns of linking to bad neighborhoods - SEO Scoop



0 # Marjory 2009-05-12 08:35
This is really good information. Thanks so much.
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0 # Dave 2009-05-12 09:06
@ Marjory - Alex and I got to talking after the Spam Detection post and he floated the idea for this post - it really worked out well..

@Grant - funny thing bro... it was YOUR post that had me writing about the host level spam detection which lead to this one... 3 degrees of spamage

Thanks for dropping in gang... always appreciated!!
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0 # alexc 2009-05-13 06:23
Glad to see you like it! Thanks to Dave I got hands around writing this small piece, very glad about moving our project site to new hosting as it's much better than the one we used before!
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0 # Craig Parker 2009-05-14 03:58
I really like the backlink history tool, very useful in a lot of different ways, recommend on ^.^
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0 # Diety 2009-05-25 08:36
It saved my butt a couple of times. There's so much stuff you can't be sure of until it's too late that it's good to have a tool to help you.
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0 # AndyW 2009-05-14 11:45
It's an interesting argument but is it just speculation or is it based upon real examples?

Can you give an example where this has been used, action has been taken and the SEO campaign has been helped?
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0 # Dave 2009-05-14 15:50
Well, there is a comment above which lists a post which U can see... and I would also say that the fact Google has a patent on Host Level Spam detection (and trustrank type algos) that there is every reason for us to consider this when doing SEO - Alex also mentions a case study on the Sphinn thread about this post...

Would I get anal about it? naw... but still something to bear in mind IMHO
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0 # Grant 2009-05-14 16:06
I wrote about the same exact thing on my blog on April 6th. After changing hosts I saw several websites go from sandboxed to first place in the serps for their keyword. You can read my post about it here (
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0 # alexc 2009-05-15 04:31
The article here is based on real data - we used this tool on our own website. Here is link to Sphinn post with a few more details:

Hosting is one of a few things under your full control - like on-page content, so it's best to avoid unnecessary risks and choose to host in a location that does not have obvious bad neighbours. Considering how affordable hosting is these days it is just not worth taking extra risks.
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0 # Ian Kree 2009-05-18 03:47

Thanks. This is an eye opening for me. I has never care about my neighbor ... now I must.
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0 # venkat 2009-05-19 23:31
Its always not link to bad websites good for bloggers in perspective view of Google.
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0 # Rod Claar 2009-05-29 13:16
Wow! This is great information. It looks like we may have some work to do! Thanks for the tips and tools!
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+1 # quang cao online 2009-06-09 22:45
Great post, this information is so useful.
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+1 # Allen 2009-06-11 03:03
I use the bad neighborhood tool for checking site links.wwe get information regarding the redirected links ,link density,blog spam icon.Questionable links are highlighted.
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