How to Disavow Toxic Backlinks Using SEMrush and Google Webmaster Tools

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.

How to Disavow Toxic Backlinks Using SEMrush and Google Webmaster Tools

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.

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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?

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?

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?

What is the Origin of Toxic Backlinks?

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!

How to Identify and Disavow Toxic Backlinks – the Difficulty 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:

Step 1
Log into Google’s Webmaster Tools to receive an outline of all backlinks linking to your website.
Step 2
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.

How to Identify and Disavow Toxic Backlinks – the Easy Way

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.

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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

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?

How to Disavow Toxic Backlinks in 4 Easy Steps Using the SEMrush Backlink Audit Tool

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.

Step 2: Backlink Cleanup

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.

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Step 4: Disavow the Toxic Backlinks

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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Pedro is a professional blogger, coach, copywriter and list grow strategist. He is the founder and CEO of Astute Copy Blogging. He helps entrepreneurs build large email lists that they can mobilize and monetize so that they can live the life of their dreams. He is also a pastor, an award-winning author, and a recovering attorney! He makes his home in England with his wife and their two delightful daughters.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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26 thoughts on “How to Disavow Toxic Backlinks Using SEMrush and Google Webmaster Tools

    • Hey Chad,

      Thanks for stopping by. Really glad you liked the article. Super delighted you’re taking immediate action to remove any toxic backlinks from your website!

      Best,
      Pedro

    • Hi Jeenu,
      Thanks for stopping by.
      Glad you found the blog post useful. Please help us spread the word to your network 🙂
      Best,
      Pedro

  1. Honestly, this is my first time hearing about Toxic Backlinks and you’ve share a lot of useful and helpful information that we can really use in the future.

  2. Unfortunately not many of us can afford SemRush. Luckily, Google now knows when a website is targeted by a SEO attack and it doesn’t penalise it for this anymore. I usually find my toxic links through Google Console and then disavow them.

    • Hi Joanna,
      Thank you for stopping by and joining the conversation here at Astute Copy Blogging.
      Of course, you can find your toxic backlinks and disavow them using your Google Console. I stated this very clearly in the blog post. However, in my opinion (again as I stated in the blog post), that is a slow and difficult way. In my humble opinion, using SEMrush is the easy and professional way to identify and disavow toxic backlinks.

      Now to the important issue of the cost of SEMrush, which you raised. At $99.95 per month for the PRO subscription (the starting point for SEMrush), SEMrush can appear pricey. But the question should be: Can any serious blogger actually do without SEMrush?

      Here are some of the reasons why you need SEMrush…
      As I said in a recent blog post on SEMrush:
      SEMrush is “the most versatile and most comprehensive SEO and PPC tool available on the market today. It is an all-in-one digital marketing software suite designed to provide digital marketers and online businesses with competitive data to inform marketing and business decisions.

      SEMrush is like having a spy in your competitors’ marketing suite, giving you all their relevant data and information, and providing you with a winning strategy. It’s so good, you have to try for yourself. Once you try it, you will wonder why you didn’t start using it sooner.

      Since 2008, over 1 million users have trusted SEMrush data to inform their everyday marketing decisions. It is designed to help SEM and SEO services, interactive agencies, consultants, and companies rank and maintain visibility in the top search results on Google and Bing.”

      Thanks again for stopping by.
      Best regards,
      Pedro

  3. This is very good information about backlinks and with checking out more intensely. I will certainly investigate toxic backlinks.

  4. I didn’t realize that other companies by doing wrong things could affect your profile on Google. Good to know. Thanks for the good information here. I really need to go back and take a look at my own backlinks.

    • Hi David,
      Thanks for stopping by. The problem with Google is that it’s a virtual monopoly, and basically does what it wants 🙁
      But super delighted that you found the post useful.
      Best regards,
      Pedro

  5. Never thought that toxic backlinks really exist. Thanks for this post I know now which sites will I need to avoid when doing link building again. Very informative!

    • Hi Paul,
      Hey buddy, how are you doing?
      Great to see you here at Astute Copy Blogging 🙂
      Delighted you found the article useful.
      Good luck with your blogging.
      Best,
      Pedro

  6. Hi Pedro,
    I would rather call this article a complete guide because it details what you need to do to get toxins out, as well as what it is and how you got them in the first place. Although I haven’t considered evaluating my blog for toxic backlinks, your post has given me a heads up to take action.
    Thank you for sharing.

    • Hey Moss,

      How are you doing Bro? Really nice to see you here at Astute Copy Blogging. And thank you for your very kind words. Very gracious of you 🙂
      I think it’s a good idea to try to check for toxic backlinks as a part of a regular health check. That’s what I try to do for my blog.
      Glad the post gave a you a heads up to take action.

      Best regards,
      Pedro

  7. Hi Pedro,
    Thanks so much to make cleaning up toxic backlinks easy from the steps you have created.
    I’m quite careful of who I accept on my blog. There are so many sites that go directly to a sales page or even worse, a porn site. They all go to spam in my back office.
    However, it is good practice to keep checking via the steps you have provided because there is always someone who will creep in.
    -Donna

  8. Thanks, interesting tips.
    Maybe I should now take note of the backlink am receiving and to think of it I was about to add a betting site link on my site….