Link spam is one of the most frustrating things that can happen to a website owner. When you have an article with quality content, but all your traffic comes from people who are just looking for backlinks, it’s time to start fighting back!
In this guide we will discuss how to identify link spam and what steps you should take if you find it on your site.
What is link spam?
Link spam is a type of spamming that deals with links. It’s when someone posts on blogs, forums and other social media sites to get you to visit their website or blog which will likely have content around the same topic as yours at best, but more often it has unrelated information. The goal in all this is for the person posting links to gain links back, which of course improves their search engine rank.
Link spam is also when you link to irrelevant pages, or use unrelated anchor texts for incoming links. It can be done by other people to your site through hacked sites and paid “commenters” who are not a part of the community they’re engaging with.
Link spamming is also often done by bots or people who are hired to post links on behalf of other companies with the intention of improving that company’s SEO ranking.
Link manipulation is similar to link spamming. It’s when a website owner manipulates the links on their site in order to gain higher rankings on search engines such as Google.
Ways to identify spammy links and link manipulation
A lot of times, spam links are easy to spot. For instance, you may notice that a website’s domain is made up of many generic words and phrases with no content that really connects to the link they’re using on your site or others. If this type of thing happens regularly, it could be indicative of an attempt to engage in spamming.
There are many different ways to identify spammy links, and it can be hard to know where they’re coming from. But with the help of Google Analytics you’ll have a better idea on what’s causing your traffic problems.
Here are just a few things that might indicate some kind of link-spam is happening:
- A sudden spike in the number of visitors coming to your site from a specific domain or IP address.
- You see an increase in people who visit but never convert into leads/sales.
- Your bounce rate increases, and you notice that most visits are short-lived with little engagement on pages they view within your site.
Other things that might indicate link spamming:
- Links that lead to pages outside of your site.
- A high percentage of links coming from domains with low page rank (PR) and/or a lack of relevant content on their homepages.
- Unrelated anchor texts for the destination URLs in incoming links or even unrelated words such as “click here.”
- Incoming links that are nofollow.
If you find that any of these are happening, then it’s possible there is a spammy link on your site and you should take the necessary steps to get rid of it!
What is link decay?
One important thing to know about links is that they can decay. This means the strength of a link decreases with time and some types of linking activity, so you need to be mindful when adding new backlinks or doing other things which might affect your links.
Link spamming is known as one way in which this happens – over time, the links become less and less important in telling Google where your site should rank.
This is because you are creating a link that doesn’t really say anything to people- it’s just there for one purpose: building up numbers of backlinks that you can point at yourself.
What you can do about link spam
Here’s what you can do to identify and to deal with spam links:
- Investigate any links that are from low-quality sites.
- Check the full text of incoming links for phrases such as “click here” or unconnected words like “article.”
- Do a Google search on domains or IP addresses in order to see if they have been flagged by Google.
- Check sites such as Majestic SEO, Link Research Tools or Ahrefs to see if they have any information about the site and its link profile.
- Change your robots.txt file to block the website from scraping your site for content and links so they can’t index or follow you on social media sites.
- Report spammy domains and IPs as a violation of Google Webmaster Guidelines.
- Create a disavow list in case you need it later, but make sure that you do not upload this list to Google Webmaster Tools.
- Create a disavow file with the sites that you have removed links from, but again, don’t submit it to webmaster tools.
- Protect your site by using plugins like Captcha and Akismet to filter out spam comments or social media posts based on their content.
- Create a custom 404 page that sends visitors to your homepage or contact form, rather than displaying spammy links.
- Use the Google Search Console’s disavow tool as a last resort for removing from pages with low quality back
- Get rid of any and all low quality, irrelevant backlinks pointing to your site or blog post. This includes those from “link farms” – sites with repetitive content linking out over and over again.
Types of link spam you want to avoid
- Link farms – sites with repetitive content linking out over and over again. A link farm is essentially just multiple sites of low quality attempting to get links back and forth from one another.
- Sites offering a service or product in exchange for links back to their site, which is against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. For example, link exchanges where you post on your blog then they post on theirs (not reciprocal).
- Affiliate marketing sales pages. Affiliate marketing sales pages are sites that offer a service or product in exchange for links back to their site. This is against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and can result in your website getting penalized if you’re found out.
- Thin content – pages with little substance and low quality, irrelevant backlinks pointing to it. The goal of these types of link spam websites is to point links to low quality pages with little substance and bring traffic there.
- Sites that offer a service or product in exchange for your email address only, but no reciprocal link back to their site.
- Article Spinning – this is the process of rewriting an article by changing words around so it’s not plagiarism; however, Google will punish you for this.
- Link schemes – these are sites that offer a service or product in exchange for links back to their site, but they have no content on it at all and the link goes nowhere useful.
- Sites that offer to index your site or post for a fee in exchange for links back to their site, which is against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. For example, sites offering free submission of your blog posts if you link the URL back to them.
- Sites with excessive use of keywords and phrases on pages without any content.
How to remove bad backlinks
There are many ways of removing link spam that you can find with some research on Google or through professional SEO services providers.
A few possible methods include:
- Remove links from a site manually.
- Contact the webmaster of offending sites to request removal.
- Create backlink profile for your website and disavow bad links in Search Console or Google Webmasters Tools.
- Request removal requests with URL Spam Check.
- Contact Google and ask them to remove any spammy backlinks.
- Use a professional search engine optimization (SEO) service company that has experience dealing with various link types and removing bad ones from your website’s history. SEO professionals work with clients to identify and remove bad links.
- Use a service like the one offered by Link Detox to help clean up your backlink profile from spammy sites.
How to fix toxic links for improved SEO
In order to fix things, you need to identify where the toxic links are coming from and mitigate them. This means finding out what link-building tactics someone like you has used in the past that have led to low quality or spammy backlinks pointing at your site.
There is no one answer for how to do this because it depends on the specific case. You need to use your best judgement and take into consideration what you have done in the past, how many links are pointing at your site, and whether or not these links make sense with Google’s guidelines for building backlinks organically.
There is no one answer for how to do this because it depends on the specific case. You need to use your best judgement and take into consideration what you have done in the past, how many links are pointing at your site, and whether or not these links make sense with Google's guidelines for building backlinks organically.
It is also important that you understand where these toxic sites are coming from so that you can take the necessary steps to stop them from linking back to your site.
If you have a large number of toxic links pointing at your site, it is best if you disavow them all because there is no way that Google will remove these sites on their own.
The process for doing this varies by person based on how many links they have pointing to their site. You need to disavow as many links at a time as possible for the best results.
The way that you can do this is by using Google’s webmaster tools and following these steps:
- Go to your Webmasters Tool account under “Your Site on the Web”
- Click on Links To Your Site
- Click on Disavow links and move all the toxic sites into a new webmaster tool account.
Repeat this process until you have disavowed as many of these domains that you can for your site. Be sure to not stop too soon because it is important to keep going so that Google doesn’t detect activity from your end.
In order to stay up on the latest spammy domains, you can use tools such as Ahrefs and Majestic SEO. These are great for finding these types of sites that you may not have thought about or even seen before because they crawl your site when it’s indexed in Google search. They also provide a list of the domains that you can disavow, which is a great time saver.
How do spam links ruin a website’s reputation?
The more spammy links, the worse your website’s reputation will be. Negative signals could potentially lead to a site being removed from Google search results altogether. With these negative signals pointing out that you’re a spammer and someone who is not trustworthy online, no one will want to link back to or do business with you in the future.
Google determines a website’s reputation by looking at different aspects of your website, like the number and quality of links pointing to it.
When you are using spammy link-building tactics, Google is going to see that as a negative signal because they associate those types of backlinks with being low-quality or suspicious.
This will lead them to devalue your site’s ranking and move it down in the search results, or even remove it from their index entirely.
Difference between high and low quality backlinks
Low quality backlinks are often referred to as spammy. They can be human-generated links that use a variety of techniques, such as buying them or using automated tools like software programs called “scrapers” and “spinners.” These types of bots look for keywords on sites with high search engine rankings and then post links there in large numbers.
High quality backlinks are links that show a reflection of the content on your site, provide social sharing buttons and have a helpful title with descriptive anchor text to give readers an idea as to what they’ll find when clicking through. This type of link is beneficial because it does not appear spammy or “over-optimized.”
The quality of backlinks helps determine a website’s reputation.
Relying too heavily on spammy backlinks can result in an increase of low-quality content that Google considers “thin” or not relevant to the query. This could lead to a website being penalized for having manipulative links, which would lower its search rankings and affect conversion rates.”
How do you tell if a link is having a negative effect on reputation?
If you see a sudden drop in ranking, it could be that Google has suspected spammy links and is penalizing the site.
Google's algorithm now looks for link patterns to identify spam content. For example, if there are too many outbound links from your blog post leading back to other sites with low quality or irrelevant information, Google could flag your site as being manipulative.
Google could also flag your site as spam if it sees a sudden increase in unnatural links pointing to your site.
If Google suspects that you are trying to manipulate PageRank, they will penalize your page's ranking or even remove the page from their index all together.
This is what would happen when there was too much link spam on a website:
- The page rank would go down
- The website could be blacklisted
- Google might remove the page from their index.
- There could be a manual penalty for spamming links, such as Google’s Penalty Update Penguin which devalues websites that are trying to manipulate SEO by buying or selling links in order to rank higher on search engine results pages.
One website that appears to use link spamming techniques is Home Profit System. Check out I Buy I Review’s comprehensive review of Home Profit System here.
I buy and review courses so you don’t have to. Sometimes, I even find courses that are legitimate and worthwhile; and that’s how I accidentally came across one that led me to building a 6-figure business in a little under 5 years. Now, I still review courses because it’s my favorite hobby. 🙂 Learn more about me here.