Link Types

Toxic Backlinks

Glossary  |  3 mins

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Toxic backlinks are any backlinks that hurt, rather than help, a website’s chances of improving their organic rankings.

They’re typically built unnaturally, have poor quality or spammy referring domains, or carry other markers of poor quality linking which will limit their target site’s ability to rank. In some cases, they can be interpreted as a sign of black hat link building practices.

When a site has a large number of toxic links in their backlink profile, this is often a sign of black hat link building, where poor quality link building agencies will build large numbers of links from spammy, low quality sites in an attempt to give their client’s website a ranking boost. Whether this is done knowingly or simply because a link builder hasn’t kept up-to-date on SEO best practices, Google will regard these sites the same way, and any backlink profile with a high proportion of toxic backlinks can easily incur a manual penalty.

How to Disavow Links on Google Search Console

The first step in this process is to audit your backlink profile using a good SEO tool such as Ahrefs or SEMRush. These tools have purpose-built backlink auditing reports which will make it easy to see any links in your site’s link profile which have show signs of toxicity.

Once you’ve created a list of the referring pages and domains that are hosting the offending links, the next step is to enter these into a .txt file, with one URL or domain per line. If you want to disavow links from a specific URL, these can be listed as they appear in your browser’s address bar. If you want to disavow whole domains, these should be preceded with “domain:” (minus the quotations).

Once you’ve completed and checked this .txt file, you can upload it to the disavow backlinks Google Search Console tool. Simply click through the warnings until you get to the feature which allows you to upload your file, then upload and submit it.


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Toxic Backlinks FAQs

How do toxic backlinks happen?

Toxic backlinks can occur naturally over time. In some cases though, a site’s backlink profile can become inundated by toxic backlinks as the result of poor quality, black hat link building techniques or a negative SEO attack.

How do you get rid of toxic backlinks?

Toxic backlinks can be disavowed by using Google Search Console’s disavow backlinks tool. To use this, site owners need to create a .txt file that lists all the referring domains or specific pages they wish to disavow, with each relevant URL on a different line, then upload it using the relevant dialogue box on Google Search Console.

Questions to ask your link builder