Toxic backlinks can severely harm your website’s performance and even lead to penalties from search engines, so they are a major concern for website owners and marketers.
From the blog post, you will find out:
- what toxic backlinks are
- why they’re dangerous for SEO performance
- how to detect and remove toxic backlinks, and
- prevent them from reappearing
- how to use tools like BacklinkManager to maintain a healthy backlink profile
Let’s get started!
- A toxic backlink is a link from a low-quality or spammy website that can negatively impact your website’s ability to rank in SERPs.
- These toxic backlinks affect your site’s credibility and can include paid links or links from a link scheme aiming to manipulate search engine results.
- Toxic links, such as spammy links pointing to your site, can trigger search engine penalties, leading to a loss in your site’s visibility and a drop in organic traffic. The link spam can in extreme cases cause your website to disappear from search engine results pages altogether.
- A toxic link may stem from various sources like low-quality directories, link farms, private blog networks (PBNs), and websites filled with poor content or engaging in link schemes.
- Use SEO tools like Ahrefs, SEMrush, or Moz to scrutinize backlink quality metrics, such as relevance, domain authority, and anchor text.
- SEMrush’s Toxicity Score and Moz’s Spam Score are proprietary metrics for identifying potentially harmful backlinks. A high score on these metrics often flags the need for further investigation.
- To fix toxic backlinks, reach out to the webmasters or use Google’s Disavow Tool.
- To safeguard against future toxic backlinks, prioritize gaining links through legitimate, high-quality methods like guest blogging, influencer mentions, and creating linkable assets.
- Regular monitoring of your backlink profile is essential.
- Tools like BacklinkManager offer 24/7 link tracking and alerts for status changes, facilitating proactive management of your link-building activities. If you’d like to learn more about how BacklinkManager can support your link-building efforts, book the demo!
What is a Toxic Backlink?
A toxic backlink is a link from a low-quality or spammy website that can have a detrimental effect on your website’s SEO and search rankings.
Examples of toxic backlinks include paid links, links from link schemes, or links from link networks that aim to manipulate search engine rankings.
The consequences of toxic backlinks can be severe, including penalties from Google and other search engines, which can lead to a decrease in your site’s visibility and organic traffic.
The Dangers of Toxic Links
Toxic links, also known as bad links, can wreak havoc on your website’s performance in SERPs.
They can result in search engine penalties.
For instance, paid links are identified as unnatural links and so they violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. If Google algorithms or staff pick them up, they will penalize you.
Google penalties can undermine all your SEO efforts. In extreme situations, your website can disappear from SERPs completely.
Common Sources of Toxic Backlinks
Toxic backlinks may come from various sources.
Common sources of toxic backlinks include:
- Low-quality directories
- Link farms – websites that only exist to generate income from paid links and offer no other purpose than to send traffic elsewhere
- Private Blog Networks (PBN)- networks of websites used to create backlinks to another site
- Spam sites with poorly written or plagiarized content
- Auto-generated content
- Irrelevant or low-value content
A clear understanding of these common sources will enable the necessary actions to evade and eradicate toxic backlinks from your site’s profile.
Strategies for Detecting Toxic Backlinks
By identifying and removing spam links from your site’s backlink profile swiftly, you’re less likely to break Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and incur damaging penalties.
How do you do it?
Analyzing Link Quality Metrics
Let’s start by looking at the metrics that you want to consider when assessing the quality of the backlinks.
Some key factors to consider in link quality analysis include:
- Relevance – determines the topical and contextual similarity between the linking website and your website. You want backlinks only from relevant sites.
- Domain authority – developed by Moz, this metric measures the strength of a website’s domain based on the number and quality of links pointing to it; SEMrush offers a similar metric – Authority Score, while in Ahrefs, it is Domain Rating.
- Anchor text – this is the clickable word or phrase that directs users to a linked URL and plays a significant role in SEO. Watch out for irrelevant or generic anchor texts and unnatural anchor text distribution (too many backlinks with the same anchor text).
- Toxicity Score – developed by SEMrush, the metric evaluates the potential harm a backlink could do to a site’s search engine rankings.
- Spam Score – similar to Toxicity Score, the metric used to identify the likelihood that a site will be penalized or banned by Google, based on certain features of the site that are commonly observed in penalized sites.
Analyzing these link quality metrics enables you to identify and tackle toxic backlinks to ensure your website’s link profile stays healthy and devoid of harmful links.
Using SEO Tools
Now that you know the metrics for assessing link quality, let’s have a look at how you can do it with popular SEO tools.
Ahrefs is a comprehensive SEO tool that can help you analyze your backlink profile and identify potentially toxic backlinks.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to use Ahrefs for this purpose:
Step 1: Access Ahrefs Site Explorer
- Navigate to the “Site Explorer” tool.
- In the Site Explorer search bar, enter your website’s domain.
Step 2: View the Backlink Profile
- Once your site’s overview loads, click on the “Backlinks” option in the menu on the left side to view your site’s backlink profile.
Step 3: Check the Backlinks List
- You will see a list of backlinks pointing to your site.
- Review the list for any obvious signs of toxic backlinks, such as links that have suspiciously optimized anchor text.
Step 4: Use Filters for Better Analysis
- Utilize the filters provided by Ahrefs to sort and isolate backlinks that might be toxic.
- You can filter by:
- Language: To spot backlinks from foreign language sites.
- Platform: To identify links from unwanted platforms.
- Link Type: To separate dofollow links from nofollow.
Step 5: Analyze Anchor Texts
- Click on “Anchors” in the menu to view the anchor text distribution.
- Look for over-optimized, irrelevant, or spammy anchor texts.
Step 6: Investigate Individual Backlinks
- For each suspicious backlink, click on the link to visit the referring page.
- Assess the context in which the link was placed and the quality of the content on the page.
Step 7: Create a Disavow List
- If you determine that a backlink is toxic, add it to a disavow list.
- Ahrefs allows you to create a disavow list directly within the tool, which you can later export and submit to Google’s Disavow Tool.
SEMrush is another powerful SEO tool that can be used to identify toxic backlinks.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to use SEMrush for this purpose:
Step 1: Access SEMrush Backlink Analytics
- Go to the SEMrush website (semrush.com).
- Log in to your SEMrush account.
- Navigate to the “Backlink Analytics” tool from the left-hand side menu.
Step 2: Enter Your Domain
- In the Backlink Analytics search bar, enter your website’s domain.
- Click the ‘Check it’ button to proceed.
Step 3: Review Your Backlink Profile
- Once your site’s overview loads, you will see a dashboard with various metrics. Click on the “Backlinks” tab to get detailed backlink data.
Step 4: Analyze Backlink Data
- You will see a list of backlinks pointing to your site, along with their respective metrics.
- Pay attention to the Authority Score of the linking domains, as a lower score might indicate a lower-quality backlink.
Step 5: Analyze the toxicity score
- The tool will automatically analyze your backlinks and assign a “toxicity score” to each link.
- Review the links with the highest toxic scores for further analysis.
Step 6: Investigate Individual Backlinks
- Click on the toxic links to investigate why they were flagged.
- Look for common issues such as:
- Links from websites with a high number of external links
- Links with over-optimized anchor text
Step 7: Audit Your Backlinks
- Go through the list and manually audit each backlink flagged as toxic.
- Check the website’s relevance, content quality, and whether the link is placed in a spammy context.
Step 8: Compile a Disavow List
- If you confirm that certain backlinks are toxic, you can add them to your disavow list directly within SEMrush.
- SEMrush allows you to export this list which you can then submit to Google’s Disavow Tool.
Moz is another popular SEO tool that offers a suite of features to help you manage your site’s SEO, including the analysis of your backlink profile.
Here’s how you can use Moz to identify and handle toxic backlinks:
Step 1: Access Moz Link Explorer.
- Visit the Moz website (moz.com).
- Log in to your Moz Pro account.
- Navigate to the “Link Explorer” tool from the dashboard or the main menu.
Step 2: Enter Your Domain.
- In the Link Explorer search bar, type in your website’s domain.
- Click the ‘Search’ button to initiate the analysis.
Step 3: Review Your Backlink Profile.
- Once your site’s overview loads, you will see a dashboard with various metrics such as Inbound Links and Domain Authority.
- Click on the “Inbound Links” tab to view a list of backlinks to your site.
Step 4: Analyze Backlink Data.
- Examine the list of backlinks along with their details like Page Authority, Domain Authority, and Spam Score.
- Moz’s Spam Score is an indicator of the quality of backlinks; a higher Spam Score may indicate a potentially toxic backlink.
Step 5: Filter by Spam Score.
- Use the filter options to sort your backlinks by Spam Score.
- Focus on the links with the highest Spam Score for further investigation.
Step 6: Investigate Individual Backlinks.
- Click on any link with a high Spam Score to analyze it.
- Review the linking site’s content, relevance to your niche, and the context in which the link appears.
Step 7: Create a List of Toxic Backlinks.
- As you identify toxic backlinks, compile them in a list.
- You can use a spreadsheet to organize the URLs and corresponding Spam Scores for reference.
How to Remove Toxic Backlinks
Once you’ve identified toxic backlinks, the next step is to remove toxic links from your site’s backlink profile.
There are two main methods for removing toxic backlinks: contacting site owners to request link removal or using Google’s Disavow Tool to ignore the harmful links.
Both methods have their advantages and challenges. Let’s explore each approach in more detail.
Contacting Site Owners
Contacting site owners to request the removal of toxic backlinks can be an effective approach, but it’s not always guaranteed to work. Challenges in this process include:
- Difficulty in locating contact information
- Lack of response
- Language barriers
- Uncooperative site owners
Suppose a site owner refuses to remove a toxic backlink. In that case, you can politely explain the potential negative impact of the toxic backlink on your website’s search engine rankings and request reconsideration.
However, if contacting site owners proves unsuccessful, there’s another option at your disposal: Google’s Disavow Tool.
Utilizing Google’s Disavow Tool
Google’s Disavow Tool allows you to submit a list of harmful links to be ignored, protecting your site from potential penalties. Here’s how to use the tool:
- Create a text file containing all the domains you wish to disavow links from.
- Upload this file to the domain property in your Google Search Console.
- Wait for the tool to take effect. It’s important to note that disavowing links should be a last resort, as it can take several months for the tool to have an impact.
Preventing Future Toxic Backlinks
Preventing future toxic backlinks involves building high-quality links and consistently monitoring your backlink profile.
Let’s have a closer look at how to do it.
Building High-Quality Links
To build high-quality links, focus on the following strategies:
- Guest Blogging
- Broken Link Building
- Local Directories
- Building Relationships
- Testimonials & Reviews
- Competitor Analysis
- Resource Page Link Building
- Sponsorships & Partnerships
- Press Releases
- Unlinked Mentions
Additionally, it’s essential to create valuable and unique content that appeals to authoritative websites and attracts natural backlinks.
Prioritizing high-quality link building can lead to an improvement in your website’s SEO performance, drive organic traffic, and mitigate the risks associated with toxic backlinks.
Monitoring Your Backlink Profile
It’s important to monitor your backlink profile regularly to prevent toxic backlinks from harming your website’s performance.
What tools can you use?
The same ones that you use to identify toxic backlinks.
In addition, there are tools that can help you stay on top of your link-building efforts, like BacklinkManager.
BacklinkManager offers a comprehensive suite of features, including:
- 24/7 link monitoring with a link crawler and tracker
- Link status alerts (changes from dofollow to nofollow, lost backlinks)
- Link-building CRM for managing link-building partnerships
- Link matching tool (coming soon)
- Link exchanges (coming soon)
In summary, toxic backlinks pose a significant threat to your website’s SEO performance and search rankings.
Identifying, removing, and preventing toxic backlinks is crucial to maintaining a healthy backlink profile and avoiding penalties from search engines.
By employing strategies like using SEO tools, analyzing link quality metrics, building high-quality links, and monitoring your backlink profile, you can effectively address and prevent toxic backlinks.
If you want to see how BacklinkManager can help you streamline your link-building efforts, book the demo!
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I know if my backlink is toxic?
To identify toxic backlinks, look for signs of spammy websites, paid-link schemes, forum or blog comment links, and hidden links.
Make sure to validate link attributes to ensure that they meet Google’s webmaster guidelines. It is important to watch for low-trust websites, as these could be potential candidates for your toxic backlinks list.
Does removing toxic backlinks help SEO?
Removing toxic backlinks is essential for maintaining a good SEO score, as these links can significantly damage your website’s rankings. Conducting regular backlink audits and using tools such as Ahrefs or SEMrush can help you identify any suspicious or low-quality links that need to be removed.
How do I find and remove toxic backlinks?
To remove toxic backlinks, first audit your backlinks and identify any bad links.
Then contact the webmaster of the website where these links are from to request their removal. Afterward, create and submit a disavow file to Google in order to ignore these links and keep your website’s SEO healthy.
What kinds of backlinks should you avoid?
You should avoid paid links, backlinks in press releases that are not newsworthy, low-quality or irrelevant directory links, low-quality forum backlinks, and domains with high spam scores.
How can I prevent future toxic backlinks?
To prevent future toxic backlinks, build high-quality links and monitor your backlink profile regularly to identify any suspicious or low-quality links. Ensure the content of your links is accurate and relevant, without any additional artifacts.