Bad links or unnatural links can severely hurt your site ranking which is why you need to be extremely careful while identifying and removing your site’s bad backlinks.
In 2017, the Penguin update became part of Google’s core algorithm. It has drastically changed the way backlinks are acquired.
According to Google,
“Any links intended to manipulate Page Rank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines”
How To Identify Bad Backlinks
Several tools can help you find your website links like Google Webmaster, Link Explorer by Moz, Ahref, and SEMrush. When all your site links are in front of you, evaluate the following components to identify bad backlinks:
i) Dofollow and Nofollow Links: While identifying the bad backlinks you majorly need to focus on Dofollow links unless you are spamming at a huge scale with Nofollow links. Although Google might take manual action if you have tons of spammy Nofollow links. Remember 100% Dofollow links are also bad and can raise alarm for Google’s algorithm.
ii) Domain Authority (DA): Higher the Domain Authority, the better it is. Make sure the Domain Authority of the linked website is not less than 20.
iii) Page Authority: Page Authority range from 1 to 100 e.g. new websites will have PA of 1. If the difference between the Domain Authority and Page Authority is very high, it can be a concern.
iv) Website Traffic: Check whether the website is getting consistent traffic from google, a sudden massive drop in traffic signifies that the website might have been penalized. You can check this using various tools like Moz or Ahref.
v) Spam Score: According to Moz 1 to 30 % spam score is considered low. Lower the spam score the better it is.
vi) Too Many External Links: If you see that the number of external links of the linking website is very high, avoid them.
vii) Content: Sometimes, DA, PA and web traffic looks apt but it can still be a bad backlink in case the content is totally unrelated. You can manually check the website for thin or irrelevant content. Links from such websites will be considered as bad links.
viii) Broken Links: You can use various tools to find broken links on your website e.g. Ahref or broken link check. Broken links not only affect SEO but also ruin the user experience.
Types of Backlinks On Your Site
i) Website directory links: Some websites exist solely for link building purposes, totally avoid acquiring links from such websites. In some cases, these could be website directories. You only need to be present on some quality web directories related to your niche.
ii) Comment spam link: Every blogger gets these links on a daily basis; these comments are easily identified. You can keep your comment setting in “moderation” until you approve them.
iv) Over-optimized anchor link texts: Over optimized or unnatural anchor text can be risky for your site ranking. Always maintain a good balance between Brand name, naked URL and partial keyword matches.
v) Paid links: Google can easily figure out such sites that are selling links; and if you link from these sites, you are risking your site for a penalty.
vi) Links from geographically irrelevant location: When your website is focused on the Indian audience, but you are getting links from varied geographical locations like Russia or China; this has to raise suspicion in Google’s algorithm.
How to Remove Bad Backlinks
Now that you have identified the bad backlinks that can hurt your ranking, it’s time you get rid of them, how?
Here is the 4-step process you should follow:
STEP 1. Contact the website owner: Search the contact of the website owner and politely write to them asking to remove the links.
STEP 2. Wait for 2 weeks: In case you don’t get a response from webmaster within this period, move to next step
STEP 3. Create disavow file: Copy those URLs or domain links that you wish to remove in a notepad and save the file in .txt format.
STEP 4. Upload disavow file in google webmaster: Search for disavow link tool, select your website and click on disavow a link, click choose file and choose the disavow file that you have created. And you are done. This process might take a few weeks before google re-crawl your updated links.
Remember, it’s extremely important to identify your bad backlinks carefully. Disavow the links ONLY when you are sure that these links are bad for your ranking, otherwise, you will end up crashing your ranking, and you can’t undo the process. Link building is not an overnight process, always prefer quality over quantity.