4 Steps to Remove Unwanted Backlinks From Your Website
Website owners and SEO professionals go to great lengths to get their sites ranked on the first page of Google and other search engines.
But unfortunately, unscrupulous competitors aren’t above launching negative SEO attacks against prominent websites. These attacks aren’t as dangerous as they used to be, but done correctly, they can still have negative — and lasting — consequences for a site’s organic rankings.
Negative SEO can take many forms, but it’s usually a combination of the following tactics:
- Create spammy backlinks to your domain
- Deleting your quality backlinks
- Website Hacking
Creating spammy backlinks (also called “bad” or “toxic” links) to a website is the most common method used to try to dethrone the best.
As we can see from this 2018 Search Engine Roundtable Surveya significant number of SEO professionals (for lack of a better term) have resorted to these tactics at one time or another.
Over the past two years, Google has gotten much smarter and now completely ignores a lot of these spammy backlinks.
Matt Cutts, the former head of Google’s web spam team, said this in the video below:
Still, it doesn’t hurt to occasionally clean up your link profile and remove offending links, as some of them might slip through Google’s spam network.
The process of removing bad backlinks is relatively simple, if time-consuming:
- Understand what makes a backlink “toxic”
- Use a tool to identify all bad links pointing to your website
- Contact the webmaster and request removal
- Create and submit a “disavow” file to Google to ignore these links
1. Types of link spam you want to avoid
Almost all links that are irrelevant to your website fall into the category of bad backlinks – with the exception of editorial links from major publications.
That said, there are some types of backlinks that you absolutely never want to connect to your website:
- Links from penalized domains
- Links from link directories and link farms
- Bad neighborhood links (porn, pharma, online gambling)
- Links to foreign language sites
- A large number of links from independent websites
- A large number of exact match anchor text links.
The danger of links from penalized domains and websites offering counterfeit Viagra is obvious – they are poison and equivalent to building a house right next to a dump. Luckily, Google knows that no one trying to rank high would create these links on purpose, so they usually ignore them altogether.
Exact match anchor text links and foreign site links are another story – from Google’s perspective, you could easily create them yourself to manipulate rankings. This could trigger a algorithmic penaltyor manual action, which is why it’s always a good idea to try to get rid of them as soon as they appear.
2. Find out where those toxic links are coming from
Each of these apps uses different metrics, but if you use Monitor Backlinks it will show you everything from Moz spam score to Ahrefs domain authority, which is useful when a link hovers between “spam” and “probably harmless”. .
Whatever tool you use to identify your bad links, try to find an export option.
A downloadable CSV file will allow you to sort and order the data, which will be useful in determining which websites to contact first to ask them to remove links pointing to your site.
3. Request removal from the website
That said, the chances of getting a low quality backlink removed by asking the offending webmaster nicely are close to zero. It is a step that Google asks you to take before asking them to ignore the link, so you should at least give it a try.
In almost 90% of cases, you will not be able to find the contact details of the person who has access to this website. Most won’t even have a generic contact page to email – if so, use WHOIS domain search to try to find the owner.
You’ll get something like this, but most of the time the name given won’t mean anything to you (as in this case), and the listing will also lack an email address.
If you find an email you can use, but don’t hear anything back, it’s a good idea to contact the hosting company and ask them to remove the toxic backlinks you’ve identified. They will be able to help you in most cases.
To find out which company is hosting a website, use Whohoststhis.
4. Create and submit a disavow file to Google
Ultimately, you’ll most likely have to turn to Google’s “Disavow Links” tool to solve your link spam problem – you can listen to Matt Cutts explain what it is and how it works. here.
It’s a fairly simple tool that allows you to import a text file (using Google Search Console) containing all the links you want Google to ignore. You can save specific URLs there, or you can take it a step further and tell Google to ignore all links from a specific domain.
Use the Disavow Links tool with caution, and only after a thorough analysis of your backlink profile – the last thing you want to do is disavow high-quality backlinks and negatively impact your organic rankings.
After submission, be patient – it takes time for the file to process, and at this point all you can do is wait for your rankings to start to slowly recover.
Ahrefs released a detailed video presentation on how to identify bad backlinks, and how to create and upload a disavow file via the link disavow tool:
Spammy Backlinks – Still a Threat in 2019
Although I think Google does everything in its power to limit the negative impact of SEO on websites, I still think it’s prudent and necessary to occasionally audit backlinks and clean up spammy links. .
It’s a pretty small job when done regularly, and it could save you some big headaches in the future.