Guide To Remove Bad Backlinks: Identify & Disavow Toxic Links

Before the Google Penguin Update, more backlinks your website had, higher the ranking possibilities will be. Those were the days where links don’t harm your SEO. But, it is not the case, now. How possibly links can boost your SEO; it can also drop it equivalently, having bad backlinks in place. Search Engines will penalize the domains that have unnatural backlinks. Then, how to identify and remove bad backlinks before being it ruins your website.

Numbers aren’t a matter of ranking these days. It’s all about the quality backlinks and authority of the domains linking to you. Websites having too many bad backlinks are literally losing its credit to rank higher in the search engines. The cause for those link generations may be intentional or unintentional. Irrespectively, Google or any search engines will start dropping you out in the SERP. This article can help you to identify such harmful bad backlinks and remove all those.

What Are Bad Backlinks? Why Remove Bad Backlinks?

Bad backlinks are the unnatural or low-quality backlinks from any untrustworthy spam sites or links that are generated using any black hat link building techniques. The toxic links that are over optimized with exact anchor texts are also falls under bad backlinks. The link pointing to your site from those domains violating Google guidelines can also impact your SEO. Let’s see in detail further how to evaluate if a link is a good one or bad.

Collect Your Entire Backlinks Conducting Thorough Backlink Analysis

To determine a link if it is good or bad, you have to collect all your website backlinks via multiple sources. Make sure not to miss any backlinks. Any link removal action must be starting with backlink audit or analysis. Here are the multiple ways to accumulate all your backlinks.

Option 1: Using Google Webmaster tools

Head over to the Google Search Console and login to your account. On the homepage, select the property for which you want to do backlink analysis. Then click on ‘Links’ from the left-hand sidebar in the dashboard. You will find your entire link profile over there including both internal and external links.

Google-Search-Console

Click on ‘More’ under ‘Top Linking Sites’ to get the complete list. Here is the total number of unique links from outside your property. You can export the data.

Google-Search-Console-Backlinks

Option 2: Using Popular SEO Tools like Ahrefs, SEMRush, SEO PowerSuite, etc.

Ahrefs is one of my favorite tools to run a comprehensive backlink analysis. Moreover, Ahrefs is exclusively great for conducting competitor analysis. If your competitor can rank higher than you, then you are missing something that they do. What is it? Ahrefs Site Explorer can dig any data for you against the URL entered.

Similarly, Ahrefs Site explorer tool can help understand the complete link profile of any domain URL. Log in to your Ahrefs account and click the tab ‘Site Explorer’. Feed the URL with which backlinks you have to gather to identify bad backlinks.

Ahrefs-Backlink-Profile

Alternatively, you use SEMRush tool to collect the entire backlinks that website have till date. The tool can get you more furnished details backlinks types, the percentage of dofollow and nofollow links, anchors, etc. The tool also gets you competitor domains whose backlink profile is similar to yours.

SEMRush-Backlink-Profile

Note: In the latter half of this post, we will see how to identify and remove bad backlinks using SEO PowerSuite tool in detail.

Now you will be having around 2 or 3 backlinks reports from different sources. The one which you had taken from Google Search console has no metrics to analyze the link value. If you have only very few links, then analyze it one by one manually and remove it. Else, if your domain has thousands of backlinks doing it manually is highly impossible.

Alternatively, you can compare the link value on the various factors that those tools can fetch for every backlink. By which, you can decide upon the good and bad ones; which is better to leave and which is worse to eliminate. In such cases, you can sort the links within the tool (Ahrefs or SEMRush) based on various metrics of linking domain-like domain authority, number of OBL’, TLD’s, anchor text, etc.

In addition to all these, you will have to gather furthermore information about the linking domain to filter the good or bad backlinks.

How To Determine If A Link Is Good Or Bad?

Links are one of the crucial factors that can impact your search visibility – either favorably or negatively. Obviously, we know that good links can better improve your search performance. On the other hand, bad links can harm your site. How to identify such harmful backlinks from this massive list?

Differentiate such bad links if it matches any of the below scenarios –

  • One that comes from low-quality websites that are solely set up for SEO links.
  • Links that are mentioned in the bad comments by spam sites.
  • Backlinks with over-optimized anchor texts with exact keywords.
  • Irrelevant links that are placed in lousy duplicate and thin content pages.
  • Unnaturally built in a page surrounding with an irrelevant piece of text.
  • Bad links are sometimes your unrelated side-wide and footer links.
  • The one pointing to you from websites having low domain authority.
  • Links that are generated from a domain that is penalized for any reasons.

PS: Almost all the popular SEO tools will provide you with various SEO metrics. With that, compare, evaluate and filter the bad backlinks — the factors including DA, TLD, number of outbound links, anchor text, etc.

Also, there is another classification in backlinks – earned or built backlinks. Google considers earned backlinks higher than the built backlinks. Only good content can earn more quality backlinks, obviously. Fine, let’s get started with eradicating the handpicked bad toxic links.

How To Remove Bad Backlinks? Effective Backlink Removal Ideas

Removing backlinks is somehow tedious and challenging. You can disavow all the backlinks, but you can’t remove. Are you confused with these terms removal and disavowing? Disavowing must be the last option since by disavowing you are telling Google that the particular link is a threat to your website. It is a severe escalation. Don’t go to that extent, initially.

Link removal is nothing but requesting the webmaster to remove the link for some reasons. You will have to attempt to remove bad backlinks professionally beforehand.

Here are the few tips to follow during link removal –

  • Be polite in sending your link removal request to any webmasters.
  • Don’t forget to shoot personalized emails though using specific email templates.
  • Provide detailed information about the link that you wanted to remove making their job easier. No one will be interested in spending much time to do favors for you.
  • Don’t threaten the webmasters at any cost that their website will face negative SEO impacts if the link is not removed.
  • Send friendly reminder emails until your job is done.
  • If you have got any warning notice from Google, you may attach it to the mail possibly.
  • Don’t pay for such link removals. If you are insisted on paying, then you have an alternative option to disavow from your end.

Using some outreach tools like Ninja Outreach, your job will be made easier. If your email was such politely drafted with enough information, then the webmaster will find it simple to accept your request and remove the link instantly.

Link Removal Request Email Template

Here is a sample email I received requesting link removal. With the clear information provided, it didn’t take more than a minute to remove the respective link.

Subject: Link Removal Request

Hi,

This mail is to request you removing our specific link on your website.

We are facing some performance issues in search engines. Hence, we have conducted a backlink audit and decided to clean our link profile. Also, this particular link is warned by Google as ‘unnatural’. Hence, we are looking for your webmasters’ prompt action on this.

The backlink details are furnished below –

Host website URL where your link is placed:

Anchor Text:

I request you to intimate, once removed. So that, I can alert Google about the link status to stay away from further penalties.

Thanks for your assistance.

Keep following till it’s done. In case, you haven’t heard back from the webmaster, then disavow the link. Let’s see about disavowing the links that are not removed.

How To Disavow Bad Backlinks?

After sending the link removal request and wait for a week time. Give some leisure time for the webmasters to take action on your request. Send follow up emails periodically. If you don’t receive any response, then it’s time to disavow the backlinks that you couldn’t remove.

Here are the two different ways to disavow your low-quality or spam backlinks.

#1 Disavow Backlinks Using Google Disavow Tool

Prepare a list of all the URL’s or domains that need to disavow from Google considerations. Have the file in .txt format. Even you can mention the records describing all the efforts you had taken for the link removal. Hence, Google can understand that you have tried reaching webmaster requesting link removal.

Here are the few tips to format the Disavow file –

  • Create a .txt file
  • Each line must have single domain or URL
  • In the case of entire domain removal, mention ‘domain’ at the start of the URL. e.g., domain:spamdomain.com
  • In case of mentioning the records about link removal attempts, use # symbol in each line as that is not a part of the disavowal.

Make sure that you have prepared the file in a perfect format. Else, you might experience the entire file rejection by Google for improper formatting. Then, log in to your Gmail account and head over to the Google Disavow Tool. From the drop-down menu, select your site and click on ‘disavow links’.

Google Disavow Tool

As disavowing backlinks is a most advanced feature that may even harm your website’s performance if misused, hence, do it with more caution. And, go for this option, only if you are confident that the links are spammy, artificial, or low quality and there is some considerable volume.

Choose the .txt file you prepared and click ‘Submit’.

disavow file

This new file will replace the previously uploaded file if any. The disavowal process won’t happen instantly, as you submit. Google might take a few weeks to process your backlinks disavow proposal.

#2 Disavow Backlinks Using Other SEO Tools

As we have seen about running backlink audit and identifying bad backlinks using Ahrefs and SEMRush above. If it is one or two links, you may just disavow the backlinks within the tool itself. Else, if you have a massive list, then export the disavow file to the Google Disavow tool and follow the above instructions (seen above disavow backlinks using Google Disavow Tool).

Now, let’s have a detailed outlook on how to identify and remove backlinks or disavow bad backlinks is SEO PowerSuite tool.

Identify & Disavow Backlinks Using SEO PowerSuite

Luckily, SEO PowerSuite’s SEO SpyGlass tool has all the essential features to collect your entire backlinks, sort the bad backlinks, remove it contacting webmasters or disavow backlinks. Here is the step-by-step workflow describing how to identify and disavow low-quality backlinks using SEO PowerSuite.

SEO-PowerSuite-disavow workflow

Step – 1: Get The Entire List Of Your Backlinks

Run a thorough backlink audit using SEO PowerSuite’s SEO SpyGlass tool. Just enter your URL of which you have to collect the entire backlinks pointing to it. Let the tool fetch your link profile gathering all the backlinks.

Note – If you want to perform a more comprehensive backlink audit, you can select multiple resources within the tool. Check the box ‘Show Expert Options’ while creating a project and pick your desired sources like Google Analytics, Google Search console, etc.

To make sure that all the links are in place, SEO SpyGlass’s real-time link checks come into rescue. To check your links in real-time, go to Backlink profile >> Backlinks >> Update Backlinks.

Now you have your ultimate link profile handy.

Step – 2: Assess Your Backlinks Thoroughly

Apparently, the total number of backlinks is a good sign. Still, the quality of the domain pointing to you is more significant than the numbers. This backlink audit tool can get you results on –

#1 Number of backlinks and respective linking domains

Your link profile will have more backlinks compared to linking domains obviously. But, make sure to have both in even ratio. If there is huge variation, then you have to go in-depth and analyze the domains from where more backlinks are generated. Unique linking domain has more value than having more backlinks from a single domain.

#2 Dofollow vs nofollow links ratio

Though the nofollow link has no SEO weight, still it is recommendable to include in the game to showcase that your link profile is natural. Hence, you will have to maintain the mix of dofollow and nofollow backlinks. If you don’t have a reasonable amount of nofollow links compared to dofollow, then examine your profile for any other marks of spam link building techniques.

#3 Backlink progress and linking domain graph

The backlinking campaign must be strategic. There should be no bulk backlinks built over a short time. Check your link profile progress graph, if you find some traces like that, then investigate and flag the irrelevant, spam or unnatural backlinks, if any.

#4 Backlinks from the homepage

If there are excessive backlinks from the homepage, then there are possibilities for the paid links. Since links from the homepage claim to be more authoritative. Make sure your links from the homepage are built naturally.

#5 Backlinks countries and TLD’s

If your website is optimized for any specific geo-location, then the more backlinks from other TLD’s or countries might be treated as unnatural.

#6 Anchor Text Summary

Irrelevant anchor texts, more identical anchor texts, and keyword stuffing bring a major drop to your website ranking. Hence, make sure that your backlink’s anchor texts are not over-optimized with money making or commercial keywords.

The tool further displays more metrics like linked-top pages, etc. Anyways, from the above factors, you can somehow assess your backlink profile and sort out the bad low-quality backlinks.

Further, there is an option in this SEO SpyGlass backlink audit tool, ‘Update Penalty risk’. You can access it under Backlink Profile >> Backlinks >> Update Penalty Risk. With this feature, the tool itself can review and analyze all the domains linking to you for its respective penalty risks. Sort the results based on the value of its riskiness. Clicking on the ‘i’ button adjacent to domain penalty risk can tell you why the specific domain is considered risky. Roughly the domain having 0 to 30% is safe, 30% to 70% is harmful – investigate more on those domains and above 70% is far above the ground – take immediate action to remove or disavow those domains or backlinks from it.

Still, test these suspicious domains manually before tracing it as a spam domain. For each domain or backlink, review details like topic relevancy, referral traffic through which, InLink Rank, etc. and tag bad backlinks or spam domains, if found any.

Step – 3: Outreach Webmasters Requesting For Link removal

Then it’s time to contact corresponding webmasters requesting to remove such offending links. You may fetch contact email address of the webmaster from this tool itself. Outreach the site owners with personalized emails asking to take down the links. You may also use Hunter.io tool to find the email address of the webmasters.

Step – 4: Disavow The Links That Are Not Removed

In case of having massive numbers of spammy backlinks or if you haven’t heard back from the webmaster, then disavow the links. It is now easier to generate disavow files from the SEO SpyGlass tool with its backlink audit tool.

Select the entire links those you want to disavow, right click on it and select ‘disavow backlinks’. Choose ‘disavow mode’ either ‘backlink’ to disavow the particular link alone or ‘entire domain’ to disavow the domain and all the links from that domain. Optionally, you can add comments on each for your personal reference.

Then, go to Project Preferences >> Disavow/Blacklist Backlinks >> Click Add to include all your selective bad backlinks to your disavow file. Under ‘choose the action’ menu, select either ‘simply disavow’ or ‘disavow and exclude’ from all future updates.

Once done, you may now export the fully prepared disavow file to Google Disavow Tool. From there, you can proceed with requesting Google about disavowing backlinks (as seen above).

When To Use The Google Disavow Tool?

While getting access to the Google disavow tool, you may see a warning from Google. It means that disavowing backlinks is a severe action. And, you must not take it beforehand. When is it suggestible to use the Google Disavow Tool? Here are the cases only when it is advisable using Google Disavow –

  • Receiving manual penalty or algorithmic penalty from Google officially
  • Having a routine link audit and bad backlink removal process in place regularly
  • Not receiving any response from webmasters and requested backlinks not removed

Things To Consider Before Removing Bad Links

Google takes some time to process your disavow request. Meanwhile and after the cleanup process, your website may drop ranking due to the reduction in your backlinks. But, don’t worry. It is a momentary thing happens. As your website now gets rid of all the low quality, bad spam backlinks, you will see unimaginable improvement in your SERP ranking very soon. I wanted you to understand these ups and downs, before initiating link removal or disavowing process.

Precautions To Stay Away From These Bad Backlinks

Those who are spending much money on generating bulk backlinks so quick will be spending more than that in removing low-quality backlinks very soon. Hence, take your legit time building only quality backlinks for your long-term results. Buying backlinks from untrustworthy sources, building backlinks randomly, generating mass backlinks rapidly are only for transitory benefits. But, it harms literally.

Conclusion: Remove Bad Backlinks & Safeguard Your Website

Building low-quality backlinks, and then removing it; better not to do. You may optimize your link building campaigns towards obtaining quality backlinks. Highly concentrate on publishing evergreen quality content and strategic content optimization that attracts more authoritative backlinks.

Use Google disavow tool as your last resort intimating Google not to consider specific backlinks (while crawling and indexing) that are threats to your website.

I suggest you conduct backlink audit regularly and have your link profile clean. Instead of digging your time and efforts, you may use tools like SEO PowerSuite to perform comprehensive backlink audit and make sure that your link profile and hence, the website is healthy.

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