Cleaning Up Your Site: How to Identify and Remove Bad Backlinks

Are your backlinks hurting your Google rankings?

Google processes approximately 40,000 searches every single second. Where your content appears in these search results, however, depends on your backlinks.

High-quality backlinks can increase your odds of ranking highly in Google results. But bad backlinks can send your content to the end of these results, where few searchers look.

They even can result in Google penalties if you aren’t careful.

Luckily, it is possible to identify and remove bad backlinks to keep your pristine Google rankings intact. Keep reading to find out how!

Backlinks 101

First things first, what are backlinks?

Backlinks are links to your website that appear on other sites.

It’s helpful to think about backlinks as votes of confidence in your site. Backlinks indicate that other sites trust your content. Quality sites are only likely to include external links of value or authority.

For this reason, the number and quality of your backlinks can impact Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Basically, the more high-quality backlinks you have, the greater your domain authority (DA). And sites with higher DAs are more likely to rank highly in Google search results.

This is why many businesses spend time and resources cultivating a healthy collection of quality backlinks. Doing so can dramatically improve your online visibility!

What to Know About Bad Backlinks

Unfortunately, it’s also possible to get bad backlinks. These are external links to your site that can harm your rankings (and domain authority).

There are several types of bad backlinks. Some are worse than others, but all of them have the potential to wreak havoc on your SEO metrics and SERP rankings.

Most of these come from spam domains or those Google deems as “low-quality.” For the purposes of this article, we’ll call these shady websites.

Sometimes these bad backlinks are unintentional. In other cases, however, they are deliberate attempts to tank other sites’ domain authorities.

Yes, it is possible to have a handful of bad backlinks that don’t impact your rankings. But all bad backlinks are risky, meaning that they could result in a Google penalty.

Google penalties can absolutely destroy your SERP rankings. While you can recover from one, it takes a while, and your SEO efforts may all go down the drain.

How to Identify and Remove Bad Backlinks

It’s very common to run across bad backlinks, so don’t worry if you have some! Plus, anyone can identify and remove bad backlinks if they follow these simple steps.

1. Check Your Links

Start by checking your list of current backlinks. There are many ways to do this, but the simplest is to start with Google itself.

If you haven’t done so already, set up your account on Google Search Console. If you already have a Google Analytics account, all you have to do is use your GA login information to access Console.

In Console, you’ll have to claim your property (i.e., your website). Add your domain name and follow the steps for verifying ownership.

Next, upload your website’s sitemap. This is not mandatory, but it will ensure that Google is indexing your site appropriately.

Once you have access to Google Search Console, you’ll be able to view your site’s existing backlinks.

Check your links by clicking on “Search Appearance” in the upper left-hand corner of your Console account. Navigate to “Search Traffic” and then “Links to Your Site.”

Once here, you can check out the most recent links to your site, including anchor texts. You can even download a file of your existing backlinks from Console itself.

We recommend checking this list regularly as a part of your SEO backlinking strategy.

2. Identify Bad Backlinks

Bad backlinks may not always be readily apparent. However, as you inspect your list of existing links, be on the lookout for these types of bad backlinks.

Link Directories

These are sites established with the sole intention of gaming the SEO system. They often include a random collection of articles that don’t seem to go together.

In some cases, they may just include lists of mismatched site links. Luckily, link directories are fairly obvious to recognize–by both humans and web crawlers.

Multiple Anchor Texts and Duplicate Content

Inspect the anchor texts for your URLs. Do a lot of sites use the same exact anchors? Word-for-word anchor text duplication is a red flag.

If a website has duplicate content–i.e., several copies of the same post–it is likely a shady site.

Comment Links

Bad backlinks can take the form of links in the comments on other websites.

These aren’t always recognizable, because spammy comments are getting less and less obvious! A lot of these come from “spambots.” Read comments fully to gauge their credibility.

3. Remove Bad Backlinks

There are several ways to get rid of these bad backlinks once identified. Some of these steps are easier than others.

Contact the Site’s Owner

Reach out to the owner of the website with a bad backlink and request removal. Usually, this means finding the owner’s contact information and sending a polite email.

However, sometimes site owners don’t respond. Others may even ask you to pay for link removal! In this case, it’s important to disavow these links.

Disavow Links on Google

Disavowing links means telling Google you don’t want it to look at certain links when ranking your site. This is a great option for bad backlinks that you just can’t get rid of manually.

Check out Google’s guidelines for disavowing links here.

Get Rid of Your Own 404 Pages

If you have any 404 or Error pages on your own site, these could actually be contributing to your list of bad backlinks. Instead of reaching out to sites that have linked to these pages, remove your error pages.

It’s also wise to disavow these links once you have removed those pages.

4. Check Often

A high-quality link-building campaign requires constant vigilance. Check your links often and remove bad backlinks as they arise.

And don’t forget to keep building those other high-quality links in the interim!

Final Thoughts

Now you know all about identifying and removing bad backlinks. But what about building those high-quality links?

At Best Quality Backlinks, we are excited to help you launch your link-building campaign. We’ll help you bypass those low-quality links so that your rankings soar.

Interested in learning more? Give us a shout today!

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