Q: What are toxic backlinks and how to identify and get them removed?
A: Toxic backlinks are the unnatural links that harm the search rankings of a website. Google’s Penguin update focuses on penalizing the websites that have a bad backlinks profile.
How are Toxic Backlinks Created?
If your website has a huge toxic backlinks profile, there are chances that the SEO company you had hired or are still working with is responsible for it. There are companies, which gather spammy links to give their clients a sudden rank boost, which could be harmful in the long run. You may come across several SEO firms which are not updated about the latest industry practices and are not adhering the webmasters guidelines. Associating with these companies for SEO can cause a severe damage to the health of your website.
Why is it important to remove toxic backlinks?
Toxic or say unnatural links can negatively impact the SERP rankings of the website and if Google notices that the site has high number of such links, it can also exclude the site from its database. Non-removal of toxic backlinks can also invite a Penguin penalty.
How Would I Know if I have Toxic Backlinks?
There are several ways to find out:
You have received a Google Webmasters warning related to toxic backlinks profile of the website
If your organic traffic level has decreased suddenly, you have been penalized by Penguin and toxic backlinks are likely the cause
In any of the cases, the very first thing to do is find the list of the website’s backlinks in Google Webmaster Tools. You can also use Ahrefs, Majestic SEO or SEOmoz to get a complete list of backlinks.
Which Backlinks are Toxic?
The best way is to look at each of the links and find out where they are coming from. Most of the toxic links come from:
Spam sites and sites that are created only for link building
Sites which were not indexed by Google
Sites with a virus or malware
How to Remove Toxic Links?
Once you have managed to separate toxic backlinks from the good ones, you should take immediate action to clean them up. Here’s what to do:
Contacting the Site Owner
There may be some links, which you are unable to delete yourself. The best would be to get in touch with the webmasters of these sites and file a request.
When there’s a huge log of toxic backlinks, you can ask Google not to take these links into consideration. However, use the tool only after you have made every effort to get the bad links removed. Do keep in mind, disavowing backlinks doesn’t help you get away with the Penguin Penalty and cannot get the lost ranking back. You will have to remove each and every bad link manually, if you have been penalized by Google.
After the Toxic Backlinks are Removed
When you have cleaned up your website’s backlinks, you can file a reconsideration request with Google. This is a way of admitting your mistake, outlining the steps you have taken to rectify the problem, and promising that you will adhere to best SEO practices in future.
However, do remember that it may take Google anywhere between two to three weeks to respond to your submission. Performing a backlink audit is arduous & time consuming but worth the efforts. Also, it is always a safe approach to hire a reputable SEO company, which adheres to ethical SEO and is updated about the best practices.
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The author is a first generation entrepreneur. He is the founder and CEO of India’s most award winning SEO Agency, PageTraffic. He also works as an advisor and consultant with many large companies. He helps value-conscious businesses build site traffic increase the user base, and boost web sales and bolster customer satisfaction. He can be reached @navneetkaushal on Twitter