Friend or Foe? Finding and Removing Toxic Backlinks

Not all backlinks are created equal. In fact, some can even be harmful to your website, causing your SEO performance to take a hit. 

Here's the Big Idea in a Nutshell

Backlinks are one of the many key factors that can significantly affect a website’s ranking. But not all backlinks are beneficial. In fact, some can even be harmful to your website, causing your SEO performance to take a hit. These harmful links are known as toxic backlinks. 

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    Understanding the Concept of Toxic Backlinks

    So, what exactly are toxic backlinks?

    Picture this - they are the unwanted guests at your website's party. These are the links that come from sites that are either low-quality, not trustworthy, or dubious in nature. Just like unwanted guests can spoil the atmosphere of a party, toxic backlinks can harm your website's SEO performance. They can cause your website to drop in search engine rankings, and in severe instances, could even result in penalties from Google.

    But how do these toxic backlinks make their way to your site? More often than not, they are the product of black-hat SEO tactics, which are frowned upon by Google. Techniques like link farms, private blog networks (PBNs), and spam comments are common culprits. It's crucial to understand that Google values the authenticity and quality of your backlink profile. Thus, these unscrupulous tactics can result in more harm than good. In the next sections, we'll walk you through how to identify and eliminate these unwelcome guests from your website.

    Identifying the Toxic Backlinks on Your Website

    When it comes to detecting those pesky toxic backlinks, a sturdy backlink analysis tool is your best friend. Fortunately, the digital age has provided us with a wide variety of these tools, both free and paid, readily available on the internet. Such tools offer comprehensive insights into your website's backlink profile. They give you an overview of the types of websites that are linked to yours, along with their quality and credibility. This makes the task of singling out any potentially harmful backlinks a whole lot easier. Consider these tools as your personal Sherlock Holmes, helping you unravel the mystery behind your backlinks!

    Determining Whether a Backlink is Toxic or Not

    So, you've spotted a backlink that seems a little suspicious, and you're wondering if it's toxic. Here's how you can get a definitive answer. Start by evaluating the website that's linked to yours. Is it relevant to your industry? If the answer is no, it could be a sign that the backlink is not organic and might be toxic.

    Next, assess the quality of the site's content. High-quality content usually indicates a trustworthy site. Conversely, poor content, especially if it's stuffed with keywords or looks spammy, is a red flag.

    Thirdly, investigate the site's domain authority. This is a score, typically on a 100-point scale, that predicts how well a website will rank on search engines. Higher scores generally mean better ranking. If the site's domain authority is low, it's another sign the backlink might be toxic.

    Lastly, count the number of outbound links the site has. If the count is unusually high, this could mean the site is part of a link farm - a network of sites created solely for the purpose of generating backlinks. This is definitely a tell-tale sign of a toxic backlink.

    Keep in mind that no single factor determines toxicity. It's the combination of these elements that paints the bigger picture. Always remember, quality over quantity. A handful of backlinks from reputable, relevant sites are far more beneficial than a truckload of links from dubious sources. Let's make sure your site's party is full of welcome guests, and not gatecrashers!

    The Importance of a Disavow File

    Let's talk about something crucial - disavowing toxic backlinks. Wondering what that means? Let's break it down. Picture a disavow file as a "do-not-disturb" sign that you place on certain unwanted links leading to your website. This file is essentially a list of those pesky, toxic backlinks you've identified and want Google to disregard when scanning your site's SEO profile.

    Why is this so important, you ask? Well, by crafting and submitting a disavow file, you're essentially protecting your website's SEO standing from the detrimental effects of toxic backlinks. Imagine them as digital hurdles, hampering your site's smooth journey up the search engine rankings. By disavowing, you're effectively eliminating these obstacles and paving the way for better SEO performance.

    But remember, use this tool with caution. Incorrect use could potentially harm your website's rankings. It's like a digital sword - wield it wisely! Don't go disavowing links left and right; only the ones that are genuinely toxic should make it to your disavow file. Hence, be sure to conduct a thorough and careful review of your backlink profile before proceeding with the disavowal process.

    Using Google's Disavow Tool to Remove Toxic Backlinks

    When it comes to mitigating the impact of toxic backlinks, Google has gifted us a powerful asset - the Disavow Tool. Picture this tool as a skilled negotiator that you've dispatched to Google with a clear message: 'Ignore these specific backlinks while evaluating my website.' The mechanics of this operation are relatively straightforward.

    You'll need to create a comprehensive list of all the toxic backlinks you've identified, which, as we discussed earlier, involves a careful review of your backlink profile. This list should comprise the URLs or domains that you want Google to disregard. Each line of this list should contain one URL or domain. Save this list as a text file - that's your disavow file.

    Once your file is ready, it's time to head over to the Disavow Tool. Here, you'll upload your text file and submit it. With this step, you're essentially sending out your message to Google: these specific backlinks are toxic, and I request you to discount them while assessing my website's ranking.

    There's a slight catch here, though. Google's Disavow Tool is a double-edged sword. While it can help you recover from the negative impact of toxic backlinks, if used carelessly, it can potentially harm your website's ranking. So, it's of utmost importance that you approach this process with diligence and caution. Ensure the backlinks you're disavowing are genuinely harmful to your site, not just the ones you're unsure about.

    Keep in mind that once you've submitted the disavow file, Google doesn't instantly ignore these backlinks. It takes a bit of time, typically a few weeks, to crawl your site again and apply the disavowal. So, patience is key here.

    Now, armed with this knowledge, you're ready to make effective use of Google's Disavow Tool, dodging those harmful toxic backlinks and safeguarding your SEO ranking. Remember, the world of SEO is dynamic and ever-evolving, so stay vigilant and proactive in maintaining a healthy backlink profile.

    Monitoring Your Backlink Profile Regularly

    Just as you'd regularly visit a doctor for check-ups, your website's backlink profile also needs consistent attention. Monitoring your backlink profile is like keeping a digital stethoscope to your website's SEO health.

    By keeping a close watch on your backlinks, you can identify any new ones that pop up. Regular monitoring allows you to assess their quality promptly and respond accordingly. Imagine it as a game of whack-a-mole; as soon as a potentially toxic backlink shows up, you're ready to knock it out of your profile swiftly!

    In this digital age, various tools can assist you in this process. Some of these include Ahrefs, SEMrush, and not to forget Google's own Search Console. These tools offer insights into your backlink profile, enabling you to keep track of new backlinks, their source, and their potential impact on your SEO.

    Staying on top of your backlink profile isn’t just about catching the bad guys, though. It's also about recognizing the good ones. High-quality, organic backlinks are SEO gold, and you want to ensure you're fostering those relationships. Regular monitoring allows you to identify these beneficial backlinks, appreciate their contribution to your SEO success, and potentially find more ways to collaborate with these credible sources.

    Remember, SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. Regular monitoring and maintenance of your backlink profile is a long-term commitment that can pay off greatly in your SEO race. So, roll up your sleeves, keep your tools handy, and stay alert to the comings and goings in your backlink profile. In this way, you can ensure that your website is always in its prime, ready to scale the heights of search engine rankings!

    What is Affiliate Marketing?

    Instead of providing, producing or manufacturing your own product, being an affiliate marketer allows you to simply promote or endorse someone else's product and earn a commission when members of your audience purchase it.

    To start implementing affiliate offers into your content, you would look for a respectable product or service that appeals to your target audience, possibly one you've previously written about, or better yet, one you use for yourself.

    Then you would check to see whether the vendor offers an affiliate program, and if it does, join it. You will be granted a unique URL known as an affiliate link that you would embed into your content.

    When people click that custom link to visit the vendor's offer, you are compensated when they purchase.

    And, in many cases, affiliate programs will even provide you with a discount coupon to present to your audience to incentivize them to click through your specific link.


    Tell 'em Joe Sent You

    This is a common marketing structure. It's been happening in talk radio for years.  If you have ever heard a radio talk show host explain the benefits of a certain company's service and they provide a web address to get the "special offer", they are simply providing their affiliate link to their audience on the air.

    Ever heard the phrase, "...Tell 'em Joe sent you!..."?

    That's the basic principle behind affiliate marketing.  But online, it's easy for the average person to do with special links provided by the vendor.

    As a result, this kind of marketing is a win-win-win situation.  Good for the consumer (assuming you are sending them to a good offer); good for the affiliate (as an income stream) and good for the provider of the product or service who gains a new customer.

    Know Who You Are Talking To

    Like most things, this all sounds straightforward in principle, yet many people experiment with affiliate marketing and never make a dime.  Why is that?

    If you've been paying attention to this course, you already have a huge advantage over untrained affiliate marketers since you recognize that your success is going to be dependent on the value you can provide to your audience.

    Also, you should know by now that your audience is a specific kind of group - all interested in a similar set of topics.  It's why you chose the niche you did.  In other words, your audience is targeted and from a marketing perspective, that is very valuable to a vendor.

    If your following is made up of dog lovers who are passionate about healthy pet food, makers of that kind of product would love to put their wares in front of your group.  The bigger and more targeted that group is, the better.

    One of the best ways to implement this monetization method is to look at the tools and services you personally use and see if they have affiliate programs you could utilize.

    Then, as you grow and create new material (especially tutorials and how-to guides), you can promote these essential tools just as you would normally, but connect them to affiliate links. Your endorsement for such products will be genuine since you are personally using them.

    As an example, I do this with several of the tools I use.

    I was in the web hosting business for many years, but eventually I retired that service and decided that I would move all of my personal websites to a new host. (Since I would no longer be able to host my own websites anymore.)

    So I did research on who I thought the web hosting company was. After some basic vetting based on my experience in that industry, I concluded that SiteGround would be my provider of choice.  I have a blog post and a Youtube video about why I chose this company and why I use them and recommend them.

    You can see it here:

    That article and video also contain links to SiteGround so people can see it for themselves.  Of course, those links are affiliate links...and SiteGround compensates me for anyone I refer to them who purchase their service.

    In fact, every time you see the name SiteGround in the body of the text you are reading now, you are seeing an AFFILIATE LINK - and if you click on any of these links and purchase from SiteGround, they will reward me for referring a new customer to them by paying me a portion of the sale.

    I do this with several of the tools I use in my Internet ventures.  It's why I can provide free information, tutorials, ebooks and videos and still earn a living!

    Affiliate links can be included in tutorials, product reviews, comparisons, lists, and essentially any form of content where it fits in and benefits the reader...even video content.

    When you develop content that is fundamentally valuable on its own and naturally add affiliate links inside that material, there's a strong possibility the content will start bringing in regular search traffic and, as a result, you'll start to see recurring affiliate revenue.

    The Ethics of Affiliate Marketing

    Now, before you sign up for every affiliate scheme and plaster your blog with affiliate links, It is critical to handle affiliate marketing ethically.

    Remember, we want this agreement to be beneficial to all parties involved. That implies you must select your affiliate products with caution.

    Anything you promote to your audience should be something you use and recommend or have high regard for.

    You will disappoint your audience if you simply choose things based solely on the potential commission payout. And they'll remember that you didn't have their best interests in mind.

    On the other hand, if you promote respectable offers that truly improve people's lives, they will remember that as well. And your future recommendations will be given even greater weight.

    Another thing to remember is that affiliate marketers have a legal responsibility to disclose their affiliate relationships alongside their endorsements.

    In other words, your audience needs to know that you earn a commission if they buy.  Note the disclaimers I have on all or most of the pages on my blog. 

    I even have a whole page dedicated to making sure my readers know that I may be promoting something for which I am compensated.  This is actually required by law.

    As a side note, not everything I recommend has an affiliate link associated with it.  I often endorse products and services simply because I think my audience needs them - and that is part of providing good content.  In fact, I do that more often than I provide an affiliate link.

    If everything you endorse is also an affiliate program, that may be cause for suspicion. It's better to focus on making sure your recommendations are legitimately helpful with or without the potential for compensation.

    Finding Affiliate Offers

    Obviously, the offers you affiliate with will need to be appropriate to the niche you are in. So, that requires knowing your audience and their needs.

    The best place to look for such offers in by using affiliate networks that list them.

    An affiliate network brings vendors together with bloggers, content creators and advertisers who want to generate affiliate commissions.  The major advantage (besides having a convenient place to look at a list of offers) is that affiliate networks handle payments and affiliate link management.  They act as a clearing house between the vendor (selling the product), the customer (purchasing the product) and the affiliate (promoting the product) to make sure everyone gets what they are supposed to get.

    There are literally hundreds of Affiliate Networks and they vary wildly.  Some do not allow just anyone to join and others are open to the public with no vetting process.  Some of the most well-known are these:


    When you look through lists of offers, you'll want to consider factors like these:

    • Commission Rates
    • Cookie Durations
    • Reputation of the Network & Vendor
    • Quality of the Offer's Landing Page

    Whenever possible, products and services you personally use will always convert better than ones you have no experience with.

    Affiliate Networks

    Here are just a few networks to look into:

    Amazon Associates: Offers a vast product range of products and a trusted brand. Commission rates tend to be lower than other networks, but promoting high-ticket offers can be very lucrative.


    ShareASale: Known for its diverse affiliate programs and user-friendly interface.

    CJ Affiliate (formerly Commission Junction): Features global brands and provides advanced tracking tools.

    Rakuten Advertising: Offers access to international brands and provides innovative ad formats.

    ClickBank: Specializes in digital products with high commissions - most 50% and some even 75%. But CB works best in the health and fitness, or self-help niches. Easy to apply to be a ClickBank affiliate.

    Awin: Provides access to a wide range of advertisers and in-depth reporting tools.

    Impact Radius: Known for its comprehensive performance marketing suite and flexible partnerships.

    FlexOffers: Offers a vast selection of affiliate programs across various niches.

    PartnerStack: Focuses on B2B affiliate programs, ideal for tech and SaaS bloggers.

    MaxBounty: Known for its high-converting CPA offers and weekly payments. But you must be interviewed to be accepted.

    Shopify Affiliate Program: Allows bloggers to promote an e-commerce platform with great earning potential.

    eBay Partner Network: Offers access to eBay's extensive product inventory.

    Avangate (2Checkout): Specializes in software and digital product affiliate programs. Signing up can be clunky, but if you are in the software niche, they are worth looking at. .

    Skimlinks: Helps bloggers monetize their content through automatic affiliate linking.

    CJ Affiliate (formerly Commission Junction): Features global brands and provides advanced tracking tools.

    Pepperjam: Offers a vast network of advertisers and specializes in affiliate marketing technology.

    These affiliate networks cater to a wide range of niches and offer various commission structures, making them valuable options for bloggers looking to monetize their content effectively.

    Adding Affiliate Links to Your Blog Content

    An affiliate link is a URL that contains a unique identifier associated with an affiliate marketer, allowing them to earn a commission for promoting and driving traffic to a specific product, service, or website. When a user clicks on an affiliate link and makes a purchase or performs a desired action, the affiliate marketer receives a percentage of the sale or a fixed amount as a commission.

    Here's how an affiliate link is typically structured:

    1. Base URL: This is the main web address of the product or service you're promoting. For example, it could be something like
    2. Path: The path usually comes after the base URL and often includes additional information like categories, product names, or identifiers. It may look like "/product-category/product-name."For example: https:///
    3. Parameters: These are variables and values that are added to the URL to provide additional information to the destination website. For affiliate links, the most crucial parameter is the affiliate tracking ID, which is used to identify the affiliate marketer. This parameter is usually in the form of "?affiliateID=123" or similar. For example: https:///
    4. Anchor Text: In many cases, affiliate links are hidden behind anchor text (a clickable piece of text) that encourages users to click. For example, the anchor text may read: "Get 10% off on this product."  But the link in that text would be the affiliate URL.

    NOTE: Not all affiliate links use this exact syntax. This is just an example of a common format.  The point is to use the EXACT affiliate link your vendor has provided you with.  Here's an example of the syntax for an actual affiliate link I use when recommending my favorite WordPress website builder:

    Here's another example of an actual affiliate link that I use:


    Here are the steps to add an affiliate link to a WordPress blog post:

    Step 1: Log into Your WordPress Dashboard

    • Go to your website's WordPress admin dashboard by entering your login credentials.

    Step 2: Create or Edit a Blog Post

    • Navigate to the "Posts" section on the left-hand menu and select "Add New" to create a new blog post, or select an existing post to edit.

    Step 3: Add Content to Your Blog Post

    • Write or edit your blog post content as you normally would. When you come to the point where you want to insert the affiliate link, highlight the text you want to use as anchor text.

    Step 4: Click the Insert/Edit Link Button

    • If you are using the WordPress editor (as opposed to a 3rd party plug-in like Beaver Builder),  you will see a chain link icon in the toolbar. Click on it to open the "Insert/Edit Link" dialog box.

    Step 5: Enter Your Affiliate Link

    • In the "Insert/Edit Link" dialog box, paste your affiliate link in the "URL" field. Make sure your affiliate link is properly formatted with the base URL, path, and any parameters.
    • Optionally, you can add a title for the link. This is helpful for SEO and accessibility.

    Step 6: Set Link Options

    • You can choose whether the link should open in a new tab/window or in the same tab. This depends on your preference and the behavior you want for your readers.
    • Click the "Add Link" button to insert the affiliate link with your chosen anchor text.

    If you are using a 3rd party design plug-in like Beaver Builder, the link option is part of the text editing interface. It's pretty self evident and very easy to do.

    Step 7: Test the Link

    • It's a good practice to test the link after inserting it to ensure it's working correctly. Click on the anchor text in your blog post to verify that it redirects to the affiliate product or website.

    Step 8: Save or Publish Your Blog Post

    • Once you're satisfied with the changes, click the "Save Draft" or "Publish" button to save or publish your blog post with the affiliate link.

    That's it! You've successfully added an affiliate link to your WordPress blog post. When readers click on the link and make a purchase, you'll earn a commission based on the terms of your affiliate agreement with the product or service provider. Make sure to comply with any relevant disclosure requirements and best practices for ethical affiliate marketing.


    TIP: A good way to mange your affiliate links in WordPress is with a free plug-in called Thirsty Affiliates. It enables you to dynamically manage your affiliate links and effortlessly integrate them into your content as you write an article.

    Here's an example of an offer for the Thirsty Affiliates WordPress plug-in that I use on the DotComClassroom website. The image to the left is linked to my affiliate URL for this product. 

    Some affiliate programs will provide you with several ad creatives like the image shown here that you can embed into your blog by simply pasting in a snippet of code that has been automatically configured with your unique link.

    The process is simple and similar to pasting in a text link.



    So you now have a fundamental idea of how affiliate marketing works, and I strongly advise you learn more and implement this monetization strategy into your content. The entry barrier is low, but the potential profits are surprisingly high.

    Greg has been doing business online since 1996. He first discovered the concept of Internet marketing by selling physical books through an AOL chatroom. By 1999 he was building websites for local businesses when the web was new.

    In 2001, he launched a web hosting company called Teknon Media, which ultimately became - one of the first discount hosting services on the Internet. Through that venture, he worked with and helped many of the people who would become the well known marketing gurus of today. Later, he changed the company to BlackWire Hosting and under that banner provided web hosting services for thousands of websites for over a decade.

    In 2009, he published his first book: The Snowball Factor teaching entrepreneurial principles and business mindset - while providing hosting services, web design and software to major players.

    As an author, Internet marketing consultant, media producer and web developer, he still loves to teach about anything to do with online business, content creation and digital marketing.

    Today, Greg writes about online business technology and teaches how to create profitable websites through and his YouTube channel.

    Ad - Web Hosting from SiteGround - Crafted for easy site management. Click to learn more.

    NOTE: This webpage may contain at least one affiliate link. Please read our full Affiliate Disclosure here. is a service of:
    BlackWire Marketing, LLC
    1292 High St  Suite 219 Eugene OR 97401 USA

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