How to Identify Toxic Links

Your website’s link profile is like its digital reputation – at least as far as search engines are concerned. When Google Search or Bing bots crawl through your website’s linking structure, you’re going to lose ranking if you’re associated with any toxic links they find. It’s easy for some bad backlinks to slip through the cracks of your website maintenance. Some of these toxic links may have been responsible for lower-than-expected SEO performance over recent months. 

Unfortunately, toxic links have been a consistent problem for digital advertisers for years, and link health is one of the most important factors that modern search engines assess when assigning SEO scores to websites. Most toxic links originate from spoofed pages or websites attempting to manipulate search engine algorithms. When Google or Bing identifies that a website is part of a link scheme or violates webmaster guidelines, any links to your site from that one will be a detriment to your SEO efforts. 

Remember, removing toxic links is not a “once and done” maintenance task for your website. It’s something that will require consistent effort and a realistic review schedule that ensures you’re going back to review your page’s backlinks repeatedly. One link may serve you well with an SEO boost for a while. However, over a few months, your relationship with this link could transform from asset to liability. While you start developing your schedule to round up and remove toxic links on a regular basis, it’s vital to ensure your team knows how to approach this process. 

Identifying Toxic Links 

The first step in removing toxic links is to know how to recognize them. A toxic link is any link to your website from another website with a less-than-favorable SEO effect. If a site is linking to yours and search engine bots deem this link toxic, your SEO is going to suffer as long as the link remains. 

Many indicators will warn you of a toxic link, whether it’s from a link network, blogroll, or spammy group of links. You can start your toxic link purge by performing a competitive link gap analysis of your website and a few of your top competitors’. Once you review the link gaps in your niche, you can identify whether there is cause for concern over toxic links. Your competitive link gap review can reveal linking strategies used by competitors as well as SEO weaknesses on your own site that you need to address. 

Another telltale sign of a toxic link is Google or Bing seeming to ignore the link. Google has openly admitted that links are automatically ignored when the Google Search algorithm determines it’s from a site that is unlikely to produce natural links. Some of the most common sources of bad links you don’t want to be attached to your site include:

  • Paid links. It is against Google and Bing terms of service to exchange money for a link, period. If there was any type of transaction involved in a link to your website, the existence of that paid link is a threat to your SEO outcomes. This may seem to conflict with your goals for sponsored content, but as long as you tag sponsored content links appropriately, they will not be indexed into your link profile the same way as a paid link.  
  • Private blog networks. These black hat link-building scams have existed for years, and Google has become adept at identifying them and shutting them down. In most cases, private blog networks originate from expired domains that are repurposed for link-building scams.  
  • Spun content links. In the early 2010s, a new trend of repurposing or “spinning” content took hold. This black hat SEO tactic relies on algorithms that analyze an article and then automatically generate dozens or even hundreds of variations of the article, each of which typically offers no real value and may not even be grammatically coherent. Spinning content like this allowed many sites to spread links very quickly for fast, low-effort SEO boosts, but spun content is now much easier for Google to locate and penalize accordingly.  
  • Low-quality directories. A link directory is a list of links to other sites contained within a single site. This can be either a good thing or a bad thing depending on the directory in which your link is listed. If the site is reputable and authoritative, such as a government website providing a list of service providers in your market, then this link will probably offer you a substantial SEO benefit in the form of natural links. However, low-quality directories offer users very little and primarily exist to bolster the link profiles of other websites. 

This list is not exhaustive; there are many different types of toxic links you’ll need to detach from your link profile to ensure the best SEO results. 

Start Your Link Audit 

Identifying toxic links isn’t always easy, but it’s a necessary part of running a successful and secure website. A link audit can help you begin the process of removing toxic links from your site safely using effective tools and tagging methods. In some cases, it’s necessary to disavow a link and manually mark it as a bad link. In others, you may simply need to add specific tags to a link for Google to score it correctly. 

You can find lots of different tools online to perform a link audit, but whatever you decide to use, it’s essential to ensure it can synchronize with your Google Search console. There are already a few tools you can use to boost your SEO performance and review your link profile, but proper toxic link management may require more refined tools for your website. 

Vizion Interactive can help you achieve SEO success with proven methods for reducing toxic links to your site, link auditing services, and much more. Contact us today, and we can tell you how our team can upgrade your link profile and improve your SEO scores. 

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