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How to Identify Bad Backlinks That Drag Your Rankings Down

You’ve just identified a whole hoard of bad backlinks swarming your site.

An army of the walking dead—dead backlinks, that is—is at your door.

They’re there to bite, scratch and eat your site alive.

Bad backlinks, whether they were created innocently or with the intent to destroy your SEO, can be really bad news.

At this point, all SEOs know that quality backlinks are important for their sites.

But some aren’t aware of the danger of bad backlinks. There are several types of bad backlinks that destroy SEO metrics, kill SERP rankings and even bring the wrath of Google upon you.

These can be link from a spammy domains, private blog networks, low-quality online directories and so on.

You spend countless hours and dollars on your SEO link building campaigns. You don’t want to end up with fistfuls of bad backlinks—and radio silence from the big dogs with high Domain Authority where you wanted to place your backlinks.

Of course, there are many ways to manually identify bad backlinks yourself. But if you want to save time, the best approach is to use your Monitor Backlinks account.

If you don’t have your own Monitor Backlinks account, you can get a free trial to test it out and follow the instructions below to identify bad backlinks.

How to Identify Bad Backlinks

Monitor Backlinks is an SEO platform that consolidates everything there is to know about your backlink profile and key SEO metrics. You can use it to monitor organic traffic, spy on competitor backlinks, check your rankings for specific keywords and more.

Monitor Backlinks also makes it significantly easier to identify and handle bad backlinks.

After you add your domain, you can head straight to the “Your Links” tab to see all of your backlinks in one place.



In Monitor Backlinks, problematic links are flagged with a “warning” icon on the farthest-left column. This warning icon is shown whenever a linking domain triggers one of these low-quality signals:

  • High Spam Score — The spam score is calculated by Moz to show a website’s likelihood of being penalized. The higher the spam score This is calculated using different spam flags, like a low number of linking domains, a high ratio of “follow” links and so on.
  • Unindexed Website  This indicates that the website isn’t currently indexed by Google, which could indicate low quality.
  • Low Trust Flow — In addition to the backlink profile, the Trust Flow also factors in the quality of traffic that flows through links. This metric is introduced and used by Majestic SEO.
  • High External Links — A high number of external links could pertain to a low-quality web directory, sitewide footer links or spam comments.
  • Unnatural Anchor Text — Finally, unnatural anchor texts disrupt the balance of your backlink profile’s anchor text diversity. Good anchor texts include your brand name, naked URL and partial keyword matches.

Understanding Warnings

To check which low-quality signals trigger certain warnings, click on the warning icon.

This should display a small tooltip that contains important information about the warning.



From there, you can also decide whether to disavow the link or mark it as a false positive.

But before you get too excited, you have to verify the backlink’s actual quality. This will be explained in more detail later in this post.

Looking for Bad Backlinks with Filters

Depending on the age of your site, there could be hundreds if not thousands of backlinks in your profile.

You probably don’t even remember half of them, especially if you regularly publish blog posts. This could make it tedious to look for links with warnings.

Your Monitor Backlinks account makes it so you don’t have to comb through your entire backlink profile by yourself. You have a slick “Filters” feature that can sort your backlinks according to different factors.

To get started, click on the “New filter” button and select “Warnings.”




This will bring up the sub-menu where you can specify the warnings you’d like to filter for.

If you want to quickly identify bad backlinks that are potentially harmful, select all the warnings.




Keep in mind that you can also select specific warnings individually if you need to prioritize an issue.

After a few seconds, Monitor Backlinks will refresh the page and list all backlinks that trigger the specified warning(s).



You’ll also notice that Monitor Backlinks shows warnings in other columns of the results page.

For example, under the “EXT” column, linking pages with a high number of external links are highlighted in red, since this is its own low-quality signal:



Conducting a Manual Review of Bad Backlinks

Monitor Backlinks does an excellent job of apprehending terrible backlinks that must be dealt with immediately.

But before you go any further, a manual review of each linking page is in order. After all, it’s entirely plausible for backlinks to trigger warnings despite having SEO value.

The key here is to review the linking page’s content. If it offers little to no value or appears straight-up shady, then you’ve found yourself a bad backlink.

For example, if you look at the link below, you’ll notice that it triggered a warning for having a high number of external links on the page:



However, you by reviewing the actual content you can verify that it’s a legitimate post that’s not only valuable but also relevant in your marketing niche:



For comparison, here’s a linking page that deserves to be disavowed as soon as possible:



Notice the difference? The first one actually provides value to readers and cushions the link with relevant content. On the other hand, the second page is a jumbled mess of links across bulleted lists, images and sidebar menus.

The smoking gun is the footer, which is loaded with backlinks that use irrelevant anchor texts:



Labeling Your Backlinks

After you manually review backlinks, be sure to label them accordingly: as goodbadpending or ignored. 

This will help other team members determine whether or not a link should be disavowed or allowed to stay in your backlink profile.

In the case of our example above, let’s go ahead and label the link from as a “good” link for future reference.

To do this, check the link, click on the “Mark” button and then click “Good.”



You’ll still see the warning sign, so you know that the backlink triggered a warning even though you’ve marked it as “Good.”



Remember, labels themselves can’t be used to execute specific actions in Monitor Backlinks. They can’t remove or resolve warnings, but they should remind you or another user what to do later.

And that’s it!

You now know how to use Monitor Backlinks to identify bad backlinks and label them.

The next and final step is to address these bad backlinks either through disavowal or outreach.

What to Do with Your Bad Backlinks

With Monitor Backlinks, you can quickly handle these backlinks by disavowing the URL or the entire domain. Just select the links, click on the “Disavow” button from the top menu and click on your choice:



A pop-up will appear at the bottom-left corner of the screen to confirm your action.



Take note that the link will still be visible on Monitor Backlinks. This time around, it will be presented with a red font.

You can then reverse the disavow process by selecting the backlink and clicking “Remove from disavowed list” from the same “Disavow” drop-down menu:



Easy, right?

Another approach is to contact the linking domain’s owner and discuss a more productive resolution. For example, if the backlink is flagged for an unnatural anchor text, you can simply request that they change the text via email.

If you suspect that a domain is intentionally spamming you with bad links, it’s time to contact their hosting provider. You can identify them with a tool like



Final Thoughts on Identifying Bad Backlinks

Everybody knows that SEO is a lot of work. Not only will it cost your time, it also requires your full-time commitment as a content marketer.

It would be a shame if all these investments go to waste just because of bad links.

With the tips above, you should be able to spot and deal with bad links through Monitor Backlinks.

From here, it’s only a matter of time before your website attains its true ranking potential.


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  • Discover your competitors backlinks
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