Black hat backlinks: The best way to rank your site in record time, right?
To Google, building black hat backlinks is a capital offense. And Google is smart (and getting smarter, faster).
Sure, you could be lucky to escape the hammer—for a while.
But the more likely scenario is that you’ll just lose money, time, energy and, ultimately, any chance of ranking in the SERPs.
And depending on the stakes, you could lose your mind, business or career too.
Rather be safe than sorry?
Follow this guide to protect your site from black hat backlinks before Google swings the hammer!
Black Hat Backlinks: Your Ironclad Protection and Prevention Guide
What Are Black Hat Backlinks?
Black hat SEO is simply violating the terms and conditions set out by search engines for ranking on their SERPs. The practice usually involves a series of aggressive SEO techniques that make ranking higher on the SERPs faster and easier, but also tend to hurt user experience.
Google frowns heavily on these shortcut practices as they’re not designed to add value to the searcher—which is what Google is all about.
These techniques make the SERP algorithm believe that a particular website has stronger popularity and relevance than it actually does.
In essence, they create false authority in the SERPs.
So, now that you know what black bat backlinks are, how do you go about spotting them on your website?
How to Know If Your Site Has Black Hat Backlinks
Google places a lot of importance on backlinks.
And 72% of SEO strategists agree that link building is the most significant factor for ranking higher on search engines.
This is why you shouldn’t take the health of your backlinks with a grain of salt.
Instead, use a tool like Monitor Backlinks to track the quality of your link profile and identify and remove any black hat backlinks before they cause damage to your site’s rankings.
Grab your free trial of Monitor Backlinks by clicking here, and then look out for the following indications that your site has black hat backlinks:
1. Links from high Spam Score sites
A high Spam Score (10 and above) is one of the most reliable indicators of black hat backlinks.
You don’t want to be linking to these sites, and you definitely don’t want them linking to you. Google could interpret these backlinks as black hat.
With the Monitor Backlinks tool, you can easily see the Spam Score of all your backlinks under the “Spam” column of your link profile:
2. A growing Spam Score
If your own site’s Spam Score is going up rather than down, then you might be entertaining black hat backlinks.
You can find and track your Spam Score on your Monitor Backlinks dashboard:
3. Growing anchor text spam
If you have a lot of backlinks with the same keyword as the anchor text, it means you could be involved in anchor text spam—a common sign of black hat backlinks.
Ideally, your exact match anchor texts shouldn’t be more than 3% of the total—with the exception of brand name anchor texts, which Google usually perceives as normal.
Look at the “Anchor & Link To” column in Monitor Backlinks to see all your backlink anchor texts:
4. Links from unindexed sites
Links from sites that aren’t indexed in Google don’t add value to your ranking position, and instead, can be seen as spammy and a potential indication of black hat backlinks.
If you check the “Status” column in Monitor Backlinks, you can easily identify whether the linking site has been indexed or not.
A green G means the page and domain have both been indexed in Google, an orange G means the page hasn’t been indexed, and a red G means the domain hasn’t been indexed:
5. Low Majestic score backlinks
When a link has a high Majestic score (Trust Flow and Citation Flow), it means that the link is influential and trusted.
Scores for both metrics are between 0-100, where the higher the score, the higher the degree of influence or trust. If your site’s backlinks have a low Trust Flow and Citation Flow of 10 or less, Google might consider them spammy and black hat.
Monitor Backlinks shows you both the Trust Flow and Citation Flow of all your links:
6. Links from adult, pharmaceutical and other sensitive sites
There are some niches that Google isn’t a fan of.
In other words, Google frowns at particularly sensitive sites like adult entertainment, pharmaceutical, dating, gambling and porn sites. Links from sites like these are unhealthy, and usually spammy and irrelevant.
If you have any links from sites like these, then you have a case of black hat backlinks.
Now that you know how to spot potentially harmful links, let’s find out how you might’ve gotten them in the first place.
Why Your Site Attracts Black Hat Backlinks
Your site can attract spammy, black hat backlinks due to a number of reasons:
1. Poor link building activities
These activities include things like:
- Buying links. This practice is generally frowned upon because the links earned aren’t genuine.
- Link wheels. This involves interlinking between multiple websites to form a chain of connection to a main money site. Link wheels aim to simulate relevance and create link juice to the money site, in turn moving it higher up the SERPs due to its perceived significance.
Many of these secondary sites are low quality and carry high Spam Scores, and in the long run, end up attracting more black hat backlinks to the money site.
- Tiered link building. This is a hierarchical style of link building that involves buying expired domains and linking between them, so that they strengthen each other. After that, the first-tier links are directed to the money site to funnel more link juice through.
This technique gets penalized in the long run as Google finds self-created tier websites much less authoritative than genuine sites.
2. Rogue link building contractors
Sometimes, you might outsource your link building or hire a contractor only to find that they do more damage than good to your link profile by building black hat backlinks.
If a link builder or SEO specialist isn’t transparent about discussing their methods and SEO ethics with you, then that specialist is a rogue link builder and should be avoided.
Quality SEO goes beyond landing on Google’s first page. Maintaining the first-page spot over a long period is what defines quality SEO.
While black hat backlinks can temporarily lift your website to Google’s first page, over time, you’ll get discovered by Google—and demotion or delisting becomes imminent.
Outsourcing your link building to SEO specialists without proof of expertise is one way of exposing your website to potential black hat links.
3. Competitor revenge
The battle to land on (and remain on) Google’s first page is a fierce one. Competitors are always looking for opportunities to outsmart their rivals.
If your competitors aren’t ethical in the way they go about outranking you, you could become a victim of black hat backlinks through negative SEO.
In fact, here’s a screenshot of someone who actually killed a competitor’s site and announced it on the WickedFire forum:
A bitter competitor can direct black hat backlinks to your site through spammy link building tactics, ultimately hurting your SEO strategy and soiling your web reputation and rankings.
How to Prevent Black Hat Backlinks
Luckily, there are ways to prevent black hat backlinks from occurring and avoid Google’s hammer for good.
1. Understand link building best practices
Over the years, there’s been a series of changes to how Google evaluates and prioritizes backlinks in order to rank your site. To understand Google’s link building best practices, you need to keep up with these changes.
Google’s ultimate aim is to serve searchers the results they seek to find. If your focus is on making your users happy and providing genuine value on your site, you’re far less likely to run into any trouble.
Best practice strategies include things like analyzing and replicating your competitors’ backlinks, broken link building, content creation and promotion, and guest blogging. You can learn more about link building best practices and strategies in this post.
It’s also essential to monitor and follow up on your backlinks, so you know who’s linking to you and how.
I recommend using Monitor Backlinks to stay on top of everything. You get automatic notifications about all your new backlinks (as well as backlink status changes), and can track and manage all your backlinks right from the tool.
2. Vet your link building contractors
Don’t fall for a rogue link builder ever again. If you decide to outsource your SEO, make sure to do your research.
First, check that the company is ranking for the “SEO [your city]” or “SEO company [your city]” keyphrase. For example, “SEO San Diego” or “SEO company San Diego:”
If the company you intend on working with isn’t ranking, that’s a sign that you need to probe them more ruthlessly.
Furthermore, ask questions about their previous work, SEO ethics, years of experience and operational procedures. A reputable company will willingly share that information with you.
And finally, when you decide on and hire an SEO specialist, don’t fail to keep an eye on what they’re doing by monitoring their link building activities after you engage them.
3. Make friends, not enemies
Building bridges instead of walls can help your business in more ways than one.
If you work to maintain friendly, healthy relationships in your industry or niche, you’re much less likely to be targeted by bitter rivals and negative SEO.
It’s like recruiting people who unconsciously watch your back. You have more people on your side, and they’ll let you know if they hear any whispers of potential threats before you do. That means you can respond faster to potentially hurtful situations before they mature.
Having friends in the industry also means you can exchange information and resources, and work together on collaborative marketing strategies that benefit everyone.
4. Get new backlink notifications as soon as you earn them
Staying on top of your new backlinks will make it easy to spot when you’re in the danger zone. Notifications will also help you identify negative SEO or other spammy link building tactics.
Monitor Backlinks lets you track your backlinks in real time with automatic email notifications of every change.
If you don’t already have an account, register for your free trial here to get backlink updates delivered directly to your inbox every day.
You can easily change the types of notifications you get by clicking “Account Settings” from the top-right drop-down menu beside your name:
Click on the “Notifications” tab to see all your options:
5. Track and tag your backlinks
As I’ve mentioned, monitoring your backlinks is one of the best ways to stop black hat backlinks in their tracks.
If you’re using Monitor Backlinks, you can also tag and organize your links so you can quickly and easily identify your best links from your potentially bad links. Tagging also helps you stay on top of backlinks that need to be removed, monitored, etc.
Just head to “Your Links” to pull up your list of backlinks:
Then, select any of the backlinks you want to tag, and click on the “Edit” button:
Insert your tags and click on “Edit Backlink:”
The tags will be applied to the backlinks you selected.
You can then pull up all your tagged links by selecting “New filter” and then applying the “Tags” filter:
All the tags you’ve added will show up here. Just choose the tag you want to filter by, and the relevant links will appear.
6. Protect your email from spoofing
Email spoofing is when cybercriminals impersonate you by using your domain for their email messages. Attackers with admin-level access to your domain’s email can use that privilege to hurt your site and reputation with black hat backlinks.
There are a few ways you can prevent this:
- Configure your domains with DKIM. DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) adds a second level of encryption to your email and helps to prevent impersonation.
- Use a subdomain solely for emailing purposes. This lets your readers and other email servers recognize the subdomain as your dedicated email outlet.
- Don’t use free email addresses for business communication. Apart from making you look less professional, free emails like Gmail and Yahoo increase your susceptibility to spoofing and impersonation. Instead, use a business email address like firstname.lastname@example.org when communicating with webmasters.
How to Heal Your Site from Black Hat Backlinks
So, now you know how to prevent future black hat backlinks from occurring.
But what if you already have some?
To heal your site from existing black hat backlinks and the damage they cause, you can disavow them.
And, just to make your life that little bit easier, this can all be done from within Monitor Backlinks. Start by clicking on “Your Links” from the main menu:
This module opens up all your backlinks along with quality metrics such as Domain Authority, Page Authority and Spam Score.
In this example, we’ll be looking for links with the highest Spam Scores, which is a good indicator of a black hat backlink.
Here I sorted the “Spam” column from highest to lowest, and looked for high Spam Score backlinks that were also dofollow and had an orange warning triangle, which indicates that Monitor Backlinks found low quality signals for the link:
After identifying the spam backlinks you want to disavow, just select their checkboxes on the left and click “Disavow” from the top menu.
From here, you can choose to “Disavow URL” or “Disavow domains:”
For our example, I’m going to disavow the URL rather than the whole domain:
Then, you’ll see a red “Disavowed” label appear on the backlink report. This tells you that the backlink has been added to your disavow file:
To create the disavow file and send it to Google, simply click on “Disavow Tool” from the main menu:
Select the URLs and domains you want to disavow and click on “Export Disavow Rules:”
In a couple of seconds, your Google-ready disavow file will download to your computer.
It’s then time to submit it to Google, which you can do by clicking on the “Send to Google” button at the top right of your “Disavow Tool” module:
This button will take you straight to Google’s disavow links tool inside Google Search Console. Choose your website (property):
If your site isn’t appearing here, you can follow these instruction to add it to Google Search Console.
Then, after selecting your website, click on the “Disavow Links” button and voilà! You’ve just told Google to ignore those black hat backlinks pointing to your site.
Black Hat Backlinks Wrap-up
Now you know how to spot, control and remove black hat backlinks.
Put this guide into action by picking up your free trial of Monitor Backlinks and stopping those links before they stop you!