There was a time in SEO that marketers would recommend you buy links to build up your backlink profile – a black hat SEO technique. However, since Google Penguin was introduced in 2012, websites who have used such tactics will find their website have been punished for doing so. Now, not every website will have done this or removed such links from their site already, but have lingering spammy links left on websites not considered trustworthy.
While Google has improved its algorithms over the years and is better at ignoring spam links, it’s always good SEO practice to clean up your backlinks from time to time. In this guide, you will find out how to find and remove spam links from your website.
Spam Links to Avoid
Before we break down finding and removing links, it’s important to understand the links you want to avoid having in your backlink profile. Every link irrelevant to your website is a bad backlink – the exception to this is if you have a link from a large publication (The Guardian, Daily Mail etc).
There are some types of backlink types that you never want connected with your site, including:
- Links from domains that have been penalised
- Links from link directories and link farms
- Links from “bad neighbourhoods” such as porn, pharmaceutical, and online gambling
- Links from foreign language sites
- Large number of links from sites unrelated to yours
- Large amount of exact-match anchor text links
Building links from penalised domains is obviously poisonous to a site. Thankfully, Google knows that anybody who wants to rank high would build links in this way, so ignore them completely.
Exact-match anchor texts and links from foreign sites are seen differently by Google. To them, you could easily build these yourself to manipulate rankings. You could be penalised with a penalty or manual action, so it’s best to clean these up if you have any.
Finding Your Spammy Links
There are various tools available for identifying toxic backlinks that you wish to remove. Whichever one you choose, including Ahrefs, SEMRush and Majestic to name a few, you will want to gather a list of your current backlinks.
Every tool you use will display all your links similarly to Ahrefs, as shown above. Here you can analyse each domain, view the traffic it brings to your site and the trust flow and citation flow for the domain and URL – this is known as URL rating and domain rating in Ahrefs.
It is from these scores where you can judge whether you want to keep a link from that site or not. The higher the trust and citation flow, the better the link is to your site.
SEMRush can run a backlink audit which gives you a clear measure on which links it considers being potentially toxic. The information it gives you can be improved if you link your SEMRush account with Google Search Console.
It’s easier to analyse all link data in a spreadsheet, so look out for “Export” on each tool so that you can gather the information in Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel.
Request Removal from Website
After analysing your backlinks, you will have selected the links you wish to remove. Google recommends that you request your removal from a site, before you ask them to ignore the link.
However, the chances of getting a low-quality backlink removed from an offending website are pretty much zero. Most of the time, you won’t be able to find the contact information of the webmaster who has access to the site. Some won’t have a page where you can get in touch with them.
You can use https://www.whois.com/whois to see if you can track down the owner of a site.
If you find an email that you can use to contact the website owner on, you can request your link is removed. The likelihood is, you won’t get a response to your request.
Create and Submit a Disavow File to Google
You can skip the above step altogether and submit a disavow file to Google. This is a list that you create containing all the links you want Google’s search engine to ignore. Once created as a text file, it can be submitted through Search Console. You can either select specific URLs to ignore, or you can go broad and ask Google to ignore links from one domain entirely.
It’s important that you are extra careful with the links that you submit in your disavow. Accidentally submitting a high-quality link would be hugely damaging to your rankings.
Remember earlier when we said to export your backlinks from tools? It’s in those spreadsheets where you will do your thorough analysis to ensure links you want Google to ignore are included.
Once submitted, you have to be patient. It takes time for the document to be processed, so all you can do is wait for it to have a positive impact on your rankings.
Ahrefs created a video on how to Disavow links while using their tool:
Get Support to find and remove Spam Links
You should check regularly to see if spammy backlinks are having negative effects on your website. We understand that it’s not possible for you to keep on top, which is why you should work with an SEO agency who has the knowledge and tools to do this for you.
Get in touch with the team today to see how we can help remove spam links and build a link profile that will see increases in site’s rankings.