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Backlinks are a crucial ranking factor. When they are high-quality, they can build authority and make your site appear higher on search engines. It goes the other way around, too. If built the wrong way, links can hinder your search engine optimization efforts. We call those bad links toxic backlinks.

Links that impact your rankings negatively are also known as toxic backlinks. They show Google that your website is using spammy link-building techniques. As a result, you might end up dealing with harsh rankings penalties, from which it can be fairly difficult to recover. 

With that in mind, you should check the backlink profile of your website regularly. By doing so, you can be sure that it does not have any links that look toxic. If it does, you can act quickly and decide whether to keep these links or not. 

In case you want to know more, read on! Here, you will find a short guide to toxic backlinks. It will touch upon quite a few important things, ranging from the reasons why websites have toxic backlinks to the best ways to get rid of them.

SEO includes backlinks under it. Sometimes you get toxic backlinks.

In short, a toxic backlink is a link that was built using a method that goes against Google’s search guidelines. For instance, it might be from a private blog network or a link farm. When detected, the presence of such a backlink can lead to a sudden drop in your website’s rankings. 

However, it is worth noting that not every toxic backlink is harmful. Google might just ignore it. In that case, you will not benefit from the link, but you will not be penalized, either. The problem here is that Google’s algorithms are constantly changing and improving. In consequence, you might be penalized for the link in question later down the line.

Why Do Websites Have Toxic Backlinks

Toxic SEO Services

There are many different reasons why a website might have toxic backlinks. To begin with, it could be that the website owner used a toxic search engine optimization service. Sure, there are plenty of great link-building services for all kinds of niches, ranging from home improvement to CBD link building

Nevertheless, not everyone knows how to recognize such a service. Instead, they might focus on finding something cheap and quick. And with that kind of mindset, you are likely to end up hiring someone who is not putting much effort into building links, hence their low prices and quick results.

Luckily, spotting a spammy link-building service is relatively easy. First, avoid suspiciously cheap services. Building high-quality backlinks take a lot of resources. You need to get in touch with a good publisher and have someone write an article to put the link in, among other things. 

A low-cost link-building agency will not have access to such expertise, which tends to result in spammy backlinks. Done separate from an agency, you can use free link building tools.

Other than that, you should be wary of link builders that offer quick links on very specific websites. It is a clear sign that your backlink will come from the link builder’s private blog network or a link farm, both of which go against Google’s quality guidelines.

SEO Search engine optimization letters through an eye glass.

Negative SEO Attacks

It could also be that the website owner is dealing with a negative search engine optimization attack. In other words, someone might have pointed toxic backlinks at their website. The spammers who do this hope that Google will see those toxic links and punish the website in question, causing its rankings to drop. 

In such a scenario, the spammers are usually paid by the competitors of the targeted website. When the targeted website loses its rankings, the website that belongs to the competition has a much higher chance of ranking.

Other forms of negative SEO attacks include hacking a website to reduce its ability to rank and duplicating its contents by publishing them somewhere else. The spammers could also start sending out fake backlink removal requests to get rid of legitimate backlinks.

What Happens If Your Website Has A Toxic Backlink

The exact effects of a toxic backlink depend on several different factors. A one-off spammy backlink should not result in any issues. A negative SEO attack should not do much, either. Google is adept at spotting such attacks. Once spotted, the links built during the attack are going to be completely discredited. 

However, if you have been building toxic backlinks at a large scale or have been dealing with SEO attacks regularly, the consequences can be quite serious.

Google Ignores The Links

Likely, Google will simply ignore your low-quality backlinks. Nowadays, numerous types of backlinks that used to be considered toxic are simply ineffective. Still, it does not mean that you should be building toxic links. The larger the number of toxic links pointing to your website, the more likely you are to be penalized. And even if you do not receive a penalty, you will be wasting your time on links that have no positive value.

You Receive A Manual Action

A manual action is the worst possible result of toxic links. It happens when a human Google Search evaluator judges the links pointing to your website and determines that they violate the quality guidelines of the company. After a manual action is performed, your website will have much lower rankings than it would otherwise. In some rare cases, Google might remove it from its index completely.

If you suspect that your website has been affected by a manual action, open Google Search Console and go to the security and manual actions tab. While in there, open the manual actions tab. If your website has any issues related to manual actions, you will see them in that tab.

Google Fails To Identify The Links

Sometimes, Google is unable to tell whether a link is toxic. For example, it might be that the private blog network someone got a backlink from has not yet been labeled as such. But that does not mean that Google will not be able to spot the link in question shortly. And when it does, your rankings could drop significantly.

How Can You Remove Toxic Backlinks

Contact The Webmaster

If you spot a toxic backlink in your backlink profile, contact the webmaster of the website it is from and ask them to take it down. Just keep in mind that if a link is from a private blog network or a spammy website, the person behind it is unlikely to comply.


In case contacting the webmaster does not work, you should disavow your toxic backlink. Disavowing is when you ask Google to ignore a link that is pointing to your website. You can do it by creating a text file with the domain that you want to disavow the link from. Next, you have to upload the file to your Google Search Console domain property. From then on, Google will have its crawlers ignore any backlinks from that domain.

Puzzle pieces representing backlinks.

In Conclusion

Toxic backlinks can have a huge negative impact on your search engine optimization efforts. So, if your website has any, it is important to get rid of them as soon as possible. The best way to do so is to contact the webmaster of the website that the link is from and ask them to take it down. If that does not work, you can disavow the link using Google Search Console.

To avoid having to deal with toxic backlinks altogether, focus on building links the right way and steer clear of shady link-building services. If you do that, you will not have to worry about any toxic links hurting your website’s rankings.

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Categories:  St. Louis SEO

About the Author

James McMinn

Senior Digital Strategist

James is a savvy digital marketing specialist with a Masters of Science in Internet Marketing. For the past fourteen years, he has been specializing in SEO, PPC & Marketing Strategy. He has a super sharp analytical mind and a finely tuned creative eye for marketing initiatives that optimize brands.

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