The other day I was reading an article on CBSnews.com called Uh-Oh! 12 Diseases Doctors Overlook.
The article starts by saying, “Some medical conditions are easy to diagnose. Others produce symptoms so vague or “nonspecific” that even skilled doctors have a hard time telling what ails the patient. As a result, some patients spend years or even decades suffering from treatable maladies.”
It then went on to list the diseases, which included sleep apnea, migraines, bipolar disorder, and hip disease.
After reading the list and giving myself a mild case of hypochondria, I thought about a disease the article didn’t list.
It’s more widespread than the common cold. And it’s deadly to those it infects.
But here’s the interesting part…
It doesn’t affect humans.
Or any other living creature, for that matter.
So… you don’t have to worry about yourself, your family, or your pets.
It is, however, likely infecting something VERY near and dear to you RIGHT NOW.
I’m talking about… your website!
There is an insidious hidden internet “disease” known as toxic backlinks.
Toxic backlinks poison your search rankings.
They pop up randomly without you realizing it. And they are a constant threat that can’t be “cured” (you can’t “toxic backlink-proof” a website).
They’re like a hard-to-detect disease. You’ll feel the symptoms (drop in SEO). You’ll think it’s for a million and one reasons (wrong keywords, poor content, etc.). But you won’t know what’s causing it unless you get “tested by a professional.”
So… what, exactly, is a toxic backlink?
You know that when website A links to website B, website A creates a backlink for website B. Websites with many reputable backlinks will rank better in Google searches.
But not all backlinks are reputable. Paid links, link wheels, and spam links are what Google calls “toxic” backlinks.
Google considers toxic backlinks “unnatural,” as these backlinks serve no purpose other than to manipulate search rankings.
If Google finds toxic backlinks associated with your website, they’ll penalize you. BIG TIME.
At MYM, we’re very familiar with toxic backlinks; a few weeks ago, we removed 544 of them from our clients’ websites.
When my SEO team told me about this, I said, “Holy cow, that seems like a lot.” Even I wasn’t aware of how widespread a problem toxic backlinks are.
So I asked our SEO Developer (Nate) about the process to learn more, so I could pass the information on to you.
Here is our conversation:
Rich: Why didn’t we find these toxic backlinks sooner?
Nate: This is actually an ongoing process, so it’s not that we didn’t find them sooner, or that we found them too late. We crawl all client backlink profiles weekly with fresh backlink indexes from Google and other various backlink profiling services, so we are constantly keeping an eye on things that will bring client search rankings down.
Rich: How long does it take to remove toxic backlinks?
Nate: It depends on how many different backlinks there are, and also how many domains the backlinks are originating from. We have to manually look through the flagged backlinks and see if they’re actually toxic, and also check on other ranking metrics for the domain that the backlink is coming from, to see if it’s truly toxic or if it’s an actual good backlink. All in all, it’s a few hours each week that go into keeping all of our clients clean and free of toxic backlinks.
Rich: What do we expect the results to be?
Nate: We expect the results will be us continuing to drive our clients’ search rankings higher by negating any ill effects that the toxic backlinks would have on said search rankings. As this isn’t a one-time process and is instead an ongoing thing, there’s no “wow” factor, so to speak, as we keep things copacetic all the time versus running a backlink audit once a year and seeing improved results afterward.
Bottom Line: Removing toxic backlinks is the opposite of sexy. But it’s REQUIRED to maintain your search rankings.
At MYM, we do the flashy, powerful, persuasive marketing. (That’s obvious.)
But we also do the boring, technical behind-the-scenes stuff that keeps everything running smoothly.
The Mona Lisa hasn’t remained in pristine condition by itself for 500 years. It’s undergone a ton of low-profile maintenance.
It’s the same with your website. To keep it sparkling and shining at the top of the search engines, you have to perform regular upkeep in the background.
Want to know what search results-debilitating “diseases” your website carries?
Part of the audit involves analyzing your SEO efficacy, keyword rankings, and Google Analytics. And yes, that includes toxic backlinks.
Get to it!
P.S. If you’re considering removing toxic backlinks from your website by yourself, here’s my advice: Don’t.
As you can glean from Nate’s responses above, removing toxic backlinks is a technical process. If you don’t know exactly what you’re doing, you’ll likely screw up your search rankings.
The best course of action? As with other specialized trades (remodeling, vehicle repair, etc.): If you want it done right, hire a professional.