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Backlink Removal: Weed Out Bad Links to Boost SEO Health

Julia McCoy
Friday, 26th Apr 2024
backlink removal

Ever found yourself puzzled by the sudden drop in your website’s search engine rankings? You’re not alone. The culprit could be low-quality or toxic backlinks pointing to your site.

Yes, not all backlinks are good news; some can actually harm your SEO efforts more than help them. This is where the art of backlink removal comes into play – a critical process every website owner should know about to maintain or recover their site’s health and search visibility.

Don’t worry, backlink removal is not as daunting as it sounds. With some diligence and the right approach, you can clean up your link profile and lay down a strong foundation for improved search engine rankings.

Table Of Contents:

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of how to identify and remove bad backlinks, first let’s understand what they are.

Bad backlinks, also known as toxic backlinks or unnatural links, are links from low-quality, spammy, or irrelevant websites that can harm your website’s search engine rankings.

These links are often created through link schemes, automated programs, or by placing links in blog comments. The main intent behind such links is to manipulate search engines rather than provide value to users.

Some common examples of bad backlinks include:

  • Links from link farms or private blog networks (PBNs)
  • Links from websites with thin or duplicate content
  • Links from websites that are not relevant to your niche
  • Links with over-optimized anchor texts
  • Links from websites with a high spam score

Unnatural links are those that attempt to manipulate search engines by artificially increasing the number of links pointing to a website. Some examples are:

  • Paid links or links acquired through link exchanges or link networks
  • Links from low-quality directories or bookmark sites
  • Links from article directories with spun or low-quality content
  • Links from press releases distributed on low-quality PR sites
  • Sitewide links such as in the footer or sidebar of a website

In contrast, good backlinks are those that are earned naturally by creating high-quality, valuable content that other websites want to link to. Some examples include:

  • Editorial links from reputable websites in your industry
  • Links from guest posts on high-quality, relevant blogs
  • Links from resource pages or roundup posts that curate the best content on a topic
  • Links earned through public relations and media coverage
  • Links from influencers or thought leaders in your niche

The key difference between quality backlinks and toxic backlinks is the intent behind them. Good links are earned through merit and provide value to users, while bad links are created solely to game the system.

backlink removal

Image Source: Ahrefs

Now that you know what bad backlinks are, the next step is to identify them in your website’s backlink profile. Here are a few ways to do that:

Use Google Search Console

Google Search Console is a free tool that helps you monitor and maintain your website’s presence in Google search results. It also provides valuable insights into your website’s backlink profile.

To identify bad backlinks using Search Console:

  1. Go to the “Links” report under the “Legacy tools and reports” section
  2. Check the “Top linking sites” and “Top linking pages” reports for any suspicious or low-quality domains
  3. Look for links with over-optimized anchor text in the “Top linking text” report
  4. If you see any manual actions related to unnatural links, they’ll be reported in the “Manual Actions” section

Conduct a Backlink Audit

To get a more comprehensive view of your backlink profile, you can use third-party tools like Ahrefs, Majestic, or Moz Link Explorer. These tools crawl the web and provide detailed reports on the links pointing to your website.

backlink removal

Example of a backlink audit from Semrush

When conducting a backlink audit, look for red flags such as:

  • Links from websites with a high spam score or low domain authority
  • Links from irrelevant or off-topic websites
  • Links with exact match or over-optimized anchor text
  • Links from foreign language websites or those with suspicious TLDs
  • Sudden spikes in the number of backlinks coming to your website

In addition to auditing your existing backlink profile, it’s crucial to monitor new links that your website acquires over time. Tools like SEOptimer or Ahrefs Alerts can notify you whenever your website gains or loses a backlink.

By keeping an eye on your inbound link profile, you can quickly identify and remove bad backlinks before they have a chance to harm your website’s search engine rankings.

Google Manual Actions

So, you’ve identified some toxic backlinks in your website’s link profile. What’s the big deal, you might ask?

Well, having bad backlinks can lead to some serious repercussions for your website’s SEO and online reputation.

One of the most severe consequences of having bad backlinks is receiving manual action from Google. A manual action is a penalty imposed by a human reviewer at Google when they determine that a website is violating their webmaster guidelines.

If your website is hit with a manual action due to unnatural links, you’ll see a message in your Google Search Console account. The message will outline the specific issues with your website and provide steps to resolve them.

Here’s an example of a manual action alert from Google:

backlink removal

Until you fix the issues and submit a reconsideration request, your website may be partially or completely removed from Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs).

Impact on Search Engine Rankings

Even if your website doesn’t receive manual action, having a significant number of bad backlinks can still negatively impact your ranking position on search engines. Google’s search algorithms are designed to identify and devalue unnatural linking patterns.

If search engine spiders (also known as web crawlers) detect a high proportion of low-quality or spammy links pointing to your website, they may conclude that your website is trying to manipulate the rankings. As a result, your website may be algorithmically demoted in the SERPs.

A study by Backlinko found that the number of referring domains (unique websites linking to a page) and the DR (Domain Rating) of linking websites both have a strong correlation with higher rankings. In other words, the quality and diversity of your backlink profile can significantly impact your search engine visibility.

Violating Google Webmaster Guidelines

Google’s webmaster guidelines clearly state that participating in link schemes to manipulate PageRank is a violation that can lead to a penalty. Some examples of link schemes include:

  • Buying or selling links that pass PageRank
  • Excessive link exchanges or partner pages exclusively for cross-linking
  • Using automated programs or services to create links to your website
  • Requiring a link as part of a Terms of Service, contract, or similar arrangement

If Google detects that your website is engaging in any of these practices, you may receive a manual action or algorithmic demotion. The consequences can be severe and long-lasting, as it can take a significant amount of time and effort to recover from a penalty.

To avoid violating webmaster guidelines, focus on creating high-quality content that naturally attracts links from reputable and relevant websites. Steer clear of any tactics that aim to manipulate search engine rankings through artificial or unnatural linking patterns.

So a backlink audit has revealed some issues with your backlink structure. What now?

It’s time to take action and get those toxic links removed. Here’s how to do it:

Contact Webmasters

The first step in backlink removal is to reach out to the webmasters of the sites linking to you and politely ask them to remove the links. You can use tools like to find their email addresses. Send a friendly email explaining which links you’d like removed and why.

Keep detailed records of all your correspondence. Many webmasters will comply with your request, but some may not respond or may refuse to remove the links.

Use Google’s Disavow Tool

For stubborn links that you can’t get removed manually, Google’s Disavow Tool is your next step. This tool lets you upload a disavow file (disavow.txt) specifying links or domains you want Google to ignore when evaluating your site.

Be very careful when using this tool as disavowing the wrong links may harm your site. It’s best to disavow at the domain level where possible. Only disavow individual links or domains after manual removal efforts have failed.

Document the Process

Throughout the backlink removal process, keep meticulous records of all your efforts. Document every link you want tor remove, all webmaster contact attempts, and any successful backlink removals.

If you end up needing to file a reconsideration request with Google after a manual action, having thorough documentation will help prove that you’ve made a genuine effort to clean up your link profile. The more detailed your records, the better.

Of course, the best way to deal with bad backlinks is to avoid getting them in the first place. Here are some proactive steps you can take to prevent toxic links from infecting your site:

Focus your link-building strategies on building high-quality links from authoritative, relevant websites in your industry. Create link-worthy content that naturally attracts editorial links, such as original research, infographics, or ultimate guides.

Reach out to influencers or journalists in your niche and build genuine relationships. Avoid any temptation to take shortcuts or engage in manipulative link-building tactics. Earning quality links takes time and effort, but it’s worth it.

Monitor Your Link Profile

Vigilantly monitoring your backlink profile can help you spot any bad links early before they cause serious issues. Use tools like Google Search Console, Ahrefs, or Majestic to regularly audit your link profile and look for any suspicious new links.

Set up alerts to get notified of any new links. If you catch bad links quickly, you can often mitigate any negative impact by having them removed right away.

Avoid Link Schemes

Google is clear that participating in link schemes can lead to penalties. As such, it’s critical to avoid any of the link schemes Google describes, including buying or selling links, excessive link exchanges, using automated link creation tools, and more.

Focus on earning natural, editorially-placed links rather than trying to manipulate rankings through unnatural link building. When in doubt about a link-building tactic, refer to Google’s guidelines or consult an SEO professional.

If you are outsourcing your link-building process, be sure to hire an agency with a solid reputation for white-hat link-building practices.

FAQs – Backlink Removal

Can backlinks be removed?

Yes, you can get rid of bad backlinks. Reach out to site owners directly or use Google’s Disavow Tool as a last resort.

Clean your link profile by auditing for toxic links and asking webmasters to take them down. Use disavow if needed.

How do I remove bad backlinks from Google?

To scrub toxic links from Google, pinpoint the baddies with tools like Search Console, then either request removals or disavow them.

Create a list of harmful links and submit it through Google’s Disavow Tool. Make sure this is your final move after trying removal requests.


Managing your backlink profile is an essential aspect of maintaining a healthy and authoritative online presence. Whether it’s disavowing harmful links or directly reaching out to webmasters for backlink removal, being proactive in managing your backlinks can safeguard your website’s reputation and search engine rankings.

Remember, while the process may be time-consuming, the benefits of a clean backlink profile far outweigh the challenges. Stay vigilant, stay proactive, and watch your website soar.

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Written by Julia McCoy

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