Here is a disturbing fact you should already know as an astute blogger.
Although you can’t control who links to what on your website, Google can penalize you, if any of those incoming links are classed as toxic backlinks.
In fact, the Google algorithm update (known as Panda) made it very clear that just as good backlinks improve your search engine rankings, toxic backlinks will bring down search positions. Panda was apparently developed to reduce the prevalence of low-quality, thin content in the search results, and to reward unique, compelling content.
According to the Search Engine Journal, at the time Panda launched, user complaints about the increasing influence of “content farms” were growing rampant. Google’s Panda algorithm assigns pages a quality classification, used internally and modeled after human quality ratings, that is incorporated as a ranking factor.
But first, what are backlinks?
According to Search Metrics, backlinks are links from outside domains that point to pages on your domain; essentially linking back from their domain to yours. To a larger degree, your backlink profile is made up of backlinks from external sites (also known as referring domains) that contribute to the overall strength, relevance and diversity of your domain’s backlink profile.
Now that we know what backlinks are, what are toxic backlinks?
Basically, a toxic backlink is the exact opposite of quality backlinks. Toxic backlinks are backlinks linking to a website which reduce the beneficiary website’s ability to rank well in a Google search. Toxic backlinks can destroy all the excellent SEO work that you’ve worked hard to achieve. Google’s goal is to ensure an excellent user experience through search results. Here is another way to look at it: If quality backlinks can increase your SEO ranking, toxic backlinks can considerably drop your rankings. As you know, Google relentlessly oversees every website and the amount of traffic they generate.
Watch this Video: Disavow Links (09 mins 19 secs)
If for any reason, Google suspects any link to be of no value except to enhance traffic or ranking to your website, it would instantly classify it as a toxic backlink. Google has even been known to impose either automatic or manual penalties on websites that have toxic backlinks, depending on the volume and toxicity of the links. Penalties include being removed entirely from the Google index. Also, sites may no longer show up in results on Google.com or on any of Google’s partner sites.
Now, where do toxic backlinks come from?
Toxic backlinks usually originate from referring domains not trusted by Google. Here are some examples of such referring domains:
• Spamming sites
• Websites not indexed by Google
• Pornography websites
• Betting websites
• Websites specifically created for link building
• Websites containing viruses or malware
• Websites that have no relevance to your site
• Link networks
• Websites of Payday loan companies
• Websites with no page ranking
• Websites with little or no traffic
• Websites with a newly registered domain name
• Websites with an abnormally high number of exterior links
How do you know if your website has toxic links? There is an easy way and a difficult, long wielded way.
First the difficult way!
In my experience, you can use Google’s Webmaster tools to identify and disavow toxic backlinks. However, this is what I consider to be the difficult way of disavowing toxic backlinks.
You can use Google’s Webmaster tools in two steps:
Log into Google’s Webmaster Tools to receive an outline of all backlinks linking to your website.
Evaluate all incoming backlinks to your site to determine their source and trustworthiness. Alternatively, you could engage the services of an SEO expert for a comprehensive analysis of all backlinks linking to your website.
Now to the easy way to find out if your site has toxic backlinks.
The easy way to find out if your domain has toxic backlinks is to use a fantastic tool in SEMrush Projects, called Backlink Audit. With SEMrush Projects you can set up 12 different tools which allow you to analyze every aspect of your online visibility. As you complete your work, you can also track progress with email reports and graphs in each Project tool.
While Domain Analytics and Keyword Analytics let you use the search bar to conduct research in SEMrush’s databases, Projects let you gather marketing data from outside of the SEMrush database by setting up tools.
The SEMrush Backlink Audit tool is an amazing tool that helps you avoid Google penalties related to toxic backlinks. It does this by conducting an in-depth examination of your domain’s backlink profile and then providing a workflow to:
• Audit all your backlinks,
• Analyze the toxic signals associated with any suspicious links,
• Send emails to website owners, and
• Ultimately create a disavow file to send to Google.
The SEMrush Backlink Audit tool is so good, you have to try it. The tool:
• Integrates with Google Search Console, Google Analytics and Majestic to ensure the most accurate backlink data
• Filters and sorts to quickly identify all spammy backlinks
• Has email integration to manually ask website owners for link removal
• Is able to create a disavow file and remove your site’s association to any harmful links
• Has a “Lost & Found” report to keep track of new and lost backlinks over time
So how does this tool actually work…in practice?
Step 1: Audit
Start by connecting your Google Search Console to get a comprehensive overview of the health of your overall backlink profile.
The SEMrush’s machine learning algorithm will automatically check every single backlink linking to your website using over 45 toxic markers. In addition, SEMrush also analyzes SEMrush users’ audit history to detect domains that have proved to be harmful based on the experience of the SEMrush community.
To speed up the process of clearing your backlink domain profile, SEMrush interacts with you, and offers the following immediate actions:
• It asks if you 100% agree with toxic estimations. If you do, you simply add a link to the Disavow list to generate a .txt file and send it to the Google Disavow Tool.
• However, if you prefer to reach out to the website owner first, you have the option of leaving the link in your Remove list.
• On the other hand, if you know for sure that a particular backlink is not harmful at all, you can simply whitelist it in just one click.
Step 3: Send Removal Request
Google’s Webmaster Guidelines require you to request the “toxic” website owner to remove the link to your domain. To make this process easier, you can send the request from the SEMrush Backlink Audit interface. SEMrush automatically locates and provides you with the website owner’s email, so you can create an email removal request template and send it to all domain owners in just a few easy clicks.
To disavow the toxic backlinks, you need to keep an eye on your backlink profile and monitor your backlink cleanup process. This is easy, as you receive an email from SEMrush once the cleanup process is complete. If for any reason, some links cannot be removed even after contacting the website owner, you then need to send them to the Google Disavow tool. You can do this easily in the SEMrush Backlink Audit interface.
And that’s it! With SEMrush, getting rid of toxic backlinks is as easy as Abc!
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