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Link Cleaning: How to remove toxic backlinks from your website

Today's competitive pressure on the Internet makes search engine optimization mandatory for businesses. Are you still seeing bad rankings despite all of your SEO efforts? Toxic backlinks might be the cause.


To be the #1 in Google's search results – every business would like to achieve this for their website. But most SEO managers today should be aware that the implementation in practice is not that easy. After all, a lot of measures have to be taken to ensure that a website is successful – onpage as well as offpage. An important part of the offpage optimization has always been the development of a good backlink profile. Backlinks from websites that Google rates poorly for their content, structure or other reasons should be avoided as far as possible. This so-called bad link juice can have a negative effect on your own ranking. Unfortunately, this is not at your discretion, as basically anyone can link to your website. But how do you succeed in removing toxic backlinks from a website? The answer is: Link Cleaning.

Link Audit and Link Cleaning via the Google Search Console

Before you dedicate yourself to the process of Link Cleaning, it is of course necessary to first identify the toxic backlinks. The backlink analysis is also referred as Link Audit in the field of SEO. Both Link Cleaning and the Link Audit are carried out through the Google Search Console.

Link Audit: Good backlinks, bad backlinks

In order to access the backlink profile of your website, you have to select the option "Links to your website" on the "Search queries" tab in the Google Search Console – and you'll see who links to your website. But how do you judge if a backlink is good or bad? The SEM agency SEM Boutique lists four criteria in its magazine that indicate the quality of a domain:

  • The SEO visibility
  • The number of backlinks
  • The topic
  • The website structure

So if a domain has good Google rankings, many backlinks, matches your website thematically and on top of that is well structured, you can be sure that the backlinks will have a positive (or at least no negative) effect. However, if this is not the case, it is necessary to eliminate the relevant backlinks immediately. The need for action is even more acute if you have already been warned by Google that bad backlinks refer to your website. Because then damage has already been done.

Link Cleaning: These are your options

The toxic backlinks have been discovered – now the next step is to eliminate them. Basically, you have two options here: either contact the linking websites directly and ask them to remove the links, or contact Google in order to invalidate toxic backlinks using the Disavow tool.

Alternative # 1: Contact domain owner

Of course, if the toxic backlinks stem from several different websites, the effort to contact every single domain owner and ask him to delete them would be enormous. However, going directly through Google should only be considered if the contact of the linking domain is unavailable or refuses to remove the toxic backlinks.

Alternative # 2: Invalidating backlinks through Google

Google offers website owners the ability to disavow certain backlinks through the Search Console. All you have to do is to create and upload a list of the relevant backlinks in the form of a TXT file. Make sure to put each link in a separate line. Descriptive texts should be marked with a hashtag (#). If all backlinks of a domain are to be removed, this is done via an extra line "domain:[domain name].[domain extension]". In the following example Google demonstrates how such a file could look like:

Source: Google

To remove backlinks, you must first go to Google's Disavow tool and select your website. Then click on "invalidate links" and upload your TXT file in the last step. Note: Indexing may take some time, depending on when the next Google crawl is due.

Link Audit and Link Cleaning are ongoing processes

As already mentioned, toxic backlinks are very difficult to avoid. Link Audit and Link Cleaning should therefore be performed on a regular basis for your website. It is not uncommon for some of the toxic backlinks to persist despite your best efforts. But in the end it's not that bad: The important part is that the good backlinks keep the upper hand.

So what’s our take away from all this? Thanks to regular link audit and link cleaning, you can identify and delete toxic backlinks, thus positively influencing the SEO ranking of your website – or at least saving them from the effect of bad link juice. With the Google Search Console, you can easily implement these important offpage optimization measures.