What are toxic backlinks and what to do with them?

Many SEO professionals use link building as a technique to improve their website’s ranking on Google.

According to a 2020 link building statistic, 74% of SEO professionals said they spent $2,500 or less on their average link building strategies.

Backlinks are links generated from a website page to another website. Google considers backlinks a vote of confidence. The more backlinks you have on your website, the more likely you are to rank for that keyword on Google.

Backlinks have also become one of the most misused tools by site owners. Before the release of Google Penguin, websites with many backlinks appeared on the first page of Google search. But that is not the case today. Google will only index pages that have quality backlinks.

In this blog, we’ll help you understand what toxic backlinks are, and how to identify and remove them.

What are toxic backlinks?

Toxic backlinks are potentially dangerous links from other websites that affect your website’s ranking. Sometimes site owners use link building schemes to manipulate Google’s PageRank.

Some of these links are created organically. This makes them even more difficult to differentiate from good links. But it doesn’t have to be that difficult.

Toxic backlinks usually come from:

1. Poorly Secured Websites

No one can stress enough the importance of security for a website. Without adequate protection, your site becomes vulnerable to hacked websites. Having these websites link to you will only hurt your SEO.

Always have an SSL certificate on your site. This will protect your website from hackers and also improve your SEO ranking.

2. Websites that violate Google’s guidelines

It is always useful to refer to Google’s webmaster guidelines. These will help you identify illicit practices that may penalize your site for manipulating Google’s PageRank. Any website that does not follow these guidelines could be a source of toxic backlinks.

3. Mirrored Pages

If you get multiple backlinks from websites using the same anchor text, it could alert Google’s search engines. Backlinks from the same anchor text inform Google that it is a link building scheme. Websites that participate in such schemes may be penalized for violating Google’s guidelines.

4. Spam sites created for link building

Spam sites use aggressive link building techniques. These practices include excessive link trading and automated linking. They can generate a high volume of links to your website in a short time.

However, some of these links may come from unrelated sites which may hurt your SEO. Therefore, try to avoid these types of websites whenever you can.

5. Blog Comments

Comment spam is not a new phenomenon. This is a problem that plagues many blogs, and anyone who runs a blog probably already knows how much comment spam they get. This term is used to refer to unsolicited comments appearing on blogs. There are many tools that spammers use to generate comments to achieve higher Google rankings.

What is the impact of toxic backlinks?

Your site is penalized

In the past, lots of backlinks meant your page was on the top pages of Google search. It doesn’t matter where your backlinks come from or what methods you used to get your results.

However, Google wanted to reward high-quality websites for their efforts and diminish the advantage for those who engage in manipulative link schemes and keyword stuffing. To this end, Google released Penguin. Google has refined this algorithm, making it more effective at detecting and penalizing bad links.

Manual reviews and penalties can be triggered by:

  • A report from a competitor website
  • Being in a niche monitored by Google’s anti-spam team
  • Problems Algorithmically Triggered by Penguin

You will see a decrease in PageRank

You will notice the effect of toxic backlinks when you see a drop in your organic traffic. This can happen on the whole site or on several pages of the website, depending on the extent of the backlinks.

One of the worst things that can happen to a website is to be removed from Google’s search index. If you notice this, you will need to take action to address and resolve this issue.

How to deal with toxic backlinks

Identify toxic backlinks with tools

It’s often easier to monitor your backlinks with an SEO audit tool. You can quickly find bad links and prevent them from affecting your SEO performance. We used Ahrefs to demonstrate this process.

Step 1. Open Ahrefs Site Explorer and insert a domain you want to audit.

Step 2. Select Referring Domains from the left menu. You will see all the domains that link to your website. You can now sort them by clicking on the DR (domain ranking) to sort them from lowest to highest

A low domain rating does not necessarily mean it is spam. Some of them might be from a new website.

You will need to investigate further to see which links look suspicious. Look for spam indicators such as:

  • Sites that do not belong to your niche
  • Lots of foreign domains

Step 3. When you notice a suspicious domain, click on the number under the Target Links heading for more details. The first thing you should look at is the anchor text and the link. If it looks suspicious or doesn’t relate to your niche, that’s a strong signal for spam.

Remove toxic backlinks on your website

Now that you have identified all the toxic backlinks, it is high time to get rid of them once and for all. Here are a few ways to do it.

1. Remove Bad Links with Email Broadcast

Once you’ve identified the owners of the websites with the links, find their contact information using tools like Hunter.

Then send them a short request message asking them to remove the link. Then check the results and follow their response.

2. Use disavowal tools

If your outreach efforts fail, you can use the link disavow tool.

Step 1. Create a list of all the links you want to disavow following Google’s standard disavow format.

Step 2. Launch the disavow tool and download the file for all links


Backlinks are essential for SEO, but some of them could hurt your organic traffic if used incorrectly. If you want your site to thrive, be sure to use high-quality links and follow Google’s guidelines. Removing toxic backlinks can be daunting if you don’t know what you’re doing. I hope this article has given you a better understanding of how to fix this important issue.

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