Website owners and SEO professionals go to tremendous measures to get their sites listed on Google’s and other search engines’ first pages.
Unscrupulous competitors, on the other hand, are not above waging negative SEO campaigns against top-ranking websites.
These attacks aren’t as hazardous as they formerly were, but if done correctly, they can still have long-term detrimental effects on a site’s organic ranking.
Negative SEO can take many forms, however, it usually consists of a mix of the following strategies:
The most popular approach for dethroning top performers is to build spammy backlinks (also known as ‘bad’ or ‘toxic’ links) to a website.
As this 2018 Search Engine Roundtable poll shows, a significant number of SEO experts (for lack of a better phrase) have used these strategies at some point in their careers.
Google has become a lot smarter in recent years, and it now entirely ignores a lot of these bogus backlinks.
Matt Cutts, the former chief of Google’s webspam division, made an official statement.
Even so, cleaning your link profile and removing the bad links regularly is a good idea, as some of them may be slipping past Google’s webspam net.
Except for editorial connections from prominent media, nearly every link that is irrelevant to your website falls into the category of bad backlinks.
However, there are particular types of backlinks that you should never associate with your website:
The danger of links from penalized domains and websites promoting counterfeit Viagra is obvious: they are poisonous, and establishing a house next to a junkyard is analogous.
Thankfully, Google understands that no one attempting to rank well would purposefully generate these links, so they normally disregard them.
Exact-match anchor text links and links from foreign sites are a different matter; these may simply be built by you to manipulate results, according to Google.
This could result in an algorithmic penalty or a manual action, which is why it’s best to try to get rid of them as quickly as possible.
Ahrefs, Moz, SEMRush, and Monitor Backlinks are all beneficial for this because they identify all links that satisfy their definitions of a ‘toxic’ link.
Monitor Backlinks can display you everything from Moz’s spam score to Ahrefs’ Domain Authority, which is useful when a link is wavering between “spammy” and “likely harmless.”
Try to discover an export option for whatever program you’re using to identify your poor links.
A downloadable CSV file will allow you to sort and order the data, which will help you decide which websites to contact first to request that their links to your site be removed.
However, the chances of successfully removing a low-quality backlink by politely requesting the offending webmaster are slim to none.
However, it is a step that Google needs you to perform before asking them to disregard the link, so you should give it a shot.
You won’t be able to find the contact information of the individual who has access to that website in nearly 90% of circumstances.
Most won’t even have a general contact page where you can send an email; if that’s the case, try using WHOIS Domain Lookup to find out who owns the domain.
You’ll receive something similar, but most of the time the listed name won’t ring a bell (as it did in this case), and the listing won’t have an email address.
If you find an email address that you can use but don’t receive a response, you should contact the hosting firm and request that the poisonous backlinks you’ve detected be removed.
In most circumstances, they will be able to assist you.
Use WhoIsHostingThis to find out which firm is hosting a website.
At the end of the day, you’ll almost certainly need to use Google’s ‘Disavow Links’ tool to resolve your link spam issue –
Matt Cutts explains what it is and how it works here.
It’s a basic program that lets you import a text file containing all the links you wish Google to ignore (through Google Search Console).
You can use it to save individual URLs, or you can use it to tell Google to ignore all links from a specific domain.
Use the Disavow Links tool with caution and only after conducting a thorough examination of your backlink profile –
the last thing you want to do is disavow high-quality connections, which will have a detrimental influence on your organic results.
After you’ve submitted your file, be patient – it takes time for it to processed,
and all you can do now is wait for your rankings to slowly improve.
The Disavow Links Tool from Ahrefs has a full video guide on how to identify harmful backlinks and create and upload a disavow file.
While I believe Google is doing everything it can to prevent the harmful effects of bad SEO on websites,
I still believe it is sensible and vital to conduct a backlink audit and remove spammy connections regularly.
When done regularly, it’s a simple enough task that might save you a lot of trouble in the future.