Link building is important for rankings, but if you don’t know what you are doing, it can ruin your SEO.
So what should you do? One very important step to using link building to improve your SEO (and not harm it): Identify and remove bad backlinks.
There are many ways to find and get rid of backlinks. I will show you the manual method for which you will need your website connected with Google Search Console.
What do we mean by “identify and remove bad backlinks”?
The links will not actually be removed from Google. We just give instructions to Google to ignore those links when it comes to passing page rank from one website to the other.
How to identify bad backlinks
The first step is to register your website with Google Search Console.
You have to determine whether you need to submit a disavow file to Google. The first to doing this is to download your backlink profile to see who is linking to you.
Under Search Traffic, you can see “Links to your site” and Google will show you a list of pages that link back to your website.
The list includes all types of links (good and bad, follow and no-follow).
To download the list, click on “More” under “Who links the most” and then “Download this table”.
You can export the details as a CSV file (Excel sheet) or Google Doc.
From the data you downloaded, click on each link and analyze. Decide if you want to keep the link or not.
For each link ask yourself these questions:
- Does this link add real value to the article or website that is posted on?
- Is the website that is posted a quality website?
- Is the link in a website targeting people in a specific country where your target audience is?
If the answers to these questions are positive, you can keep the link. If some answers are “no” then you should consider disavowing the link.
You can follow Linkody’s guidelines when considering which links to target for disavowal:
- Websites with duplicate content
- Backlinks from unrelated websites or guest posting to irrelevant niches
- Spammy comments and forum profiles
- Websites with thin content
- Links from article directories
- Penalized or de-indexed links from websites by Google
- Foreign language links can be potentially harmful
- Forum links can be dangerous
- Links from pharma, adult, or gambling websites
- Sites with an unnaturally high number of external follow links (EFL)
Remove bad backlinks
Create a Disavow File
What is the Google disavow tool?
The Google disavow tool is an advanced feature, and if used incorrectly, it can do more harm to your website than good.
Basically, the Google disavow tool is a feature that allows you to upload a file to Google with a list of links you don’t want Google to take into account.
Before you create your Disavow File, try contact the site owners where you found the bad backlink and ask them to remove it. If they don’t do it or they don’t respond, you can proceed to disavow the link.
A disavow file is simply a list of domains that you submit to Google via your Search Console account, asking Google to ignore these bad backlinks. By doing so, Google will not take these links into account when determining your site’s authority and rankings.
Your Disavow File has to be in .txt format. You can do it in either
- TextEdit on Mac, or
- Notepad on Windows
Next, we need to add “domain:” in front of each line.
Use # in front of a line to add any comments.
In Google Search Console Help, they used this image as an example:
Submit your Disavow File
When you’ve logged in to your Google Search Console, select your site property from the drop-down menu.
Click ‘Disavow Links’. You will see a warning message:
Click on disavow links and move to the next screen.
- Click ‘Choose File’
- Find your .txt disavow file that you created earlier
- Upload this and click ‘Submit’
Updating the list with more bad backlinks
If you need to add new links, simply create a new .txt file, or update the old one, and submit it through the Google Search Console.
The next time Google crawls your website, your disavow file will be taken into account and these links will not be assessed as part of your backlink profile.
Google’s algorithms are smart enough to differentiate between links that are spammy and links that were built for tricking their system.
But in some cases, performing regular audits of your backlink profile is not a bad idea.
Even if you do it yourself, or hire someone to do it, be sure that you use only white hat SEO practices. That includes knowing which links are toxic and removing them from your link-cloud.