In this article we will talk about how to remove bad backlinks from a website and give some practical tips for using Linkody’s Disavow Tool and Google Search Console.
If you have been actively tackling SEO and linkbuilding for your website, there is a chance that you have unnatural links pointing to your site. Because of Google’s Penguin algorithm, these can be a real pain. They can even get you a manual unnatural links penalty.
This article shows the “easy fixes” for the issues above.
Here’s the table of contents:
In general links from unrelated sites and sites with very low social shares are considered spammy. But categorizing bad links is difficult because there is no set formula to define a “bad backlink”.
In the beginning of 2014 for example, links attained from guest posting were considered some of the best backlinks. But now they can penalize your website. Similarly press release links can now cause trouble to your site. But just until recently they were golden.
It’s important to remember that the definition of a “bad backlink” changes with time.
Google’s disavow tool
In 2013 Google introduced a disavow tool (part of the Google Search Console), which is a way of people to ask Google not to count one or more backlinks pointing to their own website, in other words “make” a backlink nofollow from follow. (Read more.)
A nofollow link means that the hyperlink should not influence the ranking of the link’s target in the search engine’s index (Read more to understand follow and nofollow links.)
It’s debatable if Google doesn’t value nofollow backlinks at all. But when you actually disavow a list of links, what you are essentially doing is telling Google to consider these nofollow.
As far as using Google’s disavow tool is concerned, adding nofollow links is not going to help much. So, for our discussions here, the next step is to separate out the follow links. To view all follow backlinks of your website, use the “Follow” filter in Linkody:
You can follow these guidelines when considering which links to target for disavowal:
- Websites with duplicate content. These were the first fruits in the wrath unleashed by the Panda update. Websites that copy other people’s content aren’t a great place to get links from.
- Backlinks from unrelated websites or guest posting to irrelevant niches. For example, Bodybuilding website pointing to your Web Design blog. While the website may be high quality, unrelated links would surely give you some jolt down the road. (Also see: Guest blogging strategy post Apocalypse.)
- Links from not moderated directories. While getting listed in Yahoo directory is good for your site, we can’t say the same thing about every other directory out there.
- Spammy comments and forum profiles. Everyone hates spammers and Google is certainly no exception. Comments or forum posts that are written only for the purpose of placing a link will get your website penalized.
- Websites with thin content. Generally social bookmarking sites have very little useful content and a link from them doesn’t add much value. Lots of links however can be harmful as they can be seen as an effort to manipulate the SERPs.
- Links from article directories or hidden links
- Site-wide backlinks. Widget links are often site-wide. Avoid getting follow widget links by making them nofollow. Here you can see an example of a site with many widget links as follow. This will hurt in the long time. (See Google: Links within widgets should be no followed).
- Penalized or de-indexed links from websites by Google. A simple search for “site:replace-this-with-a-sample-website.com” which doesn’t return the site, indicates that it is not in Google’s index.
- Foreign language links can be potentially harmful. In some cases these sites go without any moderation and are potential toxic link farms. Links from Russian (or Chinese) sites could belong to the infamous SAPE network and are a big no-no.
- Forum links can be dangerous. Especially so because there tools like XRumer which can wreak havoc on your site if someone lets it run for 24 hours. It would go out and create links from all manner of forums.
- Advertorials (an advertisement in the form of editorial content – blend between “advertisement” and “editorial”). Google has in the past penalized sites for selling links that pass Page Rank and is against such advertorials.
- Links from pharma, adult or gambling websites.
- Sites with an unnaturally high number of external follow links (EFL) aren’t good from an SEO point of view. Google has been penalizing such websites because it believes they sell links without considering the nature of the sites they are linking to. Either way harm could come your way. Sort by “EFL” to get a better idea:
- Social media shares is another factor that can determine whether the page is genuine or not. Getting a link from a website with low social shares (meaning not many people are reading it and thus not sharing its content) may be harmful. However, don’t attach too much importance to social sharing yet. Sort by “Social Shares” in Linkody to see more.
- High Moz Spam Score – 17/17 is the highest, 0/17 is the lowest and safest score. Sort by “Spam Score” to see a potentially “spammy website”. (Learn more.)
- You could run a “Quick search” and see if too many links have the same anchor text, which is a possible red flag.
- You can also sort by Moz DA (Domain Authority) to see which links are low quality. Usually, low-quality sites have low DA.
Once you finish identifying the backlinks, here are your options how to remove bad backlinks from a website:
1. Reach out to the webmasters or website owners and ask them to remove the links. The first strategy is to ask them politely.
If that doesn’t work, tell them that, if not removed, you will add their links to the Disavow list which could impact their rankings in the long-term (this always works).
2. You can also reach out to the web host with a request to remove the link.
3. Finally if everything fails, submit a disavowal request to Google Search Console (previously Google Webmaster Tools) after using Linkody’s disavow tool.
Linkody comes with a disavow tool that allows you to identify and easily select links or domains to be disavowed. However, disavowing links within Linkody does NOT automatically disavow them with Google.
To select a link for disavowal, click on the gear icon on the right drop down menu:
Use the Disavow domain option if there are many links from the same domain and the domain seems spammy and harmful. In most cases we would advise to disavow the whole domain. When disavowed, an icon will appear to the right:
Review your rules, then use the “EXPORT” button to download your file, and upload it to the Disavow section in Google’s Search Console:
You can add a Comment for your own reference (Google does not read your comments) about why this website or link has been disavowed:
You can also view all disavowed links and/or domains from the links view:
Even after submitting the disavow document you may have to wait for months before getting a response from Google about its status.
That’s why it is necessary to go through your backlink profile regularly and try hard to catch all potentially harmful links as soon as possible.
Now you know all about how to remove bad backlinks from a website. If you have any other questions we will do our best to answer these. Or if you have used Linkody’s Disavow Tool and have more useful tips to add we would love to hear your comments.