How To Identify And Remove Bad Links

You obviously know that links play a very significant role when it comes to website ranking. External links are like votes for your website. So, the more votes (links) you have, the more popular your website is. The more popular your website, the more it will be visible in search engines and attract a lot of attention. However, as we have already mentioned, not all links carry the same weight. Inbound links from high authority, reputable sites are more valuable than links from low ranking website.

Therefore, not all links are created equal. Some are positive, while others are negative for your website. Regardless of whether you choose white hat or black hat techniques, there are consequences. If you have made the mistake of using shady SEO techniques, such as acquiring back links from black hat SEO vendors, chances are you have tons of bad links derailing the performance of your website in search engines. In this post, we are going to learn how to deal with these bad or “toxic” links.

Of course, acquiring links through black hat methods can result in short term gains, but the practice can have a long-term devastating effect. Bad links can be harmful in two ways:

  • Bad links devalue your SEO efforts—Google hates unnatural, low quality and broken links for obvious reasons. Broken links restrict the flow of content in your website, unnatural linking attempts to fool search engines and low quality links mark the site as low quality. In the end, bad links will result in lower rankings and possibly even a penalty.
  • Broken links result in bad user experience—just imagine what it feels like when you click on a link that lead you to the wrong website, or worse still a dead-end 404 page? You get frustrated, you navigate away and may never return.
  • Bad links can harm your reputation—No one is going to trust a company whose website has broken links and low quality links. For me, that is the first sign that the company may net be the one I want to deal with. It does not matter how good their services are. One bad, misleading or broken link can completely change the narrative of a company.

Other things to remember about links include the following:

  • Too many backlinks can send wrong signals to search engines.
    It is important to choose anchor texts that are relevant.
    Site quality, content and depth are paramount.

You should regularly check for bad links on your website to avoid these likely pitfalls. Once you have detected bad links, this article will give you all the information you need on how to deal with bad links.


What makes a backlink bad? Why are bad links bad for your SEO? There is a simple tip that can help you to tell whether a link is spammy or is valuable. You simply need to ask yourself a very simple question: would I click on this link if I were this site’s user? Answering this question honestly will help you to spot spammy links quickly every time. It is also important to note that Google tracks the number of times users click on links. The more a link is clicked, the better the link is. If more people visit the site and do not click on the links, it gives Google a clue that the link is bad. Moreover, if you have links from low quality or penalised websites, then your links might be classed as bad as well. Have heard of the phrase “guilty by association?” Well, that applies here with links as well. In other words, the real difference between bad and good links is the quality of the website they come from.

But finding bad links on your website isn’t always a straightforward thing. Sometimes, you may easily find them using the tip above. Sometimes, bad links can only be discovered using a professional SEO company. Having said that, here are some pointers that you have bad links.

Links from a website that is created just for SEO links

If you can recall, Google Panda update took action on content mills to get rid of bogus link building that had been going on for the sole purpose of influencing rankings on search results. These websites or what experts call “link farms”, were created just to publish articles for back linking purposes only.

Comment spam links

It is becoming more difficult for black hat practitioners to fool the search engine spambots each day. We get many comments which include links to other websites that simply say how great the article was. You have probably seen them or even done it yourself when making a comment by adding your company’s website or blog link to the comment. Be careful, having excessive comment links flowing to your website may erode your trust flow. Trust flow is the authority a website gains through the quality of its links. So, if you must have comment links, they should be useful, insightful and should only be added on quality websites. Don’t assume you are going to grow your site’s popularity by spamming other websites comment boxes. Some firms even pay freelancers to comment on other blogs. This is a dangerous practice that can have a negative impact. Do not get fooled.

Links with over optimised anchor texts

As much as it is good to optimise your anchor texts, overdoing it can bring you to the search engines attention and land you in trouble. For instance, if most of your back links are using your website or business name as anchor texts or if you are using exactly the same keywords repeatedly, that will ring some alarm bells. Your anchor texts should be natural and relevant to the content that they appear in. In other words, there should be a variety of anchor texts in your back-link profile. It is assumed that quality websites earn backlinks because someone wants to share quality content, and not because someone is actively building backlinks to increase a site’s rankings.

Duplicate texts and outbound links

The Google Panda update will now penalise sites that are created for a specific subject with the aim of creating links that are related to the content in the site. This is what many black hat companies do. In any case, Google Panda updates deal with low quality and duplicate content.


Now that you have identified the bad links on your website, it is time to take action! Remove those links before you are hit hard by the merciless Penguin algorithm. Here are steps on how to remove those links.

Step 1: Remove them.

This is the easiest way. If you commented on other people’s blogs, you can personally pull down those comments. If someone else made the comments, you can flag them as spam. Unfortunately, it may not be possible to manually remove every single link that points to your site due to the quantity or comment settings of the blog or website where it’s posted.

Step 2: Contact the webmaster.

If for any reason you cannot remove the problematic links yourself, it is time to contact the webmaster of the site where the links originate. Ask the website owner to remove the link because it was not authorised or because it has been classified as spam. Most webmasters will be more than happy to remove the link. The Open Site Explorer tool can help you to locate all the sources of your incoming links. Usually, the contact information of the site is given, but if you can’t find contact details of the website owner, use WHOis. Remember to remain polite in your request; otherwise nothing will get done.

Step 3: Remove the affected pages.

If you feel like the bad links are pointing to low quality content of your site anyway, you can simply remove the affected pages. However, use this option sparingly to avoid giving the search engines the wrong idea and remember if re-direct the page then the links will also be redirect to the new webpage as well.

Step 4: Use the Google Disavow Tool.

According to Google, if you have done your best to remove spammy/low quality links pointing to your website and you are not able to make any progress, you can use Google Disavow Tool to flag those links. What this means is that you are asking Google to ignore those links when assessing your site. Here is a brief guide on how to use Google Disavow Tool. This is the “nuclear” option so be very careful when adding links to the Disavow Tool.

Step 5: Start all over.

Sometimes the problem might be too deep-rooted. In that case, others resort to getting a new domain and start on a clean slate. This is certainly not a desirable route to take, but in extreme cases, it could be the only route. Speak to a reputable SEO company and see whether this is the best solution.

Great marketers should be vigilant when it comes to incoming links because bad links could destroy their online business. Even if you are sure that you haven’t created bogus links, it is advisable to always monitor your links. Nothing stops your competitor from doing something sinister. Invest time in your links and never forget that getting rid of bad links is just as important as acquiring good links.

Joe Ryan is the Founder & CEO of UK online marketing agency, Digital Search Group, which specialises in smart internet marketing. He is a specialist in online marketing strategy and brand building. When he’s not considering the next best online marketing strategy with his team, he enjoys travel and spending time with his family.