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  • Writer's pictureMark A Preston

Your Toxic Links Checklist: Identifying Harmful Backlinks

Updated: Mar 10

Navigating the murky waters of backlinks in the vast ocean of SEO can be daunting. Not all backlinks are created equal—some have the power to elevate your site, while others carry the shadowy burden of toxicity. Understanding the difference is critical for the health and success of your website.


toxic links checklist

What Are Toxic Links and Why Should You Care?


Toxic links are the unsavoury characters in the backlink world. They're the links from questionable sources that can tarnish your website's reputation in the eyes of search engines like Google. But how do you spot them before they inflict damage?


Tell-tale Signs of Backlink Toxicity


Let’s demystify the indicators of harmful links with practical insights from our conversation with SEO mavens.


  • Malware-Infested Sites: If the website linking to you is riddled with malware or has been hacked, consider that link hazardous material.

  • Dramatic Traffic Drops: Witnessing a site that plummeted from thousands of visitors to virtually none is a red flag. A sharp decline often signifies that something went wrong—and you don't want your site associated with it.

  • Redirect Havens and Spam: Websites laden with redirects or overflowing with spam, especially from dubious industries like adult content or gambling, are often considered poor neighbourhoods on the web.

  • Links from Bad Niches: If a site is intertwined with adult content or has affiliations with egregiously shady activities, it’s a link you don't want.


Charles Floate remarks on the resilience of Google’s algorithm against negative SEO, highlighting that most attempts at negative SEO fail because it’s genuinely challenging to harm a site in this way. Yet, it’s prudent to be vigilant.


Managing the Menace: Your Checklist to Mitigate the Risk


Regular Backlink Audits: Keep a close eye on your backlink profile. Use tools like Ahrefs to monitor new links and their quality.


  • Assess Traffic and Site Quality: Check the health of linking sites. A good metric is their traffic trend over time—stability is a good sign, while sudden drops are concerning.

  • Check for Redirection and Spam Levels: If the linking site is a maze of redirects or a hotbed for spam, it’s a link worth disavowing.

  • Analyse Niche Neighbourhoods: Be wary of links from sites in 'bad neighbourhoods'. A site's niche can affect your site's standing by association.


The landscape of SEO is ever-evolving, but some truths remain constant - the company your site keeps matters greatly. In the words of Charles Floate...


"There's definitely different levels of toxicity out there."

Identifying them is paramount to safeguarding your site's integrity.




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