Spam backlinks can do a lot of damage to your site. Unfortunately, many website owners have spam backlinks pointing to their sites, and they don’t even realize it.
The only way to figure out whether you have spam websites linking to you is to conduct a website audit. You can do this for free or use a paid service.
While paid tools are more effective and will help you get the job done quicker, free tools can work too, as long as you’re willing to put in some manual work.
Spam backlinks are links pointing to your site that come from low-quality domains. There are several reasons why spammers may target your website, and we’ll talk about them in a bit.
Regardless of why your site was targeted, however, you need to occasionally find out spam backlinks pointing to your website as they are terrible for your rankings. When Google detects the spammy sites linking to you (and it will, sooner or later), it may start demoting you in the SERPs.
Not only that, but if Google suspects that you built those spammy backlinks yourself to artificially boost your SEO rankings, it may manually penalize your site. That means your site may disappear from the search engine results altogether; a penalty is only reversible by submitting an appeal for human review.
There are three main reasons you may have spammy backlinks:
- You may have paid for them, perhaps unwittingly.
- A competitor created them to set you up.
- Spammers are trying to increase their own rankings and traffic.
Many webmasters don’t realize the harm that low-quality backlinks can do. They may hire SEO agencies that use “link farming” and other spammy techniques to build large quantities of backlinks to their sites to give them a quick ranking boost.
Sometimes, these agencies aren’t even upfront about the strategies they use – they may even promise to use only “white-hat” techniques. Nevertheless, despite a possible short-term ranking boost, these strategies never end well.
A competitor might have created those backlinks to make it look like you engaged in black-hat SEO strategies. They’re hoping your site gets deranked or penalized, so they can increase their own rankings and sales.
Finally, spammers sometimes link to you to get more exposure for themselves. Often, they’ll use anchor text containing keywords they want to rank for.
Their thinking might be that by linking to many quality sites, more webmasters will notice them and check them out. Also, they may hope to increase their rankings by linking to high-authority domains.
If you don’t want to use a paid tool, you can use a free one to check for spammy backlinks. A number of free tools are available, such as the Free Backlink Checker from Ahrefs.
The problem with free tools is that they typically only give you a partial view of your backlinks. Ahrefs, for example, will only show you your top 100 backlinks.
That does nothing to help you find spam backlinks, as you may only see the good ones.
Even Google Search Console only gives you a sample of your backlink data. You can export a sample multiple times (as the links change), but you’ll never see a full report of all your backlinks.
Similarly, Moz only gives you 50 rows of data per query on a free account.
One way to get around this is to sign up for a free trial for premium tools. Many will give you full access for 7 or 14 days; however, this is not a long-term solution.
Another option is to sign up for multiple free sites, so you get as much data as possible. Sites I recommend include:
- Google Search Console
- Bing Webmaster Tools
- Ubersuggest (by Neil Patel)
Keep in mind that even free tools may require you to verify ownership of your domain before you get access to all the free results. Ahrefs is one such tool.
Using the free backlink checkers those tools offer, you can look up your website and go through each backlink manually. Look at metrics such as Domain Authority or Trust Score, which will vary from one tool to another.
Also, look at the referring domain. Does it look like an illicit site, or do you see a lot of .ru or .cn domains linking to you?
Those are signs of spammy backlinks.
If you want to uncover all your spam backlinks, your best bet is to pay up and use a premium tool. You’ll get a lot more data, and you won’t risk missing any links.
There are two tools that I recommend, as they make the job super easy. The first is SEMrush, and the second is Ahrefs.
To check for backlinks using SEMrush, head to the SEMrush Backlink Audit tool. You’ll need to create a project for your site before running a backlink audit.
Once you’ve created a project, run your backlink audit. SEMrush will give you a list of all referring domains.
There are three things to look for here. The first is the overall toxicity score of your backlink profile.
If your toxic score is low, that’s good news! You don’t have a lot of spam backlinks pointing to your site.
If your toxic score is high, then you’ll need to dig deeper and find those toxic backlinks.
SEMrush makes it easy for you by ranking referring domains by toxicity. Furthermore, it will tell you exactly how many toxic and potentially toxic websites are pointing to your blog.
Filter your results based on toxic score to see the most toxic ones first. Analyze each toxic link to check for problems that SEMrush has flagged, including:
- A low Authority Score
- A suspicious follow/nofollow ratio
- Irrelevant geolocation or niche
Another excellent backlink checker tool is Ahrefs.
Once you run a backlink audit (and you have a paid account), you can sort your results by Domain Ranking.
By seeing the referring domains with the lowest Domain Rankings first, you’ll be able to check for potentially spammy links. While a low Domain Ranking is not necessarily an indicator of toxicity, it can be a red flag.
To check a domain with a low DR for spam, look at the anchor text and domain geolocation and visit the actual page linking to you. Ask yourself these questions:
- Does the site look spammy?
- Is the site low-quality?
- Is it lacking in content, or does it use a lot of keyword stuffing or spun content? Is it a new site?
- Is the referring domain irrelevant to your niche or location? Does it deal in illicit matters, like gambling or pornography?
Use your best judgment. Just because it’s a low-quality site, that doesn’t mean it’s a spam site.
Many new blogs or blogs that have not been well maintained may have sparse content and a low Domain Ranking score. However, they are not necessarily spammy and did not necessarily link to you with malicious intent.
If you find spam backlinks, there are two ways to remove them. The first is to send a removal request to the site owner and ask them to stop linking to you.
SEMrush users can do this easily, providing they have the email address of the linking site’s owner. You’ll have to connect your email address and add the links you want to remove to a removal list.
SEMrush will provide email removal request templates and send the removal request straight to the site owner.
However, if a spammer links to you maliciously, the chances of getting them to remove the link manually is low. In that case, your best bet is to disavow the links using Google’s disavow tool.
The best way to do that is to use Google’s Disavow tool, which is free and easy to use. You’ll need to connect and verify your property in the Google Search Console first.
SEMrush and other backlink audit tools allow you to download suspicious links to a special file, which you can then upload to the Google Disavow tool or else you can also shop disavow package for websites. Get rid of toxic backlinks within 1 to 2 weeks and enhance your SEO rankings.
If your site received a manual penalty due to low-quality links, you’ll need to submit a Reconsideration Request. A manual penalty can only be reversed after a manual review.
You can see if you received a manual penalty in the Manual Actions report in your Google Search Console. If you received a manual penalty, submit an appeal and explain to Google why the spam links were there and why they weren’t your fault.
It’s critical to check for spam backlinks regularly. Using premium backlink audit tools, you can run automated reports on a weekly basis to check for new spam links that pop up.
That way, you can remove or disavow them right away, without giving them a chance to ruin your rankings.