Toxic Backlinks – How They Harm SEO and How to Get Rid of Them

Backlinks are important for SEO. When another site links to your site, a backlink is created. If, for example, a brand finds one of your blog posts useful to their customers, they can link to it. This backlink, like Moz he says, is a “vote of confidence” in your content.

Backlinks are important for SEO because search engines consider all those votes of confidence as proof that your content is valuable. If many sites link to yours, search engines are more likely to show your content in search results, improving your rankings for related topics.

Earning backlinks is an essential part of offsite SEO, and getting more backlinks is called link building. But like so many other aspects of SEO optimization, link building isn’t straightforward. Most backlinks are good, some are great, and some are toxic. Too many toxic backlinks can hurt your rankings.

In this article, we’ll look at what toxic backlinks are, how they hurt your SEO efforts, and how you can get rid of them to protect your rankings.

Backlinks – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Although every backlink could theoretically be a vote of confidence in your site, links from reputable sites with high authority are the best. They tell search engines that a trusted authority stands behind your content. Even a no-follow link from a powerful site can give your rankings a boost.

On the other end of the spectrum, links from the side of low authority sites, or “spam” sites, may not help your rankings.

Toxic backlinks can not only hurt your rankings, but can also lead to penalties from search engines.

Toxic backlinks

What are toxic backlinks? google puts it like this:

HARefs has a simplified explanation of link quality:

What makes a backlink toxic?

There are several things that can increase the toxicity of a backlink from a search engine perspective, including:

Impact of bad links

If you are penalized, it lowers your page ranking, which decreases the chances of your content being found – or, if the penalties are severe enough, you can be removed from the search index altogether.

Penalties are awarded in two ways. Google introduced its Penguin algorithm in 2012 which targeted low quality links. Sites using link building systems saw their rankings drop. Since then, Google has refined the algorithm to make it more effective at detecting and penalizing bad links.

If Penguin sees a toxic link, it will apply a penalty based on your link profile. No human examines it.

In addition to Penguin, Google has added more human resources to its spam team who can manually penalize sites that have toxic backlinks.

According to Search engine monitoringGoogle launches over 400,000 manual actions per month.

Manual link reviews and penalties can be triggered by:

  • A spam report from a competitor
  • Penguin Algorithmic Activity Triggers Manual Review
  • You are in a niche that the Google anti-spam team monitors for activity

You can request a review for manual penalties, but more on that later.

How to Determine if You Have Toxic Backlinks

You can’t do much against algorithmic link penalties, you just need to improve your site’s overall link profile.

Penalties applied manually will appear in Google Search Console under “Security and manual actions > Manual actions”.

If this is a manual action, it will appear here with a generic description of the issue, a link to learn more, and a button that allows you to request a review.

It’s often easier to use an SEO site audit tool to find toxic backlinks. This is especially true if you haven’t checked for toxic links in a while (or ever). tools like SEMRush and ahrefs can provide this information.

How to fix toxic backlinks

There are many ways to deal with toxic backlinks. For example, you can contact the linking site administrator and request that the link be removed.

If the link is valid and the penalty was manually activated, you can request a review. According to Search engine monitoring, Google processes approximately 20,000 reconsideration requests per month, out of the 400,000 manual penalties applied. It may take around 30 days to get a response.

If the backlink is not important to you and you don’t want to perform manual outreach to remove the links, you can use the Disavow links tool.

Follow the steps of Google Search Console Help:

Make a list of the links you wish to disavow following the format given in the help article.

Tip: Your Google Search Console link report and link reports from tools such as SEMRush and ahrefs can often be exported and used to help create this file.

You then launch the Disavow tool.

And upload your file.


Ensuring that the backlinks to your site are of high quality and follow Google’s guidelines is an essential aspect of website administration for SEO.

Have you audited your backlinks recently? If not, you should, and soon. Have you received a manual action notice related to a link on your site in Google Search Console? If so, follow the advice in this article to fix the problem or disavow the link.

Comments are closed.