How to Find and Remove Bad Backlinks: Your Quick Guide

Julia McCoy

Julia McCoy

Creator and Co-founder

how to find and remove bad backlinks

Finding yourself getting spammed with bad links?

Picture this…

You’ve put a lot of effort into building an SEO-friendly website with amazing content. Users and search engines will definitely reward your efforts. 🏆

You’ve applied SEO best practices.

You even have a phenomenal number of organic backlinks.

All things being equal, you should be ranking high on search engine results pages, but you’re not.

So, what could be the problem?

You could have some bad backlinks pointing to your site.

With backlinks being an important ranking factor, this is definitely cause for concern.

Don’t worry, though. Learning how to find and remove bad backlinks is something you can handle on your own.

This blog post will help you do just that. We’ll look at how to:

  • Identify low-quality backlinks.
  • Disavow backlinks negatively impacting your site.
  • Identify and build good backlinks.

By the end of this post, you’ll understand how to clean up your link profile and protect your website from potential search engine penalties.

Learning how to find and remove bad backlinks is essential for any entrepreneur, founder, business owner, or marketer looking to maintain a healthy online presence.

Let’s dive in.

Table of Contents:

Backlinks are one of the most important ranking factors search engines use to rank content.

These are links from other sites pointing to yours. They hold a lot of value because they’re considered a vote of confidence that your site is authoritative and has valuable content.

The more high-quality backlinks you have, the better your chances of outranking your competitors.

However, not all links pointing to your site add value.

Some are toxic backlinks that can lead to your site not ranking as well as it should.

Bad backlinks, also called toxic backlinks, come from spammy, harmful, irrelevant, or low-quality websites. 💀 These backlinks can hurt your website’s search engine rankings and overall SEO performance.

To better help you identify bad backlinks, here are some of their characteristics:

Spammy or Low-Quality Websites

Backlinks from websites known for spamming, link farms, or low-quality content are considered bad backlinks. This includes all links from sites built specifically for link-building purposes, like private blog networks (PBNs).

How do you build a good backlink profile organically? Create incredible content that people WANT to link to. It all starts with a proven process — get that right now in my Content Process Blueprint.

content process blueprint

Irrelevant or Unrelated Sources

Backlinks from websites or pages unrelated to your industry, niche, or content topic can be considered bad backlinks. Search engines value backlinks from relevant sources that provide valuable information to users.

This is why links from sites in your niche or industry are considered high-quality backlinks.

Paid or Unnatural Links

Backlinks obtained through paid link schemes, link exchanges, or other manipulative practices violate search engine guidelines. These artificial links are considered low-quality and can lead to penalties or a loss of trust from search engines.

Over-Optimized Anchor Texts

Backlinks with overly optimized anchor text, i.e., exact-match keywords stuffed into the anchor text, can raise red flags to search engines. Natural backlink profiles have a mix of different anchor text variations and include branded and generic anchors.

Negative SEO Attacks

Competitors or malicious individuals may intentionally create or acquire bad backlinks to your website as part of a negative SEO strategy. These are usually low-quality backlinks designed to harm your website’s search rankings, reputation, and business growth.

Link Networks or Link Exchanges

Backlinks from link networks or link exchange schemes, where websites join together to exchange links solely for the purpose of boosting rankings, are considered bad backlinks. Search engines can identify such artificial linking patterns and penalize the websites involved.

Search engines are so advanced they can easily tell the type of backlinks pointing to your site. As a result, they’re better able to tell which sites are trying to use link building to game the system.

As a website owner or manager, you need to know how to find and remove bad backlinks that are harming your site. Because these types of websites aren’t trusted by search engines, when they point to your site, your SEO will be negatively impacted. 📉

And as you know, low rankings correlate to reduced traffic and poor sales.

5 Reasons Bad Backlinks Are Harmful to Your Site

If backlinks are good for SEO, why are toxic backlinks harmful to your site?

1. Google Penalties

If your website has accumulated a significant number of low-quality links, it can trigger a penalty from search engines like Google. These penalties can result in a drop in search rankings or even complete removal of your website from search results.

Knowing how to disavow backlinks helps mitigate the risk of such penalties.

2. Negative SEO

In some cases, competitors or malicious actors may create or acquire low-quality backlinks to your website to harm your search rankings. This is called negative SEO.

Disavowing these bad links signals to search engines that you do not endorse or associate with those links, protecting your website from negative SEO practices.

3. Poor Link Quality

Bad links from spammy or irrelevant sources can dilute your website’s authority and impact its overall performance. Knowing how to remove harmful backlinks helps ensure that your backlink profile consists of high-quality, relevant links that positively contribute to your SEO efforts.

4. They Damage Your Brand Reputation

Low-quality or spammy websites linking to your site can reflect poorly on your brand’s reputation. Disavowing bad links helps maintain a clean and reputable backlink profile, preserving your brand image and credibility online.

5. Poor SEO Performance

Bad backlinks pointing to your site have an overall negative impact on your SEO. Knowing how to find and remove bad backlinks helps you improve the overall quality and relevance of your backlink profile. This can lead to higher search rankings, increased organic traffic, and improved SEO performance.

A strong and healthy backlink profile is essential for long-term SEO success.

Now that you know how to identify bad and good backlinks, let’s dive into how you can find bad backlinks and remove them from your site.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, founder, business owner, or marketer aiming to elevate your website’s search engine rankings, you should comprehend the value of backlinks.

As you’ve seen by now, not all backlinks are equal. Some may be detrimental to your website’s SEO.

In this section, we’ll show you how to find and remove bad backlinks.

The first step in dealing with bad backlinks is identifying them. As we’ve already discussed, these are:

  • Links from spammy websites with thin content and numerous ads.
  • Links from unrelated niche sites that have no relevance to your industry or target audience.
  • Paid links designed solely for manipulating search engine rankings.
  • And more.

To spot these problematic links quickly and efficiently, consider using one of the following SEO tools 🧰:


Ahrefs is an excellent tool for analyzing your website’s backlink profile and running backlink audits. With its comprehensive database of live backlinks updated regularly, Ahrefs allows you to identify potentially harmful ones by filtering based on factors like domain rating (DR), anchor text distribution, and more.

ahrefs backlink checker

Source: Ahrefs Site Explorer

Not only does Ahrefs give you tons of backlink data, but you can disavow links from right within the tool.

It also enables you to manually go through the links in your audit so you can be sure every single backlink you’re targeting to disavow is really toxic. Once done, you can download your list of bad backlinks in a format you can upload to Google Search Console (GSC) if necessary. More on this in a moment.

Moz Link Explorer

Moz Link Explorer is another popular option among marketers interested in running backlink audits on their sites. It gives you detailed insights into your site’s link health status and offers a detailed analysis of your backlink profile. It also provides a spam score metric to help you gauge the quality of each link.

moz link explorer

Google Search Console

Google Search Console is another valuable resource for identifying bad backlinks, as it shows which websites are linking to yours and allows you to download this data in CSV format for further analysis.

These tools take the grunt work out of manually going through all the links on your site to spot the toxic ones. You can use them to easily find incoming links that search engine spiders can flag as spammy.

Once you’ve identified harmful links pointing to your site, removing them is easy.

Contact the Website Owner

Reach out politely via email or contact form requesting the removal of the unwanted link. Be sure to provide details about where the link is on their site and why it’s problematic for your SEO efforts.

Granted, most website owners may not be bothered to respond or take action.

Thankfully, this isn’t your only option to remove toxic backlinks on your site.

Use Google’s Disavow Tool

If contacting website owners doesn’t yield results or isn’t feasible due to a large number of bad links, you can also submit a disavow file through Google’s Disavow Tool. This informs Google that you don’t want certain links considered when assessing your site’s ranking.

google disavow links tool

Here’s an insider tip from Josh McCoy (who heads up our website services) on uploading URLs to disavow in Google Search Console:

Step 1: Log in to your Gmail that you used to verify your domain with Google Search Console.

Step 2: After logging in, go to this link: “”

Step 3: Select your domain property (http/https version)

Step 4: Click on replace and upload your disavow file (from Ahrefs or your other SEO tool of choice)

Note that using this tool should be done cautiously and only as a last resort since incorrect usage can negatively impact your rankings.

Monitor Your Progress

After taking action against bad backlinks, monitor any changes in your organic traffic and search engine rankings over time. This will help confirm whether removing those links has positively affected your SEO performance.

Knowing how to remove toxic backlinks may seem daunting at first 😨.

But as you can see, anyone can do it.

Finding and removing bad backlinks is an important part of your website maintenance.

After all, identifying and eliminating bad backlinks is critical to maintaining good SEO rankings. That’s why periodically inspecting your website for any shady connections can help guarantee an improved online presence. It also ensures that you avoid penalties from search engines and results in good SEO performance.

As you can see, all it takes are a few simple steps to protect yourself from the negative effects of bad backlinks while continuing with successful content marketing strategies.

And if you’re still unsure what that looks like (successful content marketing), or you feel like you’re stumbling around in the dark guessing on how to grow through content…

Your pathway through the weeds and onto the road to success is right here.

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