What are Toxic Backlinks?

Toxic backlinks are links from sites that harm instead of helping your SEO. Too many of these toxic backlinks can have serious repercussions for your site, including being de-listed by Google. Toxic backlinks are links to your page from:

  • Websites with significant security flaws.
  • Link pages or link farms—these are websites that exist for the sole purpose of creating backlinks. 
  • Links to your page from porn or gambling sites
  • Links in blog comments
  • Web directory links
  • Websites that are not indexed by Google

How to find out if you have toxic backlinks

The primary way many people discover that there are toxic backlinks to their site is when they receive a Google webmaster warning regarding a link to your site. If your organic traffic suddenly decreases, then you should assume you have been penalized, and toxic backlinks may be the reason. You can use Google Webmaster Tools to determine the origin of backlinks and determine their trust score. 

Use a trusted SEO company. Shady SEO companies, or those who do not keep abreast of changes in SEO practices, can result in toxic backlinks. Finding a reputable SEO company to optimize your website is a worthwhile investment. Most SEO marketing companies will also monitor the number of potentially toxic backlinks and take steps to remove them. 

How to remove toxic backlinks

  • When possible, reach out to the site’s webmaster where the potentially toxic link originated and ask that the link be removed. Unfortunately, it is often difficult or impossible to reach the webmaster.
  • Document the efforts you make to have toxic backlinks removed.  Even if your attempts are unsuccessful, the documentation can be used if you find yourself penalized by Google. 
  • Use the Google Disavow Tool. Collect the sites you believe are toxic links, and submit the file to Google through their Disavow Tool. Google urges caution in using the disavow tool, so you need to do your research to ensure that the links you are requesting to disavow meet the criteria for toxic links. 

Auditing backlinks

Auditing backlinks to your site is an ongoing process. You or your webmaster should have an auditing system in place that periodically seeks to clean up toxic backlinks. Optimization of your backlinks will help to improve your search engine ranking and is an integral part of your overall marketing strategy. You cannot clean up questionable backlinks one time and expect it to last. 

Knowing how often you should audit the backlinks to your site will depend on your overall backlink profile. Quarterly audits are recommended for all websites, but you should do them more frequently if you have a significant quantity of questionable or toxic links.

The damage toxic backlinks can cause

Toxic backlinks can pull down your search engine ranking and undo the hard work you have put into building a quality website.  Toxic backlinks attract Google penalties, and the penalties can cause more significant damage than the backlinks themselves. Even without incurring penalties, too many toxic backlinks can hurt the ranking of your website. Low ranking sites are challenging to find through all the major search engines, rendering your website almost invisible. 

It is much easier to avoid the potential damage that toxic backlinks can do than it is to try and repair the damage once it is done. That is why auditing your backlinks and using a trusted SEO company are necessary steps in building a successful website. 

A marketing company with a solid reputation for white hat methods of creating organic traffic to your website is crucial in building a quality website for your business. Do your research before hiring anyone to provide content or to optimize your website. To find the best marketing company to work with, look for one that takes the time to get to know your business and goals. 

Good marketing companies with SEO skills will:

  1. Research your competitors. They will take the time to determine what companies with a similar client/customer base are doing. The research will be extensive and include the type of content your competitors are using, strategies they are implementing, and the keywords they are targeting. 
  2. Look for a company with a stellar reputation focused on strictly white hat methods for SEO optimization. 
  3. They will get to know your niche. Marketing companies deal with a wide array of customers that have a wide variety of specialties. They may not be an expert on your niche, but they will do the research to become familiar with your niche, and what is working for others in the same niche. 
  4. They will provide a comprehensive SEO campaign and a marketing strategy that can grow and adapt to your company.