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How To Spot Toxic Backlinks To Your Site?

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External links or backlinks are URLs that lead to a site from other sources. If a resource is often cited, this usually indicates its popularity among users and the value of its content.

Search engines analyze all the external links of the site, where they come from and other parameters, and its position in the ranking depends on this. In this article, we will talk about high-quality and low-quality (toxic) links, how they affect the visibility of the site, how to properly analyze the link profile of your resource and competitors in order to make optimization more effective.

What are quality and toxic inbound links?

In order for backlinks to positively influence the visibility of a resource in the search results, it is important not only their total number, but also their quality. Some backlinks can be useless for the site and even harm it. There are signs that will help you understand which link is high-quality and which is not.

Signs of quality backlinks

A quality link is a URL that looks as natural as possible to search engines and is directed from reliable resources.

The authority (trust) of a resource from the point of view of search engines is formed by several factors: traffic, relevance and uniqueness of content, link profile, volume of outgoing links (spam content) and others.

Another important parameter is the text of the backlink or anchor that the user clicks on to follow the link. Using search queries as URL text helps to increase the position of the site in the search results for similar phrases. To make the link profile look natural, there should not be too many "commercial" anchors. It should contain backlinks with neutral anchors (here on the site, more details) and non-anchor links when the anchor is the URL.

Differences of high-quality backlinks:

  • placement on related sites or in suitable categories;
  • authority of the donor site;
  • the presence of near-link text when the backlink is part of the context;
  • the use of anchors of various types;
  • the link generates traffic.


The company manufactures city bikes. The external link is placed on a popular site, the theme of which is active recreation and sports. It has near-link text, that is, the URL complements the content and matches it in meaning. For example, the backlink is listed in the article “How to choose a bike? Types and differences” or “Top 5 brands of city bikes”.

How to get quality links?

Often the site does not have enough natural backlinks, when users and authors themselves quote its content without the participation of the company. Link building allows you to get external links in other ways:

  • find resources that are relevant in terms of subject matter and authority and negotiate with the owners about placing links;
  • exchange backlinks with other sites;
  • find donor sites and buy backlinks using link exchanges.

Signs of Toxic Backlinks

Toxic external links are URLs that are directed from low-quality sites and have signs that indicate the manipulation of the site's ranking.

When a search engine determines that a resource is usinglink exchange schemeor paid placement, she considers this to be black hat optimization methods, lowering the site in the ranking results or excluding it from the index.

Differences between toxic backlinks:

  • placement on low-quality sites overloaded with advertising (spam);
  • placement on relevant resources;
  • anchors containing commercial queries, including those in the exact match (“buy a cheap sofa”, “high-quality shoes”);
  • a large number of links from one resource;
  • lack of near-link text;
  • placement in the footer and other elements of the site template (“through links”);
  • links hidden in widgets and interactive elements;
  • the presence of the dofollow command, which draws the attention of search robots to the URL.


This could be a link posted on a site with a low ranking, minimal content, and a lot of spam. If the URL is placed in the footer - an attribute of all pages of the site, there will be more backlinks, but they will look unnatural for both users and search engines. The same can be said for URLs with anchors, repeating popular queries (“order a bike with delivery”) and links out of context.

Where are toxic links often placed?

As a rule, these are sites that do not carry informational value and are aimed at publishing links and banners for commercial purposes. These include:

  • spammy sites overloaded with backlinks to different sites;
  • satellites (doorways) created in order to promote sites for certain requests or automatically redirect users to the necessary pages;
  • affiliate networks of sites and blogs, the purpose of which is the exchange of backlinks;
  • low-quality online company directories;
  • services for automated creation of backlinks.

Search engines accept that companies can use paid backlinks for advertising purposes without trying to influence ranking results. According toGoogle recommendations, advertising links must contain the nofollow command or lead to an intermediate page that is closed for crawling in the robots.txt file. This suggests that the backlink was added exclusively for users, and not for robots.

What is the analysis of external links?

Backlink analysis is the search for all links directed to the site; the domains on which they are hosted; anchors and other parameters. Thus, you can get complete information about the link profile of the resource, the status of backlinks, and track the relationship between the volume / quality of backlinks and positions in the search results.

Analysis of your website backlinks

It is carried out to evaluate external optimization before the start of resource promotion, as well as in the process of link building, in order to control the number of backlinks, taking into account parameters important for SEO. Also, backlink audit helps to analyze the quality of external URLs, identify toxic links and improve the link profile.

Useful indicators when analyzing links:

  • list of all backlinks;
  • a list of all sites where backlinks are placed;
  • link indexing date;
  • link anchors;
  • link types (nofollow, dofollow);
  • quality parameters of donor sites. ## Competitor backlink analysis

Analysis of external links of sites that rank high for queries on similar topics makes it possible to:

  • find out how many links competitors have, what is the dynamics of the appearance of new backlinks; what resources link to them, and so on;
  • compare the quantity and quality of links of similar sites with your link profile, learn from positive experience and improve your link building strategy.

There are services thatwebsite link checking, including an audit of the link profile of competitors. In the next section, we'll talk about the payloads that reports can contain.

Link analysis tools

Backlink monitoring services may have a different set of URL metrics. Some of them provide metrics for assessing the quality of donor sites, which is especially useful for identifying toxic links. Not all services are suitable for competitor analysis, so when choosing, you should pay attention to the terms of use.

SEO Ranking

This is an SEO platform with many analytical tools, including monitoring the external links of any resource. In the backlinks report, you can find such useful data as:

  • all indexed links leading to the site;
  • list of referring domains, including the number of backlinks to the target resource;
  • link texts (anchors);
  • graph with the dynamics of the volume of reference mass;
  • a graph with new and excluded from the index (lost) links;
  • the type of each link is dofollow, nofollow.

To assess the authority of domains, parameters such as Alexa Rank, Domain Trust, Yandex ICS have been added.

The service is available in English and other languages. The cost of a comprehensive analysis of the link profile is one dollar. The minimum balance replenishment amount is $20.


The "Site explorer" report, which shows the level of optimization and effectiveness of the site, has a "Backlink profile" block. It contains the following information:

  • all indexed links leading to the site;
  • list of referring domains, including the number of backlinks to the target resource;
  • link texts (anchors);
  • dynamics of link mass increase;
  • new and lost links;
  • the type of each link is dofollow, nofollow.

To assess the quality of domains, a local parameter is given - Ahrefs Rank.

Service interface in English. The minimum usage cost is $99 per month.

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Backlink report example in Ahrefs


Another service that helps to find backlinks for different sites. With it, you can find out:

  • external links directed to the resource;
  • referring domains and their topics;
  • link texts (anchors);
  • link types.

To assess the quality of a link profile, there are parameters such as: Link Rank (for links), Domain Rank (for domains), Trust Rank (trust rating).

The service is available in and English. The minimum tariff (“Initial”) is 2990 rubles per month.

Search engine services

Search engines provide statistics for site owners. Google has itSearch Console. In Yandex - serviceWebmaster. To access the reports, you need to verify the rights to the site.

Information about external links that can be obtained:

  • all indexed links leading to the site;
  • a list of referring sites and the number of backlinks to them;
  • link texts (anchors).

You can also find out the dates when backlinks were detected by Yandex.Webmaster in Yandex.Webmaster reports. Another useful indicator provided by the search engine is the website quality index. To find out Yandex X, you need to specify ininstrumentto parse the resource, the name of the desired domain.

The consequences of toxic links for the site and how to eliminate them?

Search engines are trying to identify "black" optimization methods aimed at deceiving robots and algorithms, and apply sanctions to such sites. As we already know, the consequences can be a decrease in the position of the site in the search results and even its exclusion from the index. If the search engine detects a violation, it informs the webmaster about it.

How to determine that a site is subject to manual sanctions (filter)?

In Google, this can be found in the Search Console "Manual Actions" section. The name of the problem in this case is "Artificial links to your site".

Reporting a violation in Google Search Console

In Yandex, an algorithm is responsible for the search for artificial SEO linksMinusinsk. You can learn about site pessimization in the Diagnostics section in Yandex.Webmaster. Artificial placement of SEO links on other resources and doorways refers toreasonswhy the site was sanctioned.

The "Diagnostics" section, which displays information about violations

How to find toxic external links?

If low-quality backlinks caused the site to fall under the filter or there is a suspicion that this may happen, you need to find such links. To do this, follow these steps:

1.Get a list of all URLs leading to the site.
This can be done using one of the external link checking tools. For convenience, export backlink lists as a table on a PC.

2.Find problematic backlinks.
These are external links that violate the rules of search engines. Pay attention to domains with a high volume of backlinks to the target site. If a resource has been manually penalized, the reason may be due to URLs that have appeared in recent months. It will also be useful to know the quality indicators of donor sites.

How to remove toxic links?

When problematic links are found, they must be deactivated using the following methods:

1.Contact site owners directly.
This can be done using contact details. If the placement took place through the exchange, you need to contact the webmaster with a request to remove the backlinks or add the rel= "nofollow" attribute to them.

2.Dismiss links.
Google can reject unwanted backlinks. This is relevant when there is no way to remove low-quality links, and there is a threat of pessimization.

To deactivate problematic backlinks, you need to make a list of URLs, according torecommendationsand then upload the file on the page "Link rejection” (“Disavow links to your site”).

Please note that errors made during the URL rejection process can harm the site. It is important to perform these actions very carefully or entrust them to an experienced specialist.

How to inform Google or Yandex about the elimination of toxic links?

Once your SEO link issue has been resolved by Google, you can request a re-check in the Manual Actions section and indicate which URLs have been removed. When the application is considered, a notification will be sent. If the resource no longer violates the rules, the search engine will lift the sanctions.

As for Yandex, after eliminating low-quality links, no additional action is required. When re-indexing source sites, robots fix changes. Removal of restrictions can take from one to several months.

Recommendations for building a quality link profile

There are several rules that will help to form a link mass that is effective for the site.

1. Plan for link building.

When the number of backlinks increases consistently and evenly, it looks natural to search engines. To form a link profile according to this principle, we recommend that you draw up an external optimization strategy for several months in advance, as well as a separate plan for each month.

Things to consider:

  • the planned number of new backlinks for a period of time;
  • purchase frequency, for example, 1-2 links every 3 days;
  • requirements for donor sites (domain zone, minimum traffic, etc.);
  • link texts (anchors).

2. Draw up an anchor plan.

When choosing texts for URLs, you need to keep a balance in the number of commercial, neutral anchors, links without text. To select the appropriate queries for anchors, you need to analyze the statistics of queries in the subject. It is also useful to monitor the position of the site for promising queries before starting external optimization, and then regularly monitor the dynamics.

3. Analyze donor sites before placing a backlink.

Link exchanges have filters for selecting sites according to different parameters. Before publishing a backlink, it is advisable to check the site according to the main quality criteria and visit it as a user to make sure it is reliable.

4. Check posted links.

In order for a link to begin to benefit the site, it must be indexed by the search engine. Sometimes indexing can be delayed or not happen at all. You can control the process of discovering external URLs using backlink analysis tools.

It is also worth paying attention to the presence of additional commands in backlink tags placed in the HTML code of web pages. Quality links are effective when they are accessible to robots, that is, they do not contain the nofollow command, and vice versa.

5. Eliminate broken links.

Another problem that can be found when checking external backlinks is broken (dead) links, that is, URLs directed to an irrelevant page. This can happen when deleting a page or changing its address. Most often, the presence of a broken link is indicated by the server response status 404 (Page Not Found).

Using SEO audit tools, you need to track broken links, solve a problem on your site, or ask the webmaster of another resource to replace the backlink with an up-to-date one.

6. Find and eliminate toxic links.

In order for the quality of the link profile to be as high as possible, it is necessary to periodically analyze all backlinks of the site, including toxic links. If you find such links, you must immediately take measures to eliminate them.


External links are an important factor insite optimization, which affects ranking results for queries. Backlinks should be placed on authoritative resources and look as natural as possible for search engines. If toxic links lead to a site, sanctions can be applied to it, reducing the position of its pages in the SERP or excluding them from the index.

With the help of special tools, you can analyze all the external links of the site, identify and eliminate low-quality backlinks in time, and following the recommendations for link building will make it possible to build a high-quality link profile.

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