How to remove bad or toxic backlinks?
If you are working to improve your SEO, one of the things you need to do is a backlink audit. The number of links you have to your website plays a role in your ranking, but beyond the number of links, it’s the quality of the links that matters to search engines. Because you can’t control who links to what on your website and why, it’s essential to keep an eye on incoming links, so you can alert search engines to the ones you want them to count and of those you want them to ignore.
This assumes that you have already done a backlink audit and are looking to determine what is toxic. If you haven’t located all the backlinks to your site yet, you can use a tool like Monitor backlinks to help you see what’s related to you.
Before you begin, it’s important to treat toxic bonds like an insect infestation. You should aim to get rid of the ones you can and live with the rest, because you won’t be able to remove all the bad links pointing to your site. That’s okay, because you can still use them to your advantage.
Once you’ve identified and removed the ones you can, you can use the rest to improve your online reputation.
What is a toxic backlink?
In the early days of SEO, any backlink was a good backlink, but that’s not the case anymore. There is no single definition of “toxic backlink”, but the term is used to refer to any backlink from:
When viewing a link, consider the following:
- Flow of trust: If the trust flow is 10 or less, you may have a toxic link. The exception to this rule is for websites that are less than one to two years old, as the flow of trust may be low simply because the site is still in its infancy.
- Domain Authority: The lower the domain authority, the higher the likelihood of a toxic link. Generally, 40+ is safe, but again, newer websites will have a lower DA because they haven’t had time to build it yet.
- Spam score: A score of 8 or higher indicates that the link is from a spammy site and is toxic.
- Your own assessment: The numbers won’t tell the whole story. You will have to check out the site yourself to determine if it is quality or not. If a DA of 25 looks promising but you see the content is low quality, it can be a source of toxic backlinks.
- Backink reasons: Look at the other links on the site – and see if the backlinks are overly optimized in terms of anchor text. Quality sites use a variety of anchor texts – and if all you see are exact match keyword phrases, you’re more likely to encounter toxic links.
- Brand alignment: Are the sites referring to you related or aligned with your brand? Otherwise, you can consider them toxic. For example, if you are an advocate for human rights and sites that protest human rights are linked to you, it is not a good thing for customers to see.
Remove as many toxic links as possible
Use awareness to ask website owners to remove links and brand mentions. Get the URL of the linking website, and if you have multiple bad links from a single domain, include them all in one email. Explore the website to find the contact details of the person in charge of the site.
Send them a short message to politely request the removal of the link, and don’t judge the site. Review your backlink report again one week after submitting the deletion request. If it’s still there, you can follow up. If there are no more, follow up to thank them. If the webmaster refuses, you can try to convince him but do not insist too much, because you risk receiving an annoying message about your company, which will create yet another toxic backlink and damage your e-reputation.
Here is a template to help you:
Hello [Contact Name],
Your website [website] links to this page [link to remove and anchor] on my website. This link does not currently match the brand. Could you please remove the link?
If outreach does not work, you can hire a legal representative to remove the links. Although expensive, this is an effective method because the threat of legal action scares many webmasters into complying with your request. This approach is best for big brands that have spent years building the brand and the backlinks are associated with highly objectionable material.
If your requests are unsuccessful and it is not possible to hire an attorney to handle it for you, you can disavow the links using the Disavow feature in Monitor Backlinks. If you are using another platform to check backlinks, you can also disavow links directly in the Google Search Console. Before you start disavowing, check out my article on considerations before disavowing.