How To Remove Toxic Backlinks Using Google’s Disavow Tool & Semrush

by | Feb 3, 2023 | Google Updates, Search Engine Optimisation

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While you may be familiar with backlinking and the benefits it can provide to your website’s SEO when done correctly. What you may not realise is that not all backlinks are created equal. Old black hat methods of search engine optimisation that include buying hundreds, if not thousands of links from unreputable sites will no longer work and can actually have a negative effect on your website’s rankings and traffic. This makes it important to know how to remove toxic backlinks from your site.

Google has begun to crack down on these toxic types of links through their latest Google Link Spam Algorithm updates. These updates are aimed at removing the effects of spammy & unnatural links. This means that any ranking benefits these links generated for your site will no longer work for you and any potential rankings benefits you may have had will be unable to be regained.

So you’re probably wondering now, what do I do if my website has a number of toxic & spammy backlinks? If you haven’t noticed a drop in rankings or traffic chances are your website will be fine and you may not need to worry. However, if you have seen some drastic drops in your overall rankings and traffic since then this could be due to these recent link updates. Not to worry, these links can be removed using Google’s Disavow tool. Disavowing links is just telling Google to ignore specific URL’s or Domains that are linking to your site.

How To Disavow Links To Combat Google’s Link Spam Update

When it comes to finding backlinks to your site that are potentially toxic or that need to be removed, Semrush’s backlink audit tool is the best way to do this. This tool shows you how toxic your backlinking profile is and will show you if Semrush thinks your links are toxic, potentially toxic or non-toxic. This is what makes up your website’s overall toxicity score.

Semrush Backlink toxicity core

The first step in disavowing links to your site is to actually find & create a list of these that could be causing the issues on your site. Using Semrush’s backlink audit tool you can review all of your links and look for anything with a high toxicity score, or with money or compounded anchor text tags.

Once you have selected all of the potential spammy links you wish to disavow you can then click on the Disavow button in Semrush. It will then ask if you want to disavow just that individual URL or the whole domain. Make sure to be careful which one you choose as disavowing a domain will eliminate all links from that domain. While this step doesn’t actually disavow the links it is an easy way to add the links to a list shown in the Semrush.

The next step you need to take is to head over to the disavow tab and review your list of links. Once reviewed you can click “Export to TXT”. This will then generate a text file that will be ready for you to upload into Google’s Disavow tool.

Remove Toxic Backlinks in Semrush
Disavowing links txt file

How Do You Disavow A Link?

Now that you’ve checked over all your backlinks and have created your txt file with any URLs or Domains you wish to remove, It’s time to head over to Google’s Disavow tool. Once signed into your Google Search Console account it will bring up a page in which you can then choose which property or website you wish to update.

After picking your site if you have never updated your disavow file before you will be able to upload your new file generated by Semrush. On the other hand, if you have already uploaded a file previously you can now either replace the current one or you can download that list and add your new links to the existing file.

If you already have a file uploaded it is best to just add it to your existing file. This will allow you to keep all the existing disavowed links while adding the new ones to the list.

How To Remove Toxic Backlinks

Does Disavowing Links Work To Help Your Site’s SEO?

There is much debate as to if Disavowing links will have an impact on your site’s rankings and performance. One case study I have was from a client that had a previous agency spend a lot of time and money on buying backlinks.

While this wasn’t causing any issues at first since the latest Google Link Spam update that rolled out on January 12th we saw an immediate drop in rankings just a couple of days after this update. The client’s rankings dropped by over 350 positions overall in just one day. After doing a bit of research I was able to conclude that this could have been due to this latest update and the client having a toxic backlink profile.

Backlinks Ranking Drop

I then used the same process that I’ve just explained above to remove all of the client’s toxic backlinks through Google’s disavow tool. Once I had finished disavowing these links and waited a couple of days the client’s rankings began to increase again jumping back up 309 positions overall to be almost back to what they were before the update.

Disvowed Links Increase in Rankings

Now that we’ve looked at the process of how to remove toxic backlinks and the results of a real-life client, I’m happy to say that disavowing links can definitely help your website’s SEO in the wake of being impacted by the new Link Spam Google Updates.

If you noticed a drop in your rankings or need help with how to disavow links that might have been considered spam then feel free to reach out!


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Article Written By:

Ryan Chilton

Ryan Chilton is an SEO & Digital Marketing specialist based on the Gold Coast Australia. Ryan writes a number of articles on all things digital marketing from SEO, Paid Ads, YouTube Marketing, Web Design and more!

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