How to Spot Quality vs. Toxic Backlinks

Backlinks are one of the top three of Google’s top-ranking factors. Therefore, you simply can’t ignore the need for a strategy to get these. Without high-quality backlinks, your chances of ranking highly for competitive keywords are very slim. Now, it’s important for you to understand that not all links are the same and treated equally. While properly done links are helpful for your website, bad ones can harm your domain and badly affect your rankings. The effort on tackling these bad types of links is ongoing even today in 2022. And that’s why it’s so crucial to know how to spot the difference between quality vs. toxic backlinks. It is the key to understanding them and the first step in removing them.

Build quality backlink

Not only you should be analyzing your backlinks, but you should do the same with the links that your competition puts out. This is the only way to find fresh opportunities to build links that will boost your organic visibility. Which is the most important one, as you probably know. Additionally, if you do this regularly you’ll be able to discover all the issues that are holding you back in real time. So, the whole team of the Link Department sat down and we decided to make the best guide you can find. Here’s what we came up with.

What is a quality backlink

The most simple explanation of a quality backlink is that it comes from a trusted source, and it’s not intended to manipulate search engine rankings in any way. Google itself tells us that the best way to create high-quality and relevant links is to create relevant and unique content. Naturally, the more this type of content you have, the more chances you’ll have that someone finds it valuable and links to it.

However, we think that there’s a little bit more to the story here. You see, all of the high-quality backlinks you see have been editorially placed there, as a result of someone choosing to do so. No one has to link to anything, so editors and webmasters will do it just if they think that your content is valuable and helps their readers. And exactly that is what you need to pay attention to.

This is also the reason why digital PR and content marketing are becoming so strong and popular link building tactics. You’re contacting journalists, editors, or publishers directly and if you can offer quality to them they will return it. And the best thing of all is that there’s no danger of confusing quality vs. toxic backlinks here.

How do these links look like?

Besides being editorially placed, a high-quality backlink has to fulfill a few more things.

  • It has to have the potential to send referral traffic. The potential of targeted referral traffic is not a thing to underestimate. The main purpose of a link is to be a navigational item, so if it can build traffic to your landing page, it probably is a good one.
  • It has to align with your site content topically. Connecting two pieces of totally unrelated content won’t get you far. A good link should come from a web page that covers a similar topic as yours.
  • It has to come from a trusted source. The highest quality links come from the most trusted sources, it’s as simple as that. If you had to choose you’d trust your friend rather than a stranger, right? Well, the same goes for backlinks.
Woman searching for how to spot quality vs. toxic backlinks on her phone.
Quality backlinks come from a trusted source and have tendencies to drive quality traffic to your website.

What is a toxic backlink?

Now that we know how to recognize good backlinks, let’s deal with the bad ones. According to Google, these are links intended to manipulate a site’s ranking in Google searches in pretty much anyway. No matter if we’re talking about links leading to your site, or outgoing ones. But, how to spot these manipulative examples?

It’s very hard to narrow it down to just a few little points to point your attention to since there are many different types of link building. But, in essence, these are not editorially placed and they often show signs of low quality or other attempts to manipulate rankings. Some of the examples are:

  • Coming from the website whose purpose is linking out.
  • Blog comments forced ones.
  • Coming from content, or sites that are topically irrelevant.
  • Hidden links in website footers.
  • Coming from sites that aren’t indexed by Google.
  • Existing on too many pages of a website.
Two gas masks side by side.
Toxic is an ideal word to describe the amount of damage these bad links can have on your website’s health.

There are numerous types of toxic backlinks to try to avoid. Knowing about them is the first step in raising awareness and taking preemptive actions. The most common types of toxic backlinks are.

  • PBN links
  • Link Farm websites
  • Low-quality bookmark or directory websites
  • Comment, press release, and template links.

Finding toxic backlinks in your backlink profile

As already stated there numerous bad effects that you can experience from having Toxic backlinks. This is why it is important to weed them out after finding them. Today there is a lot of knowledge and signs to tell you that your links may be toxic. Google Search Console allows you to check your links and sites manually. In 2022 there are also automated tools to perform backlink analyses and audits. However, there are telltale signs that you may have a toxic link profile. These signs include

  • Low-quality websites. Toxic links come from low-quality websites that are made along a set template with content that is poorly written. Usually, these sites do not have a clear owner.
  • Unnatural links. These links are created unnaturally. This means that the page they are linked to does not have a purpose for the website. There is no reason for a link to exist.
  • Keywords match anchor text. In these cases, the link attaches to the keyword that the article ranks for. This is not a certain indicator that the lčink is toxic. However, there is a high probability.
  • Anchor texts are unrelated. This is indicative f a negative SEO attack. It usually means that anchor text is unrelated to the website content. In this case, there is no reason for the link to be here.
  • Low traffic of a toxic site. If you check the traffic the linking page receives it will have a low traffic score.

All of these factors indicate that there is no value in having these types of links. It means that these kinds of links are Toxic.

How do you obtain toxic links?

There are usually three reasons that cause a website to have a toxic link. These involve both lacks of knowledge and expertise and malicious activities.

Not knowing the links are toxic

Many websites are run by business owners that do not have adequate knowledge. Their SEO knowledge is usually limited and their comprehension of links is limited. So, while actively striving to build links as they provide a positive impact they make mistakes. This lack of expertise usually leads them to buy toxic links not recognizing them as toxic and dangerous.

Using an SEO service that is toxic

Due to the lack of experience and aiming to save some money many owners engage in low-quality SEO services. This will in turn provide low-quality backlinks to their clients. This happens when these spammy SEO services build links from PBNs and directories. Usually, the client experiences certain results not knowing that the links he has are toxic or spammy. In these situations, it is prudent to know who you are hiring. Spammy SEO services usually do not provide too many references, they offer rapid link building that is not possible. In addition, they offer their services at a very low cost and guarantee to build lin

A person holding money
Do not try to save money on your SEO

ks on a particular website. In these cases, it is clear that the service uses a link farm or a PBN to build toxic links. So always try to use a link-building agency that is trustworthy and reputable.


Getting toxic links from a negative SEO attack

When a black hat link points toxic backlinks to a certain website this website is under a negative SEO attack. The aim of this attack is to get that website punished by google damaging its ranking. This is usually done by aiming for a large number of links from a well-known PBN to a targeted website. This will trick Google into registering this website as using PBNs which is the cause for issuing manual actions. These black hat tactics are usually used by competitors to get their opponents in trouble for their own personal gain and easier ranking with Google. However, these types of practices are losing their value as Google is getting better at spotting such practices.

What is a backlink analysis and why should you do it?

As we already mentioned, backing analysis is something that you should do regularly. The key to success in the online world is information. So, the more insights you have on both your and your competition link profiles, the more chance you have of succeeding.

This analysis should help you understand the gap between you and your main competitors. When you know what the gap is all about, you can make a few different strategies on how to outrank them. It goes without saying that the more time you dedicate to this, the more info you’ll collect. Therefore, get one of the free domain comparing apps and get to work.

Now, having a bad type of link on your website can harm its organic performance. So, having the right link building tool to use can be very helpful in determining where the issues are and how to fix them also. They’re especially important if you’re already seeing negative impacts as a result of a bad backlink. Think of doing this as a touring health check of your domain. If you do it on regular bases, you’ll resolve potential problems long before they cause any harm.

Papers with analysis and a keyboard on a table.
Backlink analysis is there to help you utilize the knowledge about the differences in quality vs. toxic backlinks.

The consequences of toxic links

There once was a time when you could use manipulative links and they had a profound impact on rankings. Nowadays, you can get only one of the suspensions provided for it. If you’re caught red-handed your site can receive a manual action for unnatural links, it can suffer from an algorithmic filter, or your links could be ignored and have no impact on rankings. Either way, these consequences will at the least render your SEO effort and time invested wasted as you will have no results from it. The worst-case scenario will have you penalized and removed from SERP. This can have a long-lasting and devastating effect on your traffic and ultimately profits.

What to do?

Ultimately knowing all this has only one purpose in real life. Your SEO has to use this knowledge to prevent the use of toxic backlinks in this SEO effort. Recognizing them is the first step in avoiding them. However, if you should get toxic backlinks after finding them out you should take action in removing them and limiting their negative effects. There are two options to follow.

  • Contact the webmaster to have such toxic backlinks removed. This is the first step and a strong recommendation by Google. However, it is highly unlikely that the owner or webmaster of a spammy website has any interest in removing such backlinks.
  • The second step is to disavow such links and denounce any connection with them.  Here you basically provide Google with a  list of domains that you want it to ignore links from. B doing this Google then instructs its crawlers to ignore a set list of links pointing to your website.
Google console and statistics
Google Console is the primary tool to assess your link profile

To avoid such predicaments it is important to handle your link profile in the best possible way. The crucial first step is to know your links. Being able to distinguish quality vs. toxic backlinks is paramount in avoiding any issues with them. If you still acquire them there are ways of dealing with them afterward.

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