Toxic Backlinks: What They Are, How to Find & Remove Them

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Many SEO experts say that backlinks play a big role in website ranking. This is true, but not all of these links are good because some of them are toxic and give bad performance to SEO. I myself was really confused by this toxic link yesterday.

Once upon a time, one of the client's blogs had traffic suddenly plummet until only 20% remained. Amazing huh? Yes, something. It made me stressed.

After investigating, apart from being hit by a storm of core algorithm updates and robot.txt which turned out to be "acting up" because of the new plugins, it turns out that this toxic link was also found. So, it's homework to be able to remove this toxic link.

Disavow or delete the link can have a big impact on SEO on the blog. So, let's discuss it in this article, so that some of you experience it. Or, maybe, next time I will experience it myself. So you don't forget. Just look at your own notes.

What Are Toxic Backlinks?

What Are Toxic Backlinks?
Toxic Backlinks

As we know, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has a very important role in increasing website rankings in search results on search engines such as Google. However, behind efforts to improve SEO rankings, there is a threat that is often ignored, namely toxic backlinks.

Toxic backlinks are backlinks that come from websites that have a bad reputation, are of low quality, and violate Google guidelines and policies. These backlinks can worsen SERP rankings and negatively affect the website's authority and credibility.

This is because the Google Penguin Update focuses on giving penalties to websites that have bad backlinks. Google Penguin itself is updating the ranking algorithm on Google.

Toxic backlinks have a negative impact on your website's visibility on search engine results pages or have the potential to. This term usually refers to links that violate Google's link spam guidelines because they are placed on external sites for SEO purposes, not for the benefit of the user.

Google will analyze your backlinks to determine how prominent and trustworthy your site is. This means certain types of links from other sites can both benefit and harm your SEO.

To prevent manipulative link creation, Google has various policies and systems in place. This means that links obtained illegally will be automatically ignored or “devalued” by Google. However, a large number of toxic backlinks can trigger a Google penalty. Because this can indicate that your site has been spamming systematically.

In most cases, the formation of toxic backlinks does not originate from the website owner himself. They are often formed accidentally or due to manipulative practices carried out by others.

Toxic backlinks are usually formed from automated link building practices, black hat SEO, and negative SEO. To avoid this incident, website owners must carry out backlink audits regularly. There are several ways to find out toxic and low quality backlinks on a website. Here's how to find out:

  • There is a warning from Google Webmaster regarding the appearance of toxic backlinks originating from a website.
  • The sudden decline in organic traffic was due to indications of toxic backlinks by Google Penguin.

Google's opinion about Disavow Links

Previously there was a case where an e-commerce company deleted many of the backlinks on its website. Well, apparently, this was wrong too, because the site's ranking dropped drastically from what it should have been. Then the owner asks Google whether they should add the link back or not.

Responding to this, Google believes that we actually don't need to be afraid of outbound links like this, if there really isn't a problem with the website the link originates from. No need to delete it, because that's the essence of the world wide web.

See the word "web" there? Network, that's right.

What is a network if nothing is connected to each other? Of course, there won't be a network.

Well, unless there are problematic links that need to be removed immediately. Because links like this do not add value to the SEO strategy for our blog or website.

Now the question arises, what is the best way to remove these toxic links? You can solve this problem by following the guide below.

How do you identify a toxic link?

Toxic backlinks have several identifiable characteristics. The following are general characteristics of toxic and low quality backlinks:

1. Comes from Spam Websites

Spam websites are usually untrustworthy or have a bad reputation. Examples of spam websites include websites with illegal content or websites involved in crime. Websites like this will be detected as dangerous by the Google algorithm.

2. Automated Link Building

Automated link building is a service that promises to create thousands of backlinks quickly. However, most of the backlinks produced are of low quality, irrelevant, and come from spam websites. This condition can trigger the formation of toxic backlinks.

3. Link comes from Private Blog Network

Links originating from Private Blog Networks (PBN) are often considered toxic because they violate the guidelines and policies of search engines, such as Google. PBN is a private blog network owned or managed by individuals or groups with the aim of manipulating rankings on search results pages.

Pay attention to the number of backlinks and placement patterns. See the number of backlinks given by a particular site to your site. A sudden spike in the number of backlinks or unnatural placement patterns, such as placing backlinks in areas that are not visible to users, can be a sign of toxic backlinks.

4. Use a Backlink Analysis Tool

Take advantage of backlink analysis tools such as Google Search Console, Ahrefs, Majestic, or Moz to get information about backlinks pointing to your site. These tools can help you view backlink profiles as a whole and identify potentially toxic backlinks.

5. Pay Attention to Changes in SEO Rankings and Performance

If you experience a sudden drop in your website's ranking or SEO performance, check whether there is a correlation with newly appearing backlinks or with changes in your backlink profile. Also pay attention to changes in indexing by search engines.

6. Check Anchor Text Data

Pay attention to the type of anchor text used in the backlink. If too many backlinks use irrelevant anchor text or are too optimized, it could be an indication of manipulation in backlink creation.

7. Observe Warnings from Google Search Console

Google Search Console can provide warnings about toxic or unnatural backlinks pointing to your site. If you receive such a warning, immediately check and identify the backlinks mentioned.

8. Perform Backlink Audits Regularly

The next step is to conduct regular backlink audits to monitor the website's backlink profile. By identifying and removing toxic backlinks regularly, you can maintain the health of your website's SEO and avoid the negative impact of toxic backlinks.

What are the effects of toxic backlinks?

The existence of toxic and low-quality backlinks on a website can have various negative impacts, especially on SERP rankings and website reputation. Here are some of the negative impacts that may occur include:

1. Get punished by Google

In 2012, Google introduced an algorithm called Google Penguin to fight webspam. The existence of this algorithm is expected to create optimal search results for users through high-quality content.

Google Penguin will carry out analysis on the website. If a website is found to have toxic and low quality backlinks, Google Penguin Update will impose a penalty on the website.

The ranking of websites that are penalized will drop in SERP. It's possible for the content to be discovered, until the worst is removed from the search index.

2. Organic Traffic Decreases

Websites that are found to have a lot of toxic backlinks will receive a penalty in the form of a decrease in ranking on the SERP. Apart from that, the credibility and trust of users towards the website. This can have an impact on decreasing organic traffic.

What makes a backlink toxic?

What makes a backlink toxic?

Here are 9 causes of toxic backlinks along with a brief explanation for each point:

1. Doing Black Hat SEO

Doing Black Hat SEO, such as bulk purchasing backlinks from irrelevant or low quality sites, is often the main cause of toxic backlinks. Website owners who use this strategy attempt to manipulate their rankings in search engines in an unethical manner.

2. Unethical SEO Services

Some SEO services use fraudulent techniques to increase the ranking of their clients' websites. They may use a network of fake sites or use link farming to create a large number of backlinks quickly. This can produce backlinks that are irrelevant and toxic for the client's website.

3. Low Quality or Spam Website

Backlinks from low-quality websites or spam sites are often a source of toxic backlinks. These sites may have irrelevant content or engage in spamming practices, and backlinks from these sites do not add value to the sites that receive them.

So, therefore, it is very important to monitor your website so that it always has quality backlinks.

4. Irrelevant exchanging links

Exchanging irrelevant links between websites can produce poor quality backlinks. When sites exchange links without paying attention to the relevance of the content, the resulting backlinks tend not to be useful for users and are considered toxic by search engines.

5. Purchasing Backlinks from the Black Market

On the internet black market, there are backlink sellers who offer backlink purchasing services at low prices. Backlinks purchased from the black market tend to come from untrusted or irrelevant sites, and this can harm the SEO ranking of the website that receives them.

6. Websites That Are Not Actively Managed

Websites that are not actively managed or abandoned by their owners are vulnerable to toxic backlink attacks. Hackers or automatic bots can take advantage of this website's weaknesses to plant detrimental backlinks.

7. Unethical Competitor Actions

In tight business competition, some competitors may use unethical tactics to harm your website's SEO ranking. This could include sending toxic backlinks or launching negative campaigns to reduce your site's reputation.

8. Search Engine Algorithm Updates

Search engine algorithm updates like Google can cause sudden changes in backlink assessment. Backlinks that were previously considered useful can become toxic after an algorithm update, thereby affecting website rankings.

9. Human Error

Lastly, human error such as accidentally placing backlinks on unrelated or untrusted websites can also be the cause of toxic backlinks. Mistakes in backlink building strategies can have a negative impact on a website's SEO ranking.

How do you fix toxic backlinks?

Like a disease, websites that are found to have toxic and low-quality backlinks must be treated immediately to avoid a more dangerous situation. To overcome this, you can take the following methods:

1. Backlink Audit

A backlink audit is an evaluation of all links leading to a website to identify backlinks that are considered toxic and of low quality. A backlink audit can be performed using analysis tools such as Google Search Console, Ahrefs, or Moz.

2. Contact the Website Owner

After identifying backlinks that are considered toxic and low quality, contact the owner of the relevant website. Submit a request to remove backlinks that are deemed irrelevant or unwanted. Provide clear information about the backlinks that need to be removed.

3. Remove Toxic Links

Removing toxic links can be done manually or using the Google Disavow Tool. Google Disavow Tool is a disavow tool provided by Google to inform Google that you do not want to be associated with links that are considered toxic or irrelevant.

How to Remove Toxic Links

1. Focus only on toxic links

Google has a toxic link removal tool, and plays an important role in determining your site's ranking. However, using this tool must be done carefully. Because if used carelessly, existing good links will also be deleted. The result is actually fatal, because the ranking of your website or blog can decrease.

So, first make sure that the link you want to delete is truly toxic. You should check all these links to identify which ones have a bad influence on your blog or website. Then ask Google to remove the toxic link.

Having too many links is not always good. Because only quality links sourced from websites that have high domain and page authority have a direct effect on your website ranking.

You must also understand this, right?

However, you don't need to be paranoid either. Just manage it naturally, if the core of your blog or website is good, you need to get rid of a lot of toxic links to bring it down.

2. Contact the website owner first

After knowing what links need to be deleted, now you have to know the process of eliminating these links. Previously, you had to access your own profile backlinks using the Google Webmaster Tools tool. From this tool, you can see all incoming links, the anchor text used, and more. Pay attention to whether there are problematic links, then prioritize them.

You can also find out toxic links that enter your blog or website, with the help of SEMRush. Coincidentally, in my case, I asked Mas Febriyan Lukito to check with SEMRush. And then he, who was polite, kind and not arrogant, gave me a detailed list of toxic links that I had to "work on". 

Not only that, he also gave me potential toxic links, for me to search for one by one. Everything has been put together in an Excel file. It's neat, I just click and click on the link.

Of course, I use his services professionally. If you want it to be easy, without any headaches, that's right, it's better to just contact an expert. So, you just have to execute it now..

Once you get the list, immediately contact the owners of the backlinks and ask them to delete the existing links.

This method is actually the method recommended by Google. Because you have tried to contact and delete the existing link carefully. This is also beneficial for the website owners themselves, because they then become "aware" that the website or blog they own turns out to have a "disease", and must be repaired immediately.

3. Use the Disavow Tool

Well, but in one situation or another, sometimes it is not possible to contact the website owner. So, this is where the disavow tool is useful.

But, disclaimer first. This method is better used by those who really understand it, especially if you are absolutely certain that the link you want to delete is a truly toxic link. If you don't know how to use it, it's better not to. Or, if you're not sure if the link is really a toxic link or not.

How to Remove Toxic Links

  • Open Google's Disavow Tool.
  • Make sure you have Google Search Console, and it is properly installed on your website or blog. If not, install it and verify it first, Marimar.
  • Prepare a list of toxic links that you want to delete. Prepare it in .txt format. Not .xls format, let alone .pdf. Use NOTEPAD, one link one line.
  • Click on "Select Property", and select the blog where the toxic links exist.
  • The "Upload Disavow List" button will appear, click it. Select the prepared .txt file, then click "Open".
  • Next, the file will be uploaded.

After the file is uploaded, all you have to do is wait until Google disavows it.

FYI, this disavow process can be fast, but it can also take a long time, because Google takes time to check your website or blog all over again. The effects of deleting this link may only be felt within a few months.


Toxic backlinks are a serious threat to your website's ranking and reputation on search engines. By implementing the guide above, of course you no longer need to worry about toxic backlinks, right?

However, if you are still unsure and have problems dealing with toxic backlinks, the next step you can choose is to consult with an expert SEO service. So, that's how to deal with it--more precisely--delete toxic links from your blog or website. Hopefully it's clear enough. See you in the next article.

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