How to Find and Remove Spammy Backlinks

7 min read
3 Nov 2023
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Find and Remove Spammy Backlinks


Spammy links are bad for SEO. In an attempt to harm your site’s SEO, someone can send suspicious links from a number of domains or, if you have run a campaign for paid links, it can trigger Google’s spam rules against your site’s backlink profile.

Let’s learn how you can identify and track your site’s spam links using a manual approach, Google Search Console, and Google’s Disavow tool.

The incoming links from low-authority sites are considered spammy backlinks. In general, bad links are prime suspects in ranking drops, Google penalties, and de-indexing of pages from search pages.

However, Google has officially confirmed that “you can safely deal spammy backlinks from malicious websites and keep your site safe from possible complications”.

Spammy links may affect your site’s SEO if you fail to track them down on time. For example, Google Search Console shows periodic alerts and recommendations about bad links to your site.

Official recommendations from Google’s search advocate, John Mueller state that “spammy links from malicious domains, if disavowed on time don’t affect a site’s SEO rankings”.

Suspicious links originate from low-quality sites, such as Private Blog Networks (PBN). Similarly, a site with a high spam score is also considered a suspect for spammy backlinks.

Regardless of the above measures, a site that repeats linking to a specific domain can also trigger spam detection on Google.

Bad links from malicious domains can affect a site’s SEO. If you’ve been ignoring spam alerts in Google Search Console, the consequences could lead your site to a drop in search rankings.

Google can also de-index your whole site from search pages. Any complication about spammy links is triggered by Google’s algorithm stated in Google’s update about bad links, Penguin 2012.

Manual Approach

Google Search Console helps you manually track and fix harmful links from malicious domains. Once logged into GSC, the Security and Manual Actions -> Manual Actions page shows manually applied penalties against your site.

Manual Actions Gsc
GSC, Manual Actions page

Here, you can learn more about manual alerts, descriptions, and “how to fix” information. Once you’ve taken the necessary measures, you can submit your site for a manual review.

WordPress dashboard also helps you identify spammy backlinks. For example, comments on your blog posts help you know about spam links. Once a user leaves a comment and inserts a spammy backlink, the WordPress Discussions page can help you spot links in the dashboard alerts.

Similarly, if ping-backs are enabled for posts in WordPress, you will receive a notification when someone links back to your content.

SEO Tools

SEO Tools like Semrush and Ahrefs help webmasters find and track down toxic backlinks. Based on the number of bad links, tools can help you assess your site’s spam score for your backlink profile.

You can also find your site’s spam score with the Moz Spam Checker. Spam Score tells you how many bad links your site has. The score accumulates to a number which represents your site’s spam score.

Here is how to check your site’s spam score with Moz.

Once you have logged into a Moz account, you can proceed to check your site’s spam score. Enter your site address and the tool will show the number of backlinks with a calculated spam score.

Spam Score Mz
Moz Spam Score

Removing toxic links from a site’s backlink profile is mandatory for a clean SEO strategy. To get started, you can directly contact the linking site and ask them to remove the suspicious links to your site.

Initial Steps

As Google suggests to confirm your links’ equity, make sure you have identified, which backlinks are harming your site’s value.

Instead, removing backlinks that are contributing to positive SEO metrics could lead your site to a ranking disaster.

To proceed, compile a list of links pointing to your site. Based on certain complications regarding SEO, you should decide for each backlink, if it benefits or harms your site’s overall SEO. You can compile a list with SEO tools like Semrush or Ahrefs.

Google Disavow Tool

In case you don’t want to contact the linking site’s administrators, you can use Google’s Disavow Tool to let Google know about your site’s toxic links.

Note: Removing a spammy link manually is the first option to go. If for some reason, you’re unable to remove them yourself, use Google’s disavow tool.

Google suggests that “you should only use the Disavow tool if you think bad links from malicious sites could trigger manual actions in Google Search Console”. In simple words, if you’re seeing manual alerts in GSC, you can proceed to use Google’s Disavow tool.

Let’s describe how you can disavow links using Google’s disavow tool.

First, create a list of URLs to disavow. Google’s tool supports text files for grouping spammy links. Once you have created a text file that includes bad links, one link per line, you can upload the file to Google’s disavow tool. Additional instructions on how to compile and upload a text file for spammy links can be found here.

Google Disavow Tool
Google Disavow Tool

Once you’ve uploaded a text file, you can see whether or not your file contains errors. The file can only be applied to the currently selected property in your Google Search Console account (in case you have multiple properties).

If the file contains errors, you will be asked to remove errors and re-upload the file. If the upload process goes normal, the process will take a few weeks for Google. Meanwhile, you may still see the entries on the Google Search Console’s manual actions page.

Manual approach

The manual approach proceeds with blogger outreach to remove spammy backlinks. In this case, you can manually reach out to bloggers or site owners who have linked back to your site.

This approach determines if blog owners fulfil your request to remove toxic backlinks pointing to your site.

Removing links by blogger outreach helps in case you have fewer bad links pointing to your site. However, if a whole domain has so many backlinks pointing to your site, you can disavow the domain in the Google Tool. Once completed, you don’t need to take any further action.

Note: You need to submit a site in the Google Disavow tool only once. If you get a new backlink pointing to your site, repeat the same process if the backlink in question is coming from a new source.

Summing up

There are two aspects of spam backlinks to your site.

Someone can intentionally send spam links to your site to harm your backlink profile. On the other hand, campaigns for backlink creation can unintentionally trigger spam scenarios for your site.

Whatever the case is, clearing off spam links with Google’s official recommendations helps you avoid your site’s bad impressions on search pages.

If you can manually contact website administrators for suspicious link removal, better. You should use Google’s disavow tool instead if you’re sure about the possible consequences of links pointing to your site.

Let’s talk if you need help regarding removing toxic backlinks. Our SEO team helps you get things done with professional support and reports. You may also want to see our Google Penalty Recovery Services.

Written By
I've worked in digital marketing for 10+ years and founded 3 agencies. I am the CEO of Lakewood media Limited and our digital marketing agency I also head, a support and maintenance company and, our premium design and development agency.I currently spend my time developing strategies for digital marketing, covering everything from SEO, PPC, lead generation, email marketing, analytics and conversion optimisation. My role is to ensure our agencies are at the forefront of the industry so we can provide the best solutions and remain agile.I also manage the daily operations at our parent company, where I enjoy the business side of running a group of agencies.
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