If you want to get rid of a Google penalty or you simply want to prevent one, learning how to remove bad backlinks with a backlink audit is critical. There’s no other way around it.
You have to conduct a full backlink audit and find the low-quality backlinks that are hurting your rankings.
While there are numerous link removal services, most of the time they are expensive and not effective, so it’s better to do it yourself.
Finding low-quality backlinks can be a challenging task for some people, but it shouldn’t be that way.
By following the tips I’m about to share with you in this post, you’ll learn how to identify and remove all your website’s bad backlinks.
Once you know how to eliminate suspicious links, the penalty recovery process is very straight forward.
What You Will Learn
- How to collect all of your backlink data easily
- How to conduct a backlink audit and identify bad links
- How to remove bad backlinks
- How to disavow links you couldn’t remove
Enough talking, are you ready start finding bad links?
Collecting Your Backlink Data
You need to collect all your website’s backlinks from different sources, just to make sure you are not missing any of them.
To get started, go to Google Webmaster Tools and export all your website’s backlinks.Click on ‘Search Traffic’ and then on ‘Links to Your Site’.
On the next page, click on ‘more’, from the module ‘Who links the most’. Then click on ‘Download more sample links’. Google will download all your website’s backlinks in a CSV format.
Another way to find backlinks to your website is to use Open Site Explorer from Moz. Enter your website URL and click on search and then request a CSV report.
You now have two backlink reports, one from Google Webmaster Tools, and one from Moz. Both of them have a list of backlinks, but none of them has any metrics to compare the links value.
You could also get more backlink information from Ahrefs & Majestic SEO. Although Ahrefs is much better.
If your website has only a few links, manually checking them would not be a problem. But if you have hundreds or thousands of backlinks, you must find a way to sort them by their importance.
To help you identify what links are good or bad, you will have to gather more information and SEO metrics.
Digging Up The Dirt With A Backlink Audit
To determine your backlinks value, you can use Monitor Backlinks. In this tool, you can import both CSV reports from GWT and Moz, and you’ll get more insights that will help you identify what links are worthy to keep.
As a side note, you can also connect your domain with Google Analytics with Monitor Backlinks, to find more links.
The tool uses Analytics Referrals and also Ahrefs API, so this will get you fully covered. You’ll have backlinks collected from the most trusted sources, so there’s no way you will miss a link.
Here’s how to import all backlinks reports to Monitor Backlinks.
Click on ‘Add new backlinks’.
Scroll down and click ‘Import now’. The tool automatically recognizes backlinks reports from GWT, Moz, Ahrefs or Majestic.
On the next page, you have to upload the CSV report exported from Moz or GWT and then choose how many links / domain you want to import. Monitor Backlinks automatically removes duplicate links.
If you later want to know the source of the links, you can tag them. For example, you can tag all links imported from Moz as “MOZ Backlinks”. Next, click ‘Upload & Import’ and in a few minutes you will see all your backlinks along with their SEO metrics on the backlinks page.
Repeat the process to import your links from all sources and then you can move to the next step, which is identifying low-quality backlinks.
How To Find Bad Backlinks
When trying to remove bad backlinks, you usually have to check your backlinks one by one.
Nevertheless, if your website has too many backlinks, you will have to filter and sort them by their value. By doing so, you can save time and check only those that have very poor SEO metrics.
Check Backlinks From Domains That Aren’t In Google’s Index
If a website is not indexed by Google, it means it was penalized and banned from the search results, or it’s a very new website and Google has not crawled it yet.
These are not the type of websites you want to link to your website. Either way, you have to check such links manually, and remove them if they are bad.
Find all your website’s backlinks coming from unindexed domains, by using Monitor Backlinks filters. Click on ‘Filters’ and then on “Domain and Page not indexed”.
When you find a backlink you want to remove, add a tag to your link by clicking on the settings icon on the right side of the backlink row. I usually tag such links with the word ‘remove’, so that I can easily find them later.
Sort Backlinks by Domain PageRank & MozRank
Next, you can check all websites coming from domains with PageRank 0. Google has not updated the PageRank toolbar for more than one year.
But this is the only SEO metric coming directly from Google, so we have to take full advantage of it.
Click on ‘PR’ and then choose to view only domains with PageRank 0.
After you are done analyzing and tagging backlinks coming from domains with no PageRank, you will have to filter your links by their Domain Authority. This metric is coming from Moz, and it’s updated more often, so it should be more relevant and more accurate.
Choose to view all backlinks from websites with a Domain Authority below 10 or 20 and analyze their quality.
Look For Backlinks With Too Many External Links
It often happens that websites with too many outbound links are of low quality.
An example can be auto approved blog comments. Because of the lack of moderation, the quality of the backlinks is very low, especially if it’s abused by spammers.
To find all your backlinks coming from pages with too many external links, from Monitor Backlinks, click on ‘Filters’ and then on ‘EXT’.
This will show you all backlinks from sites that have over 100 external links.
Look For Backlinks From Spammy Blog Networks
It’s no secret that Google doesn’t like spammy blog networks. If your website has such links, you might want to remove them, especially if they are coming from sites using spun content.
Find backlinks from blog networks or from websites using the same hosting IP by checking the ‘IP’ column.
The number from the right side of the flag indicates how many backlinks your website has from that unique IP.
Identify Bad Backlinks by TLD
Another way to detect bad backlinks is to look at the TLD of the websites linking to your site.
Let’s say, for example, you have a local business selling online products in London. It would make no sense to have backlinks from websites located in India, Pakistan or Russia.
You can filter your links by their TLD using the search filters from Monitor Backlinks.
Check If Adult/Gambling Websites Link To You
Relevancy is another important metric to consider when cleaning up your backlinks profile.
It’s critical to check if your website has backlinks from gambling or adult sites.You can do so, by clicking on ‘from’ and typing keywords like adult, gambling, poker, etc.
Here’s an example of how I found two backlinks from adult websites I need to remove immediately:
After completing the identifying process and finished tagging all your bad backlinks, you have to remove as many as you can.
How To Remove Bad Backlinks
The removal process can be challenging and tricky. Most importantly, you have to understand that you can’t remove all backlinks.
However, you will be able to disavow all backlinks you can’t remove.
These are the key elements to consider when doing link removal:
- Be friendly and polite when sending your link removal request.
- Personalize each email and don’t make it look like you are using a template.
- Give exact instructions with the location of the backlink you need to remove. No one has time to spend digging for your hidden backlinks. Make the webmaster job as easy as possible.
- Always send a follow up to make sure your message was received.
- DON’T threaten the webmaster. Yes, as silly as that may sound to you, it happened to me. I was threatened that if I don’t remove a backlink, my website will be hit by negative SEO attack.
- Don’t be discouraged if you fail to delete a link. A 10-20% conversion is considered good for link removal.
- Never pay for link removals. As soon as you will start the removal process, you’ll notice that it happens quite often that webmasters ask money to remove links. You can disavow those links instead.
It really helps if you use an outreach tool like BuzzStream that will save you so much time when trying to lookup contact details and contact site owners. It’s an amazing tool everyone should have in their arsenal.
So how does a correct link removal request looks like? Here’s an example:
As you can see, the outreach was very polite and gave me the exact details of where I can find the backlink I was asked to remove.
It was easy for me and didn’t take more than 1 minute to help him out.
To start cleaning your backlinks profile, head back to Monitor Backlinks and load all the low-quality links you have tagged in the first steps.
Next, take each backlink one by one and try to get in touch with the webmaster responsible for the website.
How To Find Anyones Email Address
There are a few different ways you can find someones email address or contact page. First you can use Matthew’s free SEO Tool RankCracker which can look up emails and contact URLs
You can also Use the amazing BuzzStream outreach tool which has too many awesome features to list.
Search for contact details on their website. Most frequently, you can find a link to the contact or about page, on the header or footer of the website.
If you like doing things manually you can look on each backlinks contact page, try to identify who is the webmaster or who is responsible for the content of the website.
Once found the name of the person that can help you, try to find his email address. Most often, email addresses are built like this: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alternately you can use tools like Voilanorbert.com to find anyone’s email address. After inputting the webmaster name and website, VoilaNorbert will search for their email address.
If those tips fail, use Whois.net to find the email address associated with their hosting company.
Most of the time, you shouldn’t need to go that far, but if you are dealing with some very awful backlinks it’s worth spending more time removing them.
How To Disavow The Backlinks You Can’t Remove
After sending your removal requests, give it a few weeks for the webmasters to reply and then send your follow up. Tools like BuzzStream will do that for you automatically.
If you still don’t get any reply, it’s time to disavow the backlinks you couldn’t remove.
To easily create a disavow report, you can again use Monitor Backlinks. First choose the backlinks you have tagged to remove and then click on ‘With selected’ – ‘Disavow domains’.
It will create a disavow report with all the backlinks that contain the ‘remove’ tag.
With the report, go to Google Disavow Tool and simply upload the file. Make sure to double check everything before submitting the disavow report.
Wrapping It Up
Now you know how to remove bad backlinks to your website, you should be safe from link based penalties for the foreseeable future.
Always pay close attention to all your website’s backlinks and make sure you remove or disavow the bad ones with a regular backlink audit before it’s too late.
Grab your backlinks from as many sources as possible and filter your backlinks to identify those that are hurting your rankings.
Keeping a clean backlink profile is essential to successful SEO.
How do you find bad backlinks? Have you ever dealt with a penalty? If you need help to detect bad backlinks & recover from a penalty click here.