Toxic Backlinks: Spotting and Fixing for Better SEO

Toxic Backlinks: Spotting and Fixing for Better SEO

Backlinks from spammers are as old as the internet.

However, how can you prevent spam backlinks and maintain a spotless link profile?

This guide will teach us how to spam backlinks.

Anyone who has used link building for SEO in the last several years will tell you that getting penalized for publishing spammy links is the biggest—and most important—concern with the method. Changes to Google’s core algorithm, notably Google SpamBrain, have fully eliminated the days of evaluating links solely on quantity. The search engine behemoth can now quickly determine if a link was constructed “naturally,” meaning it adds value to the website, or “unnaturally,” meaning its main goal is to raise your ranking.

What are spam backlinks?

Because SPAM backlinks are as ancient as the Internet itself, most individuals will be able to identify them, at least generally, merely by hearing the term used. However, not everyone has a strong grasp of the Internet, thus it’s critical to clarify what precisely constitutes a SPAM backlink. In a nutshell, SPAM backlinks are like fleas on the hide of your digital puppy, which, for the sake of analogy, might be any website, including yours. They are a huge annoyance to anybody they affect since they take without offering anything in return.

You’re not alone if a spam link attack has affected you:

Toxic Backlinks: Spotting & Fixing for Better SEO
Toxic Backlinks: Spotting & Fixing for Better SEO

SPAM backlinks typically appear as answers to forum threads, blog post comments, and other similar forms. There will be a backlink in the problematic SPAM backlinks, which is merely another way of saying “junk.” Similar to breadcrumbs or a signpost leading from one website to another, backlinks typically point to the spammer’s own website or one of its affiliates. Usually, the purpose of these things is financial, but it can also be other. For example, SPAM backlinks can also be made on behalf of a website without the owners’ or administrators’ knowledge or approval. These SPAM backlinks will ultimately take up a lot of site resources, harm the credibility of your website (no one loves to read machine-generated gibberish!), and overall give everyone impacted a lot of unnecessary maintenance and cleanup hassles.

Worst of all, Google may choose to de-index your website—a fancy way of saying “Now you see it, now you don’t”—if they discover that your website permits, promotes, generates, or engages in SPAM-based activities. Years of diligent work can be erased in a split second by de-indexed webpages.

But not every link is made equal. Thanks to SpamBrain, some backlinks have positive ranking juice, others have negative ranking juice, and some are completely disregarded by Google. Backlinks that are detrimental to a website’s search engine optimization (SEO), or its capacity to rank highly in Google searches, are known as toxic backlinks. Links that are paid for, obtained through link schemes, link wheels, private blog networks, and links from websites that promote payday loans, gaming, or pornography are all seen as harmful.

Difference Between High and Low Quality Backlinks

Regretfully, not every backlink is made equally. Excellent domain authority, enhanced repute, and increased Google visibility are all made possible by high quality backlinks. However, poor-quality backlinks can actually hurt your SEO, decreasing your authority and resulting in manual penalties that could significantly reduce your inbound traffic.

If you want to see success with your SEO effort, you must be able to distinguish between backlinks that are of high and low quality. Pro tip: To determine the ratio of your high-quality incoming links to low-quality inbound links, try our free backlink checker.

Low Quality Backlinks

Toxic Backlinks: Spotting & Fixing for Better SEO
Toxic Backlinks: Spotting & Fixing for Better SEO

Poor quality backlinks have the potential to harm your Google reputation and decrease your search engine visibility.

Typical Source

The most evident sign of a high-quality backlink is the source you used to create it. Generally speaking, the link’s quality will decrease in proportion to the site’s quality. It will be detrimental to post a link on a shady, extremely low-ranking, or badly designed website. In a similar vein, you will undoubtedly face consequences if you put a link on a website created with the intention of manipulating rank.

But you’ll need to think about more than just your source’s quality; you also need to think about how applicable it is. Your backlink may be considered low quality if it has nothing to do with your industry and isn’t relevant to the source.

Intention. Your link’s goal has a role in its quality as well, and Google can determine why you construct links the way you do. The major thing to look out for in this situation is trying to increase your domain authority or rank directly; links that are solely intended to artificially increase traffic will be regarded as low quality by Google.

Structure. Your link’s structure should generally match its purpose; for instance, if it is posted in a blog comment by itself without an introduction or explanation, it is likely to be seen as spam. You won’t have to worry, though, if your link is placed within supporting information that isn’t marked with spam indicators like “click here.”

Link Type. Google may consider a link to be malicious if it discovers that you are posting the same link—for example, your homepage—on all of your external sources. Steer clear of depending just on one or two popular link locations for your links; instead, you want them to be relevant to particular conversations and platforms.

Frequency. Lastly, the quality of your backlinks can be determined by how frequently you submit them. Your links may be viewed as spam if you publish backlinks to the same site several times a day in various contexts. This also holds true for various sources: if you suddenly witness a sharp increase in backlinks without providing any context, it may be interpreted as spam, which could lower the quality of your connections.

In essence, low quality backlinks have no purpose other than to drive more visitors to the target website.

High Quality Backlinks

Toxic Backlinks: Spotting & Fixing for Better SEO
Toxic Backlinks: Spotting & Fixing for Better SEO

When you build up a sufficient number of high-quality backlinks, your website will gain more domain authority and search exposure.

Typical Source

When it comes to high-quality backlinks, the authority rule applies in reverse: the better your source, the better the quality of your backlink. Reputable websites are typically found in high quality sources; websites ending are the most trustworthy. reputable, well-known websites, such as major publications and information sources, are excellent resources for high-quality backlinks.

By utilizing sites that are really pertinent to your field, you may also obtain high-quality free backlinks. For this, industry-specific blogs and forums are excellent resources, and the more narrow your specialization, the better.

Also Read: Why Buying Links is a Bad Idea


The main goal of high-quality backlinks is unrelated to manipulating ranks. Rather, the best links are those that serve a useful function. For instance, links that establish authority, expound upon a topic, reference a fact, or link to a major website from another all have the same objective of adding value or substance to already existing information.


Compared to a single link, high quality links have a more credible structure. They are usually included in language that provides explanations; for instance, a link may be included in the body of an excellent guest blog post or presented in a forum comment along with a brief note explaining its purpose.

Link Type

The more varied links you employ, the higher the quality of the links. A bad reputation will be gained by repeatedly linking to your homepage; yet, high-quality links typically refer to extremely specific internal pages as sources, fulfilling a specific purpose and making a point.


A respectable frequency is also enjoyed by high grade links. They are never flooded into one source at once; instead, they are posted intermittently over time as opposed to in fits and spurts.

In the end, the goal of good quality backlinks is to enhance user experience in general.

Aim to include only high-quality backlinks in your offsite SEO plan and stay away from low-quality ones like the plague. Use a tool like Open Site Explorer to analyze your backlink profile and keep an eye out for any low-quality offenders if you have any concerns about the composition of your existing backlink profile, or if you would like to audit your backlinks or evaluate your current link development techniques. Regularly tidying up your profile and making an effort to maintain the highest caliber of links in it are both wise decisions.

How Spam Backlinks Can Harm SEO Rankings

It’s no longer news that outdated spam backlinks lower rankings. In actuality, there are several types of backlinks available today that lower your website’s position. Antiquated spam backlinks merely increase the number of visitors to your website that leave because of the volume of backlinks originating from you. If your website contains these hyperlinks, locate them and remove them immediately. Without a doubt, they are harming your search engine results, driving visitors away from your website and eventually, your business. Make sure to finish up some further backlink maintenance while you are on the website removing these outdated backlinks. Because Google’s reputation is based on providing its users with the best experience possible, they are paying more attention than ever. You want your website to be included in their highly-ranked algorithm.

Google and Inbound Links from Bad Sites

There are many who argue that links from untrustworthy websites won’t cause Google to lower your site’s ranking. Indeed, essays about the “myth” and its falsity have been written. It’s true that inbound links from low-quality websites will lower your score just as much as outdated spam backlinks, according to recent publications from leading SEO specialists. If you want your website to remain highly ranked by Google, you will need to understand what these connections are, where to locate them, and how to remove them.

In reality, what occurs is that a master of black hat SEO will link to your website, and Google will “award” you a negative review for it. To the dismay of many, it does happen. Regardless of how well-known a website has become through search engine optimization, Google may immediately penalize websites with poor links. Regretfully, nobody can say for sure how or why it occurs, or how long your website will be penalized. Even though it’s a rare circumstance, it still occurs. As soon as you discover these backlinks, it’s a good idea to remove them to avoid Google penalties and dealing with all the unknowns.

Updated Bad Links

Building new backlinks the wrong method is a double edged sword, as old spammy backlinks are already detrimental enough. With so much competition, links that are unreadable and jam-packed with keywords or that point to unrelated websites are becoming more and more common. Google has to alter the algorithms and make life more difficult for these offenders for precisely this reason. After you get rid of all those annoying old spam backlinks that are dragging your site down in the rankings, new backlinks will become your site’s new worst enemy.

Regularly, these links are causing harm to your website. These links have the ability to conceal themselves and lower your rating before you even notice, as an entrepreneur discovered lately. Occasionally, this behavior isn’t discovered until your website has finished a thorough audit of the entire website. The issue is that Google’s new algorithm depends on inbound links, so how does Google now interpret links?

In its most basic form, Google determines a website’s search engine ranking based on the quantity of links pointing to it. In an ideal world, a website with a bigger volume of inbound links would rank higher in search results and everything would continue as usual. But because of those pirates using black hat SEO, this isn’t a fair world.

Fortunately, though, quality is now more important than quantity, so users of search engines don’t have to sift through unreliable or even dangerous connections just because a particular website has more of them than others. Google no longer recognizes those offshore SEO firms that connected everything to everyone.

When Google started to realize what was actually going on, in 2011, these changes were made. Websites were constantly being harmed by bad connections, and users were starting to avoid Google in order to protect their computers from spam backlinks. The days of having a lot of links was over; now, you required high quality links to rank highly on Google.

Regrettably, a few websites and businesses failed to keep up with the trend quickly enough. The flick of the switch came quickly. Some businesses neglected to update their websites, were unaware that they had links on them, or chose to disregard the fact that Google would eventually penalize them for having these links. The outcomes were striking.

The consequences were disastrous. Many websites saw a rapid decline in ranking. Many companies who had previously been at the top of their respective business sectors were caught in the crossfire and suffered very negative consequences on the search engines. Many SEO and website companies were in a mad dash to find a solution. It goes without saying that unnatural backlinks, outdated spam backlinks, and black hat SEO can seriously harm your website’s rankings.

Why is it Important to Remove Toxic Backlinks?

Website owners desire as few toxic backlinks as possible because they lower the Page Rank of the websites they link to. Google SpamBrain will probably lower a website’s Page Rank if it detects that the website has a sizable amount of harmful backlinks. In the event that Google discovers that a website has an excessive amount of harmful backlinks, it is likely to remove the website entirely from its database.

How Do I Know if I Have Toxic Backlinks?

You may determine whether your website has poisonous backlinks in a number of ways. Here are four typical approaches.

You Know Because You Created The

You are already aware that the connections exist if you are the one who generated the poisonous backlinks through dubious online activities like buying links or content spamming.

 You Receive a Warning Notification from Google

It’s possible that the harmful backlinks weren’t made by you. They might have been made by a con artist or a dubious SEO agency you previously worked with. It’s possible that you won’t become aware of the harmful backlinks until you get a warning from Google if you are truly ignorant of them.

You Notice a Sudden Drop in Traffic

Toxic backlinks are probably to blame if your organic traffic suddenly decreased, especially after May 22, 2013, the date of Penguin 2.0’s implementation.

You Pull Up a List of Your Backlinks to Check

Like many website owners, you might be anxious about the most recent Google update. In that case, you might want to look up a list of your backlinks to make sure there are no questionable connections.

These tools also allow you to check your website ranks in the event of a recent Google algorithm update.

Where Can I Find a List of My Website’s Backlinks?

Google suggests that if you want to get a list of the backlinks to your website, you should search in Google Webmaster Tools first and foremost. Enter into your Google Webmaster Tools account, choose traffic, then links to your website, and finally more to accomplish this. A sample of the backlinks pointing to your blog may be found here. But, you would have to hire a backlink checking service like Ahrefs, SEOmoz, or Majestic SEO if you wanted an exhaustive list.

How Do I Determine Which Backlinks are Toxic?

Examine every one of your links to determine their origin. Remove any spam backlinks originating from low-quality or spammy websites and preserve links originating from high-quality websites. Your links should probably be removed if they originate from any of the following categories of websites.

  • Clearly, websites that are gambling, payday loan, porn, or spam
  • Websites that Google does not index
  • Websites that have a virus or malware alert
  • websites with relatively recent domain names and lack domain authority
  • Websites with minimal traffic Links to networks
  • websites having an abnormally high quantity of external links
  • irrelevant websites

All sponsored links as well as some site-wide links, such those found in blogrolls and website footers, must be eliminated. However, not every link on websites like these is harmful. It’s crucial that you carefully review each of your backlinks to make sure that all of the bad ones are removed while keeping all of the good ones.

How to Remove Toxic Backlinks

To make sure you can accomplish this manually, there are a few things you need to perform.

Find Spam Backlinks

Before you do anything, you need to figure out how to locate the spam backlinks. Even if the search engine adjustments haven’t had an impact on your website, it’s still a good idea to do a backlink audit or backlink scan to find out exactly who is linking to you.

Several Google improvements, such as Google SpamBrain, have addressed low-quality connections, such as those that:

  • Are from pages with lots of external links
  • Are link farms
  • Come from new domains
  • Come from low traffic domains
  • Are site wide
  • Come from Page Rank (PR) 0 or n/a sites
  • Comment spam, including Scrapebox comment spam

Include your unnatural backlinks in your list of spam links that need to be deleted if they exhibit any, all, or all of these characteristics. They shouldn’t be directing traffic to your website.

Finding and eliminating the spam backlinks would be made easier with a thorough backlink audit that included the use of one of the many available backlink audit tools.

Doing Nothing

You can always choose to take no action as all, but if you do have backlinks from spam domains and you have even received a Google warning in your email with a caution symbol, it indicates that some spam has been found. If you decide not to take any action, you may experience a decline in both site traffic and ranking. This is because you may no longer show up on the first or second page of search results due to the negative effects of the spam backlinks on your website’s image.

The Downside to 404

A lot of folks will just 404 the website that the link leads to. This basically means deleting the page so that it is no longer present. The Google Webmaster Forum has said that a 404 page is not counted by Google, therefore this should resolve the issue.

Your website won’t become very search engine friendly if you 404 a page. Nobody wants to navigate and come across 404 pages. Broken links can be your only chance to save an entire site, depending on how serious the infringement was. Broken links are frequently bad for user experience, but even worse for SEO.

Furthermore, you don’t want to 404 if the spam link is directing users to your main page or another page you want to rank well on search engines. Should you fail to do so, the necessary page will be absent.

Link Removal Request

Requesting a link removal is one of the most widely used methods for manually eliminating a spam link that leads to your website. You must locate the webmaster’s contact details and request that they delete a link from the website. Most of the time, you most likely placed the link there initially, and now you need to request that it be taken down.

Some of this can be completed by you with link management tools and outsourcing services from Upwork and Fiverr.

Be careful while drafting a request to remove a link. Avoid making demands. Ask to get it taken down and explain why. Make sure to note in the request if a link appears in a remark that you did not add. You may also bring up Sprint’s recent Google penalty for leaving spam comments.

If the website you are linked to contains a lot of spam, you might want to state that you will have to disavow their links if they don’t comply with your request. They don’t want this to negatively impact their page rank in the end.

Use the Google Disavow Tool

Toxic Backlinks: Spotting & Fixing for Better SEO
Toxic Backlinks: Spotting & Fixing for Better SEO

It might be time to use the accessible disavow tool to get rid of all the other spam backlinks if you have tried everything to remove some of the links that are still there but are not assisting you in gaining the necessary ranks and traffic.

Before utilizing this tool, Google encourages you to use every other conceivable method to clean up your links. This implies that you might wish to get in touch with the website’s webmasters or try to remove any links you can. You should only utilize this tool if you are still not successful. You can include the link leading to your site if the low-quality links are hurting your site’s rating. You can make sure that Google doesn’t utilize the links against you by using this disavow tool.

There have been reports that the disavow requests are reviewed by people. If you submit a large number of requests without providing proof that you attempted to delete them yourself, Google may penalize you with a unique manual penalty.

Create a New Website

There is an additional method that includes beginning from scratch in order to remove the spam backlinks. You could wish to start over with a new domain if you haven’t made a lot of effort into your website and it is still rather young. All of the spam backlinks will be eliminated as a result, giving you one less item to worry about.

How to Use Moz Spam Analysis to Test Links

Until now, establishing whether your connection is “natural” or “unnatural” has been supported by substantial evidence, but it has essentially been a guessing game. It should theoretically be seen as a high-quality link if you publish it from a reliable source and believe it will add value to the discussion. Even so, it’s normal to have self-doubt and worry about whether Google will detect your link-building efforts and view them as artificial.

Thankfully, Moz has published a new tool that could assist in ending those wild speculations. The new “Spam Score,” which is based on the Open Site Explorer tool you’ve probably used to map out your backlink profile, is intended to quantify how natural or artificial your link seems in an objective manner.

Dr. Matt Peters, a data scientist at Moz, ultimately reduced the predictable characteristics of an anomalous connection to 17 elements, or “spam flags,” after conducting several exhaustive rounds of investigation. A link will be punished more frequently and pass with less authority if it has more of these spam indicators.

Moz’s objective measurement, known as the “Spam Score,” is based on the number of spam flags that a subdomain displays. It doesn’t currently work at the page or root domain levels, but it shouldn’t stop you from learning some important information about whether or not your link has been posted on a reliable website. The Spam Analysis tab is located under Open Site Explorer. Although it’s now only accessible to subscribers, you can wait until Moz eventually makes the capability available to all users for free or sign up for a free trial.

You can use these 17 spam factors, even without using Moz’s automated tool, to determine whether or not to publish links on a specific website.

Best Spam Backlink Checkers

You need an excellent link checker if you want to optimize your link profile. A comparison of three of the best is given below.

Google Search Console

Check the backlinks leading to your website from your Google Search Console account to see if any are spam or could cause damage to your website.

This will help you determine whether or not there are a lot of spam backlinks in your linkgraph:

You can use the Google disavow tool from this page to remove any spam backlinks that might be preventing your website from being seen.

SEO Spyglass

SEO Spyglass is distinct from other back link checkers in that it is a component of a bigger application package. Still, it’s a rather powerful instrument on its own. This may be the tool for you if you’re searching for an easy-to-use back link checker with a straightforward design and structure.

The Spyglass program will harvest your back links from numerous websites throughout the Internet into a proprietary database in order to remove spam backlinks. You will be able to get real-time data on the created connections and instantly visit these links from within the software.

The Spyglass program is offered for a one-time price; however, if you acquire the complete suite of products that it is a part of, the fee can be greatly lowered. It is also one of the few excellent back link checkers that the general public may use for free via an online trial.

The back link checker has unparalleled overall functionality. Even for the most basic of operations, the data contains the quantity of links on your website, the amount of IP addresses from which the links originate, the pages to which the links point, and the anchor text that is being utilized. Depending on which features you believe are most significant, you can see this data in a variety of formats. When combined with the ranking systems of the main search engines, the program’s unique proprietary ranking structure has shown to be highly beneficial.

Data is presented with an extensive array of fully customizable features, such as do-follow and no-follow links, site-wide versus non-site-wide links, redirect links, image links, links sites, and any other distinguishing feature you can imagine or design. To make it simple for you to find and remove any outdated or misleading links, the reports also include errors, warnings, and alerts.


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