How to Identify and Remove Bad Backlinks

Do you want your website to rank at the top of search results? You need to have high-quality backlinks if you want to achieve that type of result. This implies that you should regularly audit your backlinks and get rid of toxic backlinks.

Websites that have unnatural and suspicious backlinks are usually penalized by Google and pushed down the search engine results. As a result, it is important to remove bad backlinks that could hurt your website authority rankings in search results. In this article, I will discuss how you can identify and remove bad backlinks.

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What are Bad Backlinks?

A backlink is a link that can be found within the content of your website which links back to another site, website page, or website directory. It is also a link that is posted on another website that points back to your website. Good backlinks establish the credibility and authority of a website. Such backlinks contribute positively to your SEO strategy.

Bad backlinks, on the other hand, are backlinks that emanate from a low-quality website. such backlinks are harmful if the page that links to your website is not relevant to the content on your website.

The effects of bad backlinks on a website are higher now than before. They can destroy a website and drag it down the last pages of search engine results. This is because Google penalizes websites with suspicious links that come from:

  • Footer links
  • Site-wide links
  • Link networks
  • Blogrolls
  • Forum profile links and signatures
  • Anchor text distribution
  • Web directory links
  • Article directory links
  • Blog comments

How to Identify Bad Backlinks

To identify bad backlinks, you need to check the domain authority and anchor text of the backlinks.

Domain Authority

The domain authority score reveals how strong the backlink profile of a website is. It is on a scale of 0 to 100. Although domain authority is not used as a criterion for ranking on Google, it can be useful for understanding the condition of your site when compared to your competitors. The domain authority depicts the number of trusted domains that are pointing to your website. If the score is low, it means that you just got a backlink with a low quality.

High-quality domains are believed to have a domain authority that is above 70, while low-quality domains have domain authority that is less than 30. Anything in-between these figures are considered mediocre.

However, it does not mean your website is dangerous if your domain authority is less than 30. It simply means you need to invest more effort into building high-quality links. Also, don’t panic if someone with a low domain authority links to your website, just focus more on revising the backlinks.

Anchor Text

Ideally, we would want backlinks to have various anchor text linking to our websites from specific keywords, images, brand mentions, naked links, and lots more. This may be the case in most cases, but these anchors can help to identify bad backlinks in some cases.

For instance, some backlinks can point to your website through an anchor text that has nothing to do with your business. If this is the case, you need to look into it to see if you will find spammy backlinks from unrelated websites. Once you see any inconsistency in your anchor text, ensure you investigate it.

Although these may not be enough to be tagged as bad backlinks, however, it is a good place to start from. Google has also identified some specific link schemes. These show webmasters the links that can hurt your website’s ranking in search results.

Some of these ugly practices include excessive link exchanges, paid backlink building, the creation of unnatural links, and using automated services for link creation.

Why Do You Need to Remove Bad Backlinks?

Backlinks are an important part of your SEO strategy. When your site gets lots of backlinks from different authoritative sites, it signifies proof of approval. This shows the search engines that other websites see you as a source of information that can be trusted. As a result, Google will be able to decide if your site should rank high in search engine results.

Ever since the introduction of Google Penguin in 2012, more emphasis has been placed on the quality of backlinks. Penguin helps to detect and punish websites that use unnatural backlink tactics.

When your site has lots of bad backlinks, it makes your credibility to be questioned. It shows that you have embraced the practice of suspicious tactics to get links. Hence, the spam filter of Google will be alerted and your website may end up being penalized. As a result, your site’s ranking in search results may drop. Google may even ban your website. This can cause a dent in the growth of your website. Hence, it is important to get rid of all bad backlinks that are coming to your website.

Google made Penguin an important part of its search algorithm in 2016. Now, it monitors sites in real-time to find any form of spam. It is, therefore, essential for business owners to get rid of bad backlinks regularly.

Before we proceed to how you can remove bad backlinks, let’s take a look at the different forms of bad backlinks so that you will know the specific backlinks to remove.

Types of Bad Backlinks

Highlighted below are the different types of bad backlinks that you can come across. Although they slightly differ, each of them is harmful to the performance and SEO of your website.

Directory Links

Although web directory submissions are one of the ways of getting high-quality backlinks organically, they are only beneficial if they are coming from popular directories that are relevant to your industry. When you get backlinks from bad or poor directories, they can hurt your website. You can get backlinks from the following directories:

  • AlignableBetter Business Bureau
  • Yelp
  • Chamber of Commerce
  • Google My Business

Blog Comment Links

It is important to monitor the comments on your blog page. You must have come across various spammy comments if you’ve ever owned a blog. These comments have links that direct back to other sites where they are trying to sell something. The comments are dropped by spambots. It can be tricky to detect these spambots because they become more intelligent every single day.

When you allow these comments to be published on your website, there will be a negative impact on the profile of your inbound link. It is advisable to disable your blog comments from being automatically approved. You can make your website safer by moderating the comments before publishing them.

If you get a huge number of spam comments on your blog, you can completely disable the comment feature. Although it is beneficial to allow comments on your blog, it is also challenging. You need to carefully consider your approach in this case, but don’t allow the comments on your blog to be automatically published.

Link Network Links

A link network refers to a group of connected sites. These sites are disguised as forums or blogs, but they are built to provide a huge number of backlinks. Google can devalue the links when they are spotted. Any website that is associated with such links will also be devalued.

Sitewide Links

These links can be found in the header, footer, and sidebar areas of a site on each of the pages of the website.

Links that Have Excessively-Optimized Anchor Texts

Anchor text is that clickable text that is in a link. If the anchor text in a backlink directly matches the keywords of a website too often, it alerts Google and can put such a website on Google’s radar.

5 Steps for Removing Bad Backlinks

It is important to carry out an in-depth backlink audit to detect bad backlinks; this is how you can get rid of bad backlinks. It may be tiring and time-consuming to carry out this process for thousands of links. There are tools that you can use to filter backlinks depending on different parameters.

Here are the steps you can follow to remove bad backlinks:

Gather the backlink data

The first step you need to take to remove bad backlinks is to gather a list of the backlinks that are coming to your site from various sources. You can use tools like SpyFu’s backlink checker for this. All you need to do is to type in your website’s URL, then click on ‘search.’ This will bring out the data of Google-ranked websites that point to your website (and the strength of their domain).

You can also use Google Search Console. However, your domain must be connected to Google Analytics before using this tool. Once you connect your website to Google Analytics (in case it wasn’t), go to Google Search Console and click ‘Search Traffic,’ then select ‘Links to Your Site.’

This process will take you to a page where you need to click on ‘more’ (you will find this in the ‘Who links the most’ section). The last step involves clicking on ‘Download more sample links.’ This will give you a list of your backlinks in an excel sheet.

Find out the bad backlinks

This step is important in removing bad backlinks. In this step, you need to manually audit each of the backlinks. Whenever you check any of the backlinks, ensure the backlink is relevant to the content on your website. If it is not relevant, the backlink may not add much value to your inbound links.

Although the backlinks you get from Google Search Console won’t let you know if a website is bad. However, those you get from SpyFu show the website’s (i.e. website that links to you) domain strength. Identify the websites that have a low domain authority to remove bad backlinks.

Also, search on Google for the name of the website. If the website is not indexed, then Google may be penalizing the site; this can affect your site’s rankings. You can search for “site:domainname” to search for the website.

More so, you can check the spam score of the website. You can do this by using Link Explorer. Simply type in the website’s URL so that you can find its spam score. Any website that has a high spam score can hurt your website’s SEO.

Get rid of the bad backlinks

At this stage, you need to contact the owners of the websites that link to your website. The essence of doing this is to ask them to remove the bad backlinks without any threat. Tell them the exact location of the backlink you want them to remove. SpyFu’s backlink outreach can be used to find the contact information of the website owners.

Track and monitor your backlinks

It is not enough to ask owners of linking websites to remove bad backlinks, you also need to track your website’s backlinks to find out if they have honored your request. If a website owner does not comply within 5 to 10 days, you can send a follow-up email to remind them about your request.

Disavow bad backlinks that are not removed

In some cases, some website owners may not honor your request to remove bad backlinks. In this case, you can disavow the backlinks that you don’t want to associate your website with.

To do this, you need to create a list of links that you want to disavow. You can keep track of this list by using an Excel spreadsheet. The next step is to go to the Google Disavow Links tool where you will upload the list you’ve compiled. This will inform Google to ignore the links when deciding to rank your website in search results.

Wrapping Up

It is important to know the effects backlinks will have on your website (whether positively or negatively). Also, it is helpful to invest your effort and time into removing suspicious and unnatural backlinks that may be tampering with your ability to rank in Google search results.

However, you need to realize that getting rid of backlinks will initially reduce the amount of traffic going to your website. The decline in traffic is temporal because you will have lots of new opportunities to get high-quality and targeted traffic ethically.