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Toxic Backlinks: Do They Still Matter in 2023?
SEO / 02 Jun 2022
Not all backlinks are created equal. Toxic backlinks may not only harm your rank, but could also lead to penalties from search engines.
But what are toxic backlinks? And do they really matter as much as many SEOs claim they do?
While a reputable content marketing agency will never use harmful backlinks, it’s important to have a solid understanding of what backlinks are – and why some are better than others.
What are backlinks, and why do they matter?
Backlinks go by many names, such as inbound or one-way links. In short, they are simply links that point to your website from another website.
For example, if someone cites your blog article as a source on their site, and links back to your article in the text, that would be a backlink. Here’s one in action – we talk more about backlinks in our article on backlink building strategies here.
Any SEO service worth their salt will develop a solid backlink strategy for your site. This is because getting your site linked to from other sites is something Google loves, and it can boost your rankings and get you to the top of results pages.
In fact, a study published on Backlinko found that the number of domains linking to a page was the factor that had the highest correlation to rankings in Google. Not only that, but Ahrefs found that the #1 ranking page in the search results gets an additional 5% to 14.5% more backlinks from new websites each month.
Backlinks do a great job of promoting your blog or site just by being hyperlinks to you from another source. If your website seems trustworthy, more people will read and share it.
What are “toxic” backlinks?
Unfortunately, so-called “toxic” backlinks aren’t as nice to have. They’re made even worse by the fact that in most cases, you have little control over backlinks, as they come from an outside source.
A “toxic” link is generally considered to be a link that has the potential to harm your website’s ranking on Google. However, there are differing opinions on how bad the problem can be, or even what backlinks can be considered negative.
Unfortunately, the fact is backlinks can indeed harm your SEO. The only question is how much.
The Google Penguin algorithm update in 2012 introduced the concept of negative SEO and toxic backlinks. This meant:
- They defined toxic backlinks as coming from “untrusted sources”
- When Google doesn’t trust a site, its trust of the sources it links to will also go down by association
- On the other hand, even if Google thinks the site has trustworthy information, but it doesn’t align with your intentions, you would see that backlink as negative even if other people wouldn’t
It’s just like if someone took a photo of you next to someone with an awful reputation. Even if you are trustworthy yourself, you might not want that photo getting out.
Examples of toxic backlink sources
For the reasons explained above, it’s best to engage a reputable SEO agency to evaluate your backlink situation so that you can get a good picture of where you stand.
Everybody knows these sources. Clickbait-y sites that are irrelevant to you or sites that talk about illegal or predatory products. They may link to your site to boost their own reputation, but don’t take that as a compliment. Google recommends that you contact the websites where your backlinks are coming from and request removal.
If you’re still not sure, ask for advice from a rock-solid SEO service who will be happy to help.
Link-mill websites or paid link schemes are sites where unscrupulous site owners pay a fee for backlinks. This practice has been popular for years, and search engines find it difficult to crack down on it. When you buy backlinks, you have little to no control over where the backlinks are placed or what kind of content your backlink will appear in. This could spell disaster for your SEO. Paying an SEO agency to help you to generate exposure and organic backlinks is a much safer way to go.
While these are the main sources to watch out for, there are other places backlinks can turn negative, for example spammed in the comments section of other blog articles or forums or even in spam emails.
Weak SEO means less organic traffic from search engines, fewer visitors, dwindling leads and ultimately less sales.
How to keep your backlinks healthy
According to HubSpot, companies who engage in blogging receive 97% more backlinks to their site. Developing a solid content marketing strategy can help you build up your backlinks and get you noticed.
You can also use online tools such as Majestic to build a profile of your backlinks and remove ones that you don’t like.
Remember to only engage with reputable SEO services, and never spam links to your site or buy links from a mill.
Let’s get rid of bad backlinks
Backlinks are totally worth the effort. An Ahrefs study found that 43.7% of top ranking pages in Google contain reciprocal links. However, the study also showed that more than 66% of pages have zero backlinks pointing to them – so if you have no backlinks, now’s the best time to start.
In our humble opinion, what constitutes a “toxic” backlink is only half subjective. No one ever wants backlinks from spam sites and link mills, as there have been case studies where they have caused harm.
On the other hand, if you don’t want to be associated with a certain site that backlinks to yours, that may be just as harmful and a SEO service can help you identify these and remove them.
Need some support writing backlink worthy content for your website? Want to boost your reputation and rise to page one of the results?
Our expert team of white label SEO copywriters and technical wizards will be happy to give you a hand.
Book your discovery call today.
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