Toxic Backlinks – Are they dragging your website down?
Before we go into what ‘Toxic Backlinks’ actually are and why they are damaging to your website, brand, credibility and reputation, lets briefly cover what a legitimate ‘white hat’ backlink is…(‘white hat’ is the term used for Google approved SEO best practice and comes with a fairly high level of confidence that you will never be penalised by a Google Algorithm update).
What is a Backlink?
External Backlinks are the arteries of ‘The Internet’ sending lifeblood (‘Link Juice’) between its interconnected websites, a backlink from one site to another can be described as a vote in favour of the linked-to website.
If your website is about ‘Dog Training’ and you have a link to your site from crufts.co.uk this tells Google (and other search engines) that your site is ‘vouched for’ by a site with a high authority score in your industry.
If you have corresponding backlinks from other Dog Training institutes this all compounds your websites ‘Topical Authority’ which means you will rank higher for topical related keywords (You also need high quality content to rank for your target keywords but quality backlinks generally follow quality content).
But, and this is a huge BUT that you must always, always consider when building backlinks.
All backlinks are not equal.
If your ‘Dog Training’ website is getting a lot of links from Motoring websites, Travel websites or Builders Merchant websites (for example) this is going to send Google a very confused message.
The backlinks you have built are not relevant and are not contributing to your ‘Topical Authority’. So they aren’t ‘good’ backlinks but they probably aren’t causing you any negative equity with regards your on-site SEO and may well contribute to a natural looking backlink profile.
What you are looking for is relevance and authority. Authority is measured in a number of ways, usually by metrics such as Domain Authority (MOZ) or Domain Ranking (ahrefs). There is also the Alexa rank which is less important.
So what is a ‘Toxic Backlink?’
Toxic backlinks are, at best, unnatural links that directly harm the search rankings of a website, it really isn’t over emphasising the point to say that toxic backlinks will directly result in your website featuring lower in the Google rankings than it deserves to be.
At worst, toxic backlinks can be backlinks from adult sites, adult forums and unindexed sites from across Eastern Europe and Russia, they can be being used to inject Malware onto your site or even redirect users from your website to their own, less than reputable websites – these can be devastating to your website rankings as well as damaging to your business, brand and reputation.
It should be noted that not all backlinks from what are generally considered as high risk countries are hosting disreputable content.
However you should ask yourself a serious question – if you are a Devon based photographer would you expect to be linked to from external websites from Russia, Latvia, China and beyond?
As you can imagine there are certain businesses and organisations that are at higher risk to Toxic Backlinks than others…
(Photographers Beware! – I’m sorry to say but your websites can be particularly vulnerable.)
Devon Media offer a Toxic Backlink assessment and confidential report COMPLETELY FREE.
Why is it important to identify Toxic Backlinks?
The presence of Toxic Backlinks may be dragging your website down the search engine rankings and missing out on the Google ranking position that your website organically deserves.
As of September 2016 Google now runs its toxic backlink tool (Penguin 4.0) in real time as part of its core algorithm, this means they are constantly scanning for exactly the sort of backlinks covered by this article and if it finds any a ranking penalty will fairly quickly follow.
The good news about the real time core algorithm is that if toxic backlinks cause you to be penalised in real time, remediation of any identified issues will result in your original rankings being reinstated pretty quickly too rather than having to wait months or even years for the next algorithm update release.
Another high risk implication of being on the receiving end of backlinks from unknown, external sites (particularly non-UK websites) is that once a link exists between the two websites these can be used to inject malicious code or malware onto your website.
In other cases they can be used to redirect your website visitors to a completely unrelated website.
As you can see these different types of unwanted backlinks can have a substantially negative impact to your site speed, site trust, Google ranking and site security as well as having potentially devastating consequences to your business brand and reputation.
How can I find out if I have Toxic Backlinks?
To get an accurate, real time, view of your backlinks you need to use a professional, enterprise SEO tool.
Google Search Console has an option to generate a ‘Links to Your Site’ report.
However, it is extremely important to note that this will not show you all backlinks to your website.
“Not all links to your site may be listed … As a result, you may see a change in the number of links displayed for your site.”
Let us put your mind at rest completely free of charge!
There is a good chance that your website is completely clear of any unwanted activity but why take such an unnecessary risk?
I have Toxic Backlinks – What do I do next?
First of all, don’t panic!
They can be cleaned up, offending sites blocked and any Google penalty reversed.
Our FREE Scan, Assessment and Confidential Report is yours to keep and action accordingly but I cannot stress enough how important it is to get any unwanted links professionally removed, take additional steps to guarantee that the problem will not re-occur and ensure that any Google ranking penalty reversed.
If you’d like to discuss your options, please do get in touch – It would be great to hear from you.
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I’m Nigel, Founder of Devon Media, a Devon based digital media agency.
With over 20 years consultancy experience working with blue chip companies I’m a natural problem solver – a perfect character trait for the ever changing landscape of Website Design & SEO.
Feel free to ask me anything, always happy to help out – firstname.lastname@example.org
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