Unnatural or toxic backlinks hurt your site’s organic performance. Often they are bought and placed on your website by your competition. The problem often stays under the radar of many companies and causes high losses. Because not only a well thought-out link building strategy, but also constant monitoring of your own backlink profile and rankings is now mandatory.
But what are toxic links? And when will Google penalize you?
Toxic links come from sites established for the sole purpose of linking. They come from sites and content that are not topically relevant. Often the links come from websites that are not indexed by Google. They were obviously squeezed into blog comments.
Toxic links are usually hidden in the footer of a website. They are present on every page of a website. The links use “exact match anchor text” (ie commercial “money” terms and target keywords as link text). They are recognizable as sponsored, but not marked with a corresponding nofollow or sponsored attribute.
Since Google’s Penguin 4.0 update in September 2016, penalties can be imposed site-wide or only individual specific keywords, a subdomain (e.g. blog.domain.com), a folder (e.g. www.domain.com/kaufdas/) or individual pages (www.domain.com/beste-autoversicherung.html) affected.
Unfair competition: It often costs more to build links than bad links to competitors
Most of the time, you only notice toxic links when you’re hit by an algorithmic filter (Google uses them) and you see a significant drop in organic traffic and visibility. Again, this can affect the entire site, specific pages, or sections of your site, depending on the number and destinations of the unnatural links.
This has caused various companies to attack their competition with negative SEO instead of improving their ranking with real SEO measures. In this way, the desired result can potentially be achieved faster, i.e. poor rankings of the competition and thus better findability of your own website. But that clearly belongs in the area of white-collar crime.
How to tackle negative SEO and toxic backlinks
To escape an algorithmic filter based on toxic links, the first step is to set the tactics that caused the problem and disavow links that you consider suspicious. Your rankings are probably not as high as before the adjustment because they were artificially increased by manipulative links.
Every SEO practitioner has to go along Backlink Audit check their projects for toxic backlinks. Some do this routinely, others in response to a drop in their rankings or manual action.
Any business can be affected by bad backlinks. For example, if it’s less dangerous for Semrush because the domain has a lot of strong links, it can become a problem for other companies with a weaker link profile. So use Semrush to find spam links, monitor your backlink profile and remove the toxic backlinks.
Here you will find instructions on how to do that Backlink Audit perform
How to remove toxic backlinks
With the easy-to-understand Toxic Score, the Backlink Audit shows which links could hurt your rankings the most. He uses a scale of 0 to 100, with 0 being good and 100 being maximally toxic. More than 50 toxicity indicators are checked and included in the toxic score.
If you routinely analyze your links, you can disavow (remove) those links using the disavow file. It’s a valuable way to render toxic links harmless. In the Backlink Audit you can generate this file and upload it manually to your GSC account. But be careful with it, because not every link is bad!
Remove toxic links now for 14 days for free
This is how you set up an alert system and have everything under control
If you have already started Backlink Audit, you should also monitor your rankings. You can do that with the keywords you research and the right tool like this Position Tracking by Semrush.
It even monitors your local rankings by zip code, shows you the rankings daily, has a cannibalization report, tags and many other indispensable functions. This way you don’t miss anything if something is wrong with your rankings.
Once you have it set up, then you should also monitor the technical health of your website. Because not only bad links, but also technical problems can cause bad rankings. For that you can Site Audit use and keep the technology under control with Site Health.
Always compare yourself to your competition and check in often Backlink Analytics over.Regularly look at the backlinks and anchor texts of your own website and those of your competitors. In this way, you may also be able to determine where there is still a need to catch up in terms of link building. Because you should not only remove the links, but also build them up.
The tool solution
The advantage of Semrush is that you can already work with all the tools mentioned here with a pro package. There is no contract and you can start small. As an all-in-one solution, Semrush offers you not only this, but also many other solutions and helpers that you can use in one place, in the same interface and conveniently. Just take a close look at the tool with a free 14-day trial subscription.