Toxic Backlinks: A Quick Guide in 2023

Backlinks are an important part of your link building strategy, contributing to the overall SEO of your websites. Backlinks contribute to how search engines view your website. But backlinks also need to be of high quality for them to work in your favor.

So this begs the question, are there bad backlinks? These low-quality backlinks that come from sketchy websites are what we call toxic backlinks. In this article, we’ll be discussing all you need to know about them, what you can do when you find them, and how to avoid them altogether.

In this article, you’ll find

  1. What are Backlinks?
  2. Why are Backlinks Important?
  3. What are Toxic Backlinks?
  4. What Makes Backlinks Toxic?
  5. How to Handle Toxic Backlinks
  6. How to Avoid Backlinks?
  7. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
  8. Key Takeaway
  9. Related Reads

What are Backlinks?

Backlinks are links that are coming from other websites back to your website. They are also known as inbound links. 

Google and other search engines see these backlinks as a testimony of your page’s usefulness, relevance, or credibility. After all, if other websites are citing your page, then it must be helpful, right? As a result, websites or pages that have a high number of positive backlinks tend to do well in ranking. 

A link-building report in 2020 shows that SEO professionals use backlinks as one of their strategies in link building. It can also be seen that these strategies are exceptionally successful, especially in the areas of content creation and outreach.

Be that as it may, the quality and quantity of your backlinks are important.

Why are Backlinks Important?

Backlinks are like votes from other websites that vouch for the credibility of your page. These votes signal to search engines that your content is high-quality and valuable. And just like votes, the more you have, the more confidence search engines have for your page.

As a result, your site will rank higher in Google and other search engines. 

But as nice as backlinks sound, while helping you rank better, they can also be a major problem if they are of low quality. 

These are known as toxic backlinks.

What are Toxic Backlinks?

Toxic backlinks are defined formally in Google’s guidelines

As per Google, link schemes are “Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.”

Toxic backlinks aim to manipulate Google’s PageRank. They usually come from low-quality websites that aim to make pages look like they have lots of backlinks. These can be pages that have spammy and unhelpful content. Since toxic backlinks technically violate PageRank guidelines, they are frowned upon by Google.

What Makes Backlinks Toxic?

What Makes Backlinks Toxic

Here are a few factors:

  1. Mirror Pages

There are instances where websites can have multiple pages that are all linking to your site. Usually, this is okay, but if too many different pages use the same anchor text to link back to your site, it can be a problem. These can be seen by Google as mirror pages and they can be categorized as a link building scheme. 

  1. Low Domain Power

High-quality backlinks come from websites that have high trust scores. This score is based on the number of backlinks from other trusted sites pointing back to that domain.

On the other hand, websites that have a low trust score mean that the site’s domain score may be artificially inflated. A backlink coming from this kind of website can be seen as a violation of Google’s guidelines. 

  1. Paid Links

As per Google, paid links “can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results.” Paid backlinks are problematic because they only aim to have backlinks that direct to your pages. They don’t really care about content and helping out users.

These websites use keywords and anchor texts that are out of context. They also use single-word anchor texts to link back to your page. 

  1. Poor Layout

If the ratio of visible text to HTML is low, then the page may be seen as low quality.

How to Handle Toxic Backlinks

How to Handle Toxic Backlinks

Step 1: Do an Audit of Your Pages

The first step in solving any toxic problem is to identify if you have one to begin with. It is important to check your websites for any toxic backlinks regularly. To do this, you need to do a backlink audit.

There are lots of tools that you can use to do an audit. Popular tools include Ahref’s Site Explorer and SEMrush’s Backlink Audit Tool. 

Simply enter your domain name into the search bar and let the system analyze your backlinks. Once the process is finished, you’ll be able to get a report on the backlinks that you have and their corresponding score. These scores will give you an idea of the quality of each backlink. 

Once you’ve identified backlinks that score low, take note of their corresponding domain.

Step 2: Contact the Owner of the Domain

You can contact the owner of the domain to ask them to remove the backlinks. You can send a simple message to have the link taken down, and you don’t have to explain anything. 

This is not a guaranteed solution. But if it does work, you’ll be able to save a lot of time and effort in removing the backlinks yourself through Google’s Disavow tool. 

Step 3: Disavow Links to Your Site

You proceed to this step after you’ve tried contacting the owner of the domain with no results.

This process involves Google directly. They offer a tool on their Search Console that will help you disavow toxic backlinks. 

It’s important to understand that you have to ensure the backlink is toxic. If you use this tool incorrectly, it’s going to do more harm than good to your website. It can negatively affect your SEO because it will hurt the ranking of your website. 

You can follow Google’s instructions on how to disavow links to your site

How to Avoid Backlinks?

Toxic backlinks are extremely difficult to prevent because numerous low-quality websites and domains exist. As a result, it’s almost impossible to prevent toxic backlinks from happening.

The only thing one can do to prevent toxic backlinks is to check for them constantly. This helps you identify toxic backlinks before they inflict any serious damage to your website.

Also, don’t get involved with businesses and websites that promise quick solutions to your link-building problems. Always make sure to review the guidelines and policies of the businesses that you work with. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Should I remove toxic backlinks?

Yes. Toxic backlinks can lead to dropping in search engine rankings and can also lead to penalization of your site by Google.

Why should we avoid toxic backlinks in 2023?

Avoiding toxic backlinks is necessary for good organic growth and ranking in search engine results. Using toxic backlinks includes spammy links and links from low-authority sites, which can decrease search engine rankings and penalties from Google.

How do I know which backlinks to disavow?

You should look for the following links:

1. Spammy links
2. Artificial links
3. Low authority backlinks

And if these links have caused you manual actions or like to get you penalty from Google, then you can request Google to disavow these links.

Key Takeaway

Toxic backlinks are very dangerous when left unchecked. They can get your website and pages penalized by Google. This will affect your SEO performance and your ranking in the long run. 

Technically, it’s close to impossible to avoid toxic backlinks. This is because there are low-quality websites out there that will link back to your website. But arming yourself with knowledge of how to handle backlinks and conducting frequent audits will ensure that you’re free of toxic backlinks. 

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