How to Remove Backlinks and Clean Up Your Link Profile

March 3, 2024
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‍Lots of owners use the web to boost their businesses. They handle website stuff with the help of such tools as link building. Links guide users to your site. However, some links might not fit your goals and can even hurt your service.

How to Remove Backlinks

‍Bad links come from shady actions. Maybe you bought bad links, or a rival tagged your site as spam. Either way, you need to ditch them. They harm your rep and reduce your users. This post is about backlink removal processes and general tips on how to fix such issues.

How to Ditch Bad Links (Manual Action)

‍Google says you must reject all bad links if there’s a manual action. This means someone sent bad links to hurt you. So, remove or reject them. Or your site’s rank will drop, and you won’t get leads, making it hard to attract new buyers. Also, Google may block your site if it’s spammed a lot. Let’s see how to remove spam backlinks and prevent this grave issue.

Check GSC for a Manual Action and Run a Link Audit

‍First, let’s speak of how to identify and remove bad backlinks. If you face a manual action, check Google Search Console (GSC). Go to “Security & Manual Actions” and pick Manual Actions.

‍If there’s a problem requiring you to remove backlinks, you’ll see this note:

“1 (2,3, etc.) problem found

Pages hit by manual actions can lose features, rank low, or vanish from Google Search.

Detected issues

Unnatural links to your site.”

‍If you see this, first list the bad domains. Go to GSC, get all the links, and add them to a sheet. Google spots them, so you skip third-party tools here.

Spot the Unnatural Backlinks

‍After you create the list of unwanted domains, begin a backlink audit. It helps to identify all unnatural links within the mentioned domains. When you use a backlink audit, you may find out the way unnatural backlinks look like. There’s no need to clean up backlinks now. Just learn what they are so that you can recognize them in the future.

‍A professional prompt: In case you aren’t quite sure how to run a backlink audit, turn for help from a reliable SEO consultant. The expert will quickly run the process instead of you to provide dependable results.

‍An unnatural link is the one that manipulates rankings in Google’s search results. To this category belong:

  • Paid links.
  • Excessive link exchanges.
  • Automated linking.
  • Low-quality directory.
  • Low-quality bookmark website links.
  • Widely distributed links in the footers or templates of websites, etc.

‍If you want to know all possible variables, find and read Google’s spam policies.

Assess the Overall Quality of the Domains

‍You should never forget that Google does its best to help you spot potentially hazardous and spammy links. There are policies and smart tools that help define whether a link can be approved. This feedback helps to identify unnatural links. As a result, you’ll know whether you require a backlink cleanup.

Contact Site Owners to Request They Remove the Links

‍One of the most important and effective steps you should undertake to get rid of bad backlinks is to gather the email addresses of all suspicious and unwanted domains. You can find the right addresses differently. For example, you can:

  • Use the contact form.
  • Use an email that guides you to the contact page.
  • Surf social media by entering the first and last name of the owner.
  • Try searching tools, such as Hunter.

‍You can likewise write a letter to the person by trying various combinations, such as the person’s first name, last name, and domain. Once you reach those persons, request to remove the unwanted links.

‍When you write emails, remain polite, concise, and straight to the point. You should likewise add your domain name to ensure the recipients know who you are. Here is an example of such emails:

“Hello, {website_owner’s name},

I’ve checked different links on my website, and I kindly ask you to remove these links:

{Provide URLs of those links}

They lead to my website here:


I would be grateful if you could respond to this email and do as I ask.

Thank you, {mention your name}

{leave your email address}”

‍Mind that you can likewise ask the websites’ owners to add a “nofollow tag” to those links. Nevertheless, it commonly takes more time to solve the issue compared to writing such letters. At times, they don’t respond to such bids.

‍There is likewise a probability that some website owners may charge fees to remove those links. It seems to be unfair because their links are spammy, and they are obliged to remove bad backlinks for free. Fortunately, there is another solution. You can have them in the disavow file.

Disavow Any Links You Can’t Remove

‍If you cannot remove some links, disavow them. Just be sure they are spammy, artificial, low-quality, or hazardous. This is an important warning because oftentimes, website owners harm their own websites.

‍What does it mean? If you disavow or remove “healthy” links, they may lower the ranking of your website in Google Search. Thus, you will lose popularity, visibility, and crowds of potential customers. Therefore, you ought to be extremely careful and precise when enlisting the links you want to remove. Check all possible options and use professional assistance if you’re not sure about the credibility of doubtful links.

‍Now, let’s figure out how to disavow the unwanted links. It’s pretty simple to do. You definitely need to use # before the line where you add any comments. Be sure you write the full link of the resource you want to disavow. You should likewise mention all the attempts you’ve made to remove those links manually.

‍In case you want to disavow all links from a definite domain, you must use the following format: Mind that the part “shadyseo” is only an example. There you should mention the particular domain you want to disavow.

‍Open the Google Disavow tool. There, you should add the list of the links you want to get rid of. After you detect the list of all the domains you’d like to disavow, format the file in the following style:

  1. # removed most links but left or missed these ones
  4. Contacted the owner on 3/1/2024
  5. Asked to remove the link but got no response
  6. # One domain to disavow

‍The last step is to simply upload a .txt file to this page in GSC.

‍An important note! If you have a disavow file, use it. Download the file and update. If you download a new file, it will simply overwrite the old one. After you’ve removed or disavowed the unwanted links, request a review. It’s also simple to do because you only need to click on the button Request a review.

‍Then you need to wait for Google’s decision. If it decides you’ve done well, the manual action will be removed. In case it doesn’t, you’ll have to repeat the same procedure until you reach success.

What If There Is No Manual Action?

‍One more thing to consider is a non-manual action. There are no manual actions, but you still want to remove definite links. Is it a sound idea? Different SEOs have different opinions on this point. Yet, most of them pointed out that it’s better to leave those links. As long as they don’t harm the ranking of your website, you should do nothing. Just let them be, and you’ll avoid potential consequences.

Possible Scenarios for Non-Manual Actions and Important Facts

‍The consequences can be disastrous if you remove definite links just because you don’t like them or for another reason. They may play a decisive role in your website’s SEO. You may simply reduce the organic traffic to your website. Let’s start reviewing different scenarios for non-manual actions.

No Manual Action, But There’s a Sufficient Drop in Traffic

‍You should run a backlink audit to check if there are any problems with the links. Yet, the drop in traffic can be triggered by poor technical SEO and different Google algorithm updates. So, the audit checkup must be used to confirm or refute your assumptions.

A Third-Party App Claims Some of Your Links Are “Toxic”

‍If this is true, you need to either remove or disavow such links. Yet, you must be 100% confident. If Google makes such claims, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are toxic. So, you need to check the details.

A Lot of Low DR Links On You Don’t Recognize

‍Your domain rating (DR) links may be low, and you may not recognize them. It’s not a serious issue. Commonly, they do not affect the SEO of a website. Most experts recommend never to remove or disavow them. Different search engines will deal with such links without your intervention.

You Don’t Have a Manual Penalty for Paid Links, but There’s a Drop in Traffic

‍In most cases, the experts recommend doing nothing. You can remove or disavow them, but they must be checked. Perhaps the guilt is found in poor technical SEO, even if your links are perfect.

You Undergo a Link-Based Negative SEO Attack

‍If you are confident that your site is under a planned negative SEO attack, you should rely on Google first. It’s supposed to be able to recognize all unnatural links and deal with them. It successfully deals with basic, the simplest attacks. In case you’re dealing with advanced attacks, remove or disavow those links in the way it has been explained above. Perhaps assistance from an SEO professional will be required.

The Bottom Line

‍Getting rid of backlinks is crucial as they can negatively impact your website’s SEO and tarnish your reputation. If you come across a number of backlinks, consider utilizing the strategies outlined earlier. These methods have been proven to be effective in identifying and eliminating detrimental backlinks. It’s advisable to reach out to the owners of the websites hosting these links and request their removal or disavow them using Google Search Console (GSM). Alternatively, seeking assistance from SEO professionals is also an option.

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