5 Tips To Find And Fix Toxic Backlinks

5 Tips To Find And Fix Toxic Backlinks

You spend a lot of time crafting an informative and authoritative blog article, only to have it overshadowed by a barely relevant link on some spammy website. Sometimes it can feel like an all-or-nothing battle, but with a bit of strategic planning and analysis, you can ensure that your content rises above the noise and becomes the go-to source for your niche.

Often, the damage caused by a spammy backlink is limited to SEO. However, in some cases, the backlink can serve as a doorway to an entire network of malicious actors who want to exploit your site’s visitors. In this article, we’ll cover how to find these threats, as well as how to fix them.

The Anatomy Of A Toxic Or Spammy Backlink

To understand how a spammy backlink works, we have to go back to the early days of SEO, when search engines were little more than glorified directories, and links were the key to ranking. Naturally, as search engines became more complex, spammers took note and started trying to game the system using questionable tactics. One of the first and worst spammy link schemes was the anchor text (AT) tactic, where spammers would try and stuff as many words as possible into a link tag to manipulate the search engines.

Most SEOs and webmasters have learned to disavow these types of links and attachments simply. However, there is a more sinister form of spammy backlink that can escape detection. This kind of spam uses invisible links, also known as cloaks, to ensure its trackers are unnoticeable. When a user clicks on a URL listed in a tracker, the browser tells the server hosting the link to reveal the destination. In most cases, the server then delivers the content at the end of the URL. Sometimes, the server may send a different kind of content or a malicious script.

As you can imagine, these links can be quite the SEO pain. Not only do they obscure your actual article’s URL, but they can also lead to other issues, like website hosting malware or a sudden drop in rankings due to a penalty from a search engine. Needless to say, this is not something you want to allow on your site. Luckily, there are ways you can protect yourself and your content from this type of damage. Let’s take a look.

How To Fix A Spammy Backlink

In the example above, the spammy link has forced the name of your article to the top of the search engine’s list. However, it has also caused other issues. For one, the irrelevant link delivers content at the end of the URL, which means your article will also be delivered. Not only is this a waste of time for your reader, but it also means you are creating more work for the web host.

One of the easiest ways to fix this type of issue is simply removing the link. Sometimes, all it takes is a quick email to the site’s owner or webmaster. If that doesn’t work, then contact the host to complain. Remember: the onus is on the spammer to prove that he is a legitimate site and that the link belongs there. Fortunately, most hosts will listen and remove the link or block it from being delivered in the future.

Removing or blocking a spammy backlink is only half the battle. Sometimes, all it takes for the search engines to recognize your article is fresh content is simply keeping it updated and relevant. You may consider doing this through relevant external and internal links.

When a user visits your site, they may come across other articles that pertain to what they are searching for. If these articles are helpful and provide value, the search engine may consider your content useful and send future visitors back to your page. This is known as link-earning and is considered highly beneficial for SEO. Google encourages webmasters to build a steady stream of inbound links, which help search engines determine the quality of your content.

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Keep in mind that not all backlinks are created equal. You should only work with reputable websites that are relevant to your niche. Avoid getting linked to sites that are known to be spammy. Otherwise, you are risking your SEO success.

Why Are These Links Considered Harmful?

Whether you realize it or not, every link you accrue can eventually hurt you. These links are harmful because they often point to spammy websites with little value. Naturally, search engines consider these websites scams and try to distance themselves from these links as much as possible. This is why learning to identify and avoid these types of sites is important when doing your research. In SEO, these links are often referred to as spam.

Naturally, you don’t want your content to be associated with these sites, as they are often used as a doorway to other, more malicious spammy sites. These links are often delivered alongside malware and annoying ads, making them even more dangerous.

Tips for finding and fixing toxic backlinks

If you’re starting to feel like you’re doing all the work only to find that everything is going wrong, it’s time to hit the brakes. Maybe you’re not making the right adjustments or implementing the right tactics, or even if you are, something isn’t adding up. It could be that something is going unnoticed or even wrongly attributed because of false or inaccurate information.

Toxic backlinks are one of bloggers’ and website owners’ most frustrating issues. When the wrong or inaccurate information is planted on a forum or article directory, it can lead to a huge problem for the affected site.

Here are some of the most effective tips for finding and fixing toxic backlinks:

1. Look for unnatural links

When Google discovered that some webmasters were manipulating their rankings by creating fake news articles and distributing them through online newspapers and social media, their response was quick and ruthless. Google has since been known to deindex sites for getting involved in this behavior.

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If you suspect your site might be compromised this way, your first port of call should be Google Search Console. This tool can alert you to harmful links that aren’t part of your normal routine. You might find a link that seems unrelated to your business, but clicking on it could potentially bring you a visitor or lead.

You should also review your site’s link profile in your website’s link audit. Remember that it can be hard to find bad links without using any software. You can use the manual tool or the free Ahrefs tool to do this. You might need to look in a bit of a blind spot – the places nobody would ever go to, such as forums, review sites, and blog comment areas – to unearth these unwanted links.

2. Review your site’s content for accuracy

Another important step is to ensure that the content you’re distributing is correct and up to date. Even if you’ve been doing your job diligently and built a reputable company, your website can still thrive with a steady stream of quality content.

You might find hundreds of outdated blog posts and articles that needed an accurate product or service description, and many products and services weren’t even mentioned. When an audit isn’t conducted regularly, it can be easy to neglect this important step. However, doing this once a month or even once a week can help mitigate the risk of significant content errors.

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3. Use your site’s audit reports effectively

Once you’ve done the above, it’s time to take a long, hard look at the results. In the example above, it’s easy to see that hundreds of blog posts and articles need to be either removed or updated. These are the results of a content audit that Wasame.com ran on their site. While it’s not always this easy, you should see a significant uptick in your searches once you’ve fixed the problems.

4. Find out how many words are in your article

The next step is to determine the word count of your content. Remember that this can vary widely based on the software you’re using and your chosen setting. However, if you’ve ever tried to post an article and discovered that it was rejected because it was too long, you’ll know there’s a right length for each type of article. For instance, if you’re writing about a product you’ve used or tested, there’s no need to include every little detail about your experience.

Whatever the length, if you can figure out how many words are in your content and avoid going over, you’ll be able to create the perfect-length article that your editor will love.

5. Monitor your site’s rankings

Finally, you must carefully monitor your site’s rankings in Google and other search engines. If you’ve gone through the above steps and fixed your site’s problems, this step shouldn’t be too much effort. Check in once a week or every two weeks to see if you’ve noticed any significant changes.

If you’ve implemented the above tips and suggestions, thank your lucky stars because it’s time to party! You’ve earned it.

Managing Risk With Keywords

If you’re worried about a specific link causing harm to your SEO, then you can try and take out a keywords insurance policy. A keywords insurance policy is a third-party coverage that pays for all the damage caused by sponsored or bad links tied to certain keywords. Some companies that provide this coverage are Blue Shield Digital, SEMRush, and Chitika.

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You might also consider pursuing a PBN (private blog network). A private blog network is a collection of blogs and websites owned and operated by a single company that acts as a middleman. This network allows each blog and website in the group to link to one another, thereby improving the overall relevancy of the content.

A PBN can be useful for an established business with a clear online identity. Once you’ve built up a sizable audience, you can use a PBN to your advantage and encourage other blogs and websites in your network to link to your page. You can then use the gained awareness and inbound links to improve your SEO and boost your web presence.

The Importance Of Building A Relevant Social Media Following

One of the most effective ways to improve your SEO is to build a social media following. Your social media followers will have the ability to spread the word about your content, thereby increasing the likelihood of that content being found by potential customers.

If you’ve got a sizable audience on one of these platforms, it’s worth considering pursuing sponsored posts or collaborations for further exposure. A sponsored post is when a brand pays you to post about its product or service. In most cases, you must mention the brand in the post to verify its authenticity. Collaborations are when related brands work together to promote and grow their presence through a single post.

As you can imagine, there are quite a lot of measures that you can take to protect yourself from the harm of a spammy backlink. Naturally, only some links will be good, but you can minimize the damage through smart research and strategic linking.

About the Author

Tom Koh

Tom is the CEO and Principal Consultant of MediaOne, a leading digital marketing agency. He has consulted for MNCs like Canon, Maybank, Capitaland, SingTel, ST Engineering, WWF, Cambridge University, as well as Government organisations like Enterprise Singapore, Ministry of Law, National Galleries, NTUC, e2i, SingHealth. His articles are published and referenced in CNA, Straits Times, MoneyFM, Financial Times, Yahoo! Finance, Hubspot, Zendesk, CIO Advisor.


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