A backlink is a link from another site that points to one of the pages on your site. When it comes to SEO, having it is essential because it increases traffic to the page pointed to. The only concern is that not all backlinks have the same power. Others are even toxic to your SEO. Analyzing these links allows you to identify toxic backlinks and get rid of them.
Table of Contents
- What is a toxic backlink?
- How to detect toxic backlinks?
- How do you know if the links from other sites are toxic?
- How to remove low quality backlinks?
What is a toxic backlink?
A toxic backlink is an inbound link (or external link) that harms your SEO instead of improving it. It can drop you in the search results rankings or can even get you penalized by Google. Getting rid of them is therefore vital for your web activities.
You have to understand that when a site points to one of your pages, the source site redirects its audience to you. It therefore makes you benefit from its notoriety. This is why we say that the backlink boosts traffic and positively influences SEO.
There are exceptions, however, since some backlinks, instead of bringing you traffic and moving you up the SERPs, will pull you down and knock you down overnight. These links are often the result of Black Hat attempts, link farms, spammed or penalized sites, networks of identified sites, … Sometimes, they are also old backlinks received years ago, but are the source sites have been abandoned.
Note that some dishonest competitors can create toxic backlinks to you to damage your online reputation.
How to detect toxic backlinks?
Any webmaster should use a backlinks tracking tool to assess the quantity, but also the quality of each inbound link received. They can be found on SEMRush or in the Google Search Console. These tools display the backlinks received and provide various metrics that would allow you to judge the quality of the link. Even if the indicators are clear, it is still advisable to check each link for yourself. To do this, we follow the backlink, then we carry out some checks on:
The neighborhood of the page issuing the link
Why should you care about the neighborhood of the page? Quite simply because if it is in close collaboration with spammy sites, there is a good chance that Google will consider the sending page as spam.
From a global point of view, everything related to sports games, the casino, slimming products… are perceived by the search engine as spam. Make sure the link received does not cover these topics.
The theme of the sending page
A backlink should always be organicly inserted into content and be relevant. For this to be possible, the two linked pages must deal with the same theme or deal with complementary themes.
If your page talks about French literature while the sending page deals with renewable energies, there is no relevance in the link received, even if the sending content is of high quality.
The quality of the content
Always make sure that the content on the sending page is of good quality, as this means that it can benefit from a good ranking in the SERPs. For you, this means more traffic and above all, quality traffic. You should also create quality blog / content.
Remember that the quality criterion is based on several points. There is of course the information provided, but we must not neglect the structure of the text, spelling and grammar, the relevance of the content, the semantics …
If the backlink comes from content with a lot of mistakes and an incomprehensible thread of ideas, spun content, duplicate content… beware.
As a reminder, content spinning is an increasingly popular practice. It consists of creating several versions of the same basic content, but using the synonyms of the words. While not illegal, you should be wary of this type of often poor and duplicated content.
The language of the anchor page
Does your site exclusively publish content in French and have you received backlinks from sites in foreign languages? Don’t panic, because it is indeed doable. It is only necessary to ensure the quality of the sending pages and their relevance.
On the other hand, you have to pay attention to the quantity of this kind of links. If more than 50% of your backlinks come from Spanish-language sites, you have something to freak out about. The best is to quickly check the quality of these links and to get rid of mediocre, even toxic links.
Anchoring the link
As pointed out above, the bakclink must be inserted organicly into the source content. When you go to the sending page, identify the anchor of the link that points to you. If it is over-optimized or too artificial, it will hurt your SEO.
If the sender site has a good reputation, you can ask the webmaster to replace the anchor word with another less optimized and more organic term.
Important: for all backlinks received, you must do a global analysis of your anchor texts. Then make sure that the texts used by the issuing sites are as varied as possible while remaining organic.
The location of the link
One important thing to remember about backlinks is that you have no control over it, because any webmaster can decide to point to you for various reasons. By checking these inbound links, however, you can contact the webmasters who manage these pages to request some changes.
Previously, you were told to contact them to replace the link anchor. Now, we advise you to contact them again to review the placement of the link on their page if it does not suit you.
Ideally, the backlink should be located in the body of the content since it will thus benefit from the semantics of the article to clearly define the theme of the link. However, sometimes backlinks are relegated to the slidebar or the bottom of the page. At these locations, it won’t be of much value. The worst part is that it can generate thousands of other backlinks which, in the end, will penalize you.
The nature of the links: DoFollow or NoFollow
Not all inbound links are DoFollow, but some may be NoFollow. From the outset, we want to clarify that a NoFollow backlink is not necessarily toxic so do not rush to remove it. Plus, it can still generate traffic so if it’s not toxic, keep it anyway.
How do you know if the links from other sites are toxic?
Previously, we tell you how to determine the quality of a backlink from the page issuing the link. In what follows, we tell you the points to check to ensure that the site to which the sending page is attached is authoritative or not.
This check is important, because it is possible to have sending pages of excellent quality, but which are linked to a penalized, mediocre, spammy site … Result: the backlinks obtained may still be toxic for your SEO.
To ensure the reputation of the issuing site, here are the points to check:
The domain name
If your business is local (restaurant, delicatessen, bar, etc.) and some backlinks come from foreign sites, you should be worry. Pay special attention to the words and characters contained in urls.
Having a large number of backlinks from high authority sites can greatly improve your own site’s SEO. Thus, do not forget to check the authority of each issuing site . To do this, you have many effective tools such as the Trust Flow of Majestic SEO, the Trust Score of SEMRush, the Domain Rating of Ahref …
The data displayed by these tools makes it possible to know if the sites are trusted or if it is better to remove the links which result from them. In terms of backlinks, the rule is quite simple: avoid links from mediocre and / or penalized sites.
Better to have three links from authority sites than 20 links from mediocre sites. We are of course aware that getting good backlinks is not easy, but we can do some work on it.
To find out if a site is indexed, go to the search engine then enter the formula “site: nomdedomaine.fr”. If the search engine does not find any results referring to it, the site is not indexed. This should alarm you if you have received a backlink from an unindexed site. For good reason: its non-indexing can mean that it has been penalized by the search engine. This could negatively impact your SEO.
The site’s IP address
If the search engines, including the giant Google, realize that the majority of sites that link to you display the same IP address, they may consider this to be linkbuilding in a network. Obviously, you could be penalized when you don’t even have a grip on these inbound links. To avoid this, always compare the number of referring domains and the number of IP addresses so that you can take the necessary action.
Apart from a redundancy of IP addresses, a redundancy of the same Adsense identifiers, Google Analytics can have the same result.
The backlinks obtained by the site issuing the link
Yes, to make sure that the site that linked to you is reliable, you can trace its own backlinks. Are the links he has received of quality? To answer it, you can take into account a few points such as link anchors, the regularity of backlinks, the ratio between DoFollow links and NoFollow links, the number of backlinks compared to the number of referring domains …
To know the popularity of the site, you can consult its traffic and also take a look at the keywords on which it is positioned. If said keywords have brought him significant traffic, it is because the site is trusted. However, we should not rely solely on this criterion alone, but do a more in-depth analysis.
How to remove low quality backlinks?
Now that the analysis is complete, have you found any toxic backlinks that point to you? If not, that’s a good thing, but this analysis should be repeated regularly. If this is the case, it must be remedied quickly before these links poison your SEO.
What to do?
It is necessary to proceed in stages:
- Step 1: see if Google already knows the toxic backlinks
- Step 2: contact the webmaster
- Step 3: disavow the toxic backlinks
You should avoid rushing to remove the link, as there may be times when the link is toxic, but Google does not even take it into account. That is why this verification must be carried out.
Does Google know the backlink in question?
To find out if Google already has the link in its sights, you have to go to Search Console. Then enter “Search traffic” and click on “Links to your site”.
If the offending link is not on the displayed list, it may mean that it is not indexed by the search engine. The following check must therefore be carried out using the formula “site: urldelapage”.
If the search engine cannot find it then it is not indexed at all which could be explained by a penalty. If this is the case, we go to step 2.
If the search engine finds the url indicated, it is because it is indexed. In this case, another verification must be carried out to confirm that it is indeed a toxic link or not. To do this, you have to analyze the cached version. This will let you know if Google is taking the poor quality backlink into account or not. If so, we go to step 2.
Why should you contact the webmaster?
To ask him to remove the link he sent to your site. Of course, nothing tells you that he will comply, but it’s already a good start to the agreement. The only real problem in making contact is finding a contact address.
With the SEMRush Backlink Audit tool, you can go back to the webmaster’s email address and send him an email. If he does not comply or if you cannot contact him, we go to step 3.
How to disavow a mediocre backlink?
Link disavowal is asking Google to ignore low-quality toxic backlinks while they are indexing your website. This way you avoid getting penalized for toxic backlinks.
To disavow links, you must go to Search Console and click on “disavow links”.
Please note that the disavowal of links should only be done in exceptional circumstances. Moreover by clicking on “disavow links”, a warning window is displayed. Google recommends that you only remove links when you have been able to confirm that they are negatively impacting your SEO. Disallowance is therefore recommended if and only if:
- You suffered a manual or algorithmic penalty because of these toxic backlinks
- You suffered a loss of ranking in the SERPs due to numerous bad links and you were unable to contact the webmasters to remove them
Why such measures? Because if the disavowal is done incorrectly, your site is at risk of dropping in the SERPs. In addition, it can happen that a link is considered toxic, but still brings some benefits to the site, hence the need to confirm its quality.
If, after auditing the backlinks, you are sure you want to delete them, you validate the warning message and continue the process.
In the event that you must disavow several toxic backlinks, consider creating new links on quality sites to reassure search engines and thus maintain your positioning in search results.