Google Addresses Concerns Over Toxic Link Sabotage

  • June 15, 2024
  • SEO
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Gary Illyes, a representative from Google, addressed a query regarding how to inform Google about someone deliberately deteriorating their backlink profile with “toxic links”—a concern that has been prevalent for over fifteen years.

Addressing Concerns of Toxic Links

Gary Illyes presented the question:

“How can one alert Google of malicious sabotage via toxic links?”

To this, Gary responded:

Personally, I would disregard those links.

Typically, Google is exceedingly proficient at ignoring links that are irrelevant to the website they are directing towards. If you wish, you can disavow those “toxic” links or file a spam report.

Disavowing Links: A Precautionary Measure

Gary directed users to Google’s guideline on disavowing links. This tool enables site owners to inform Google about links for which they might be accountable, such as paid links or other questionable schemes.

According to Google’s guidance:

If your site is subject to a manual action due to unnatural links, or if you anticipate such action (stemming from paid links or other practices that contravene Google’s quality guidelines), attempt to remove those links. If removal is not feasible, then disavow the URLs of the problematic pages or domains linking to your site.

Google advises that disavowing links is warranted under two specific circumstances:

  1. There is a significant number of spammy, artificial, or low-quality links pointing to your site,
    AND
  2. These links have resulted in a manual action or are likely to cause a manual action on your site.

Both conditions must be satisfied to justify the use of the link disavowal tool.

The Genesis of “Toxic Links”

As Google enhanced its ability to penalize sites for inferior and paid links, the malicious practice of creating poor-quality links to harm competitors—termed negative SEO—emerged, particularly in competitive industries like gambling.

The term “toxic links” gained prominence post Google’s Penguin updates in 2012, which compelled penalized sites to remove paid and low-quality links. This spawned a sector focused on link disavowal, heralding the term “Toxic Links” for marketing purposes.

Evidence of Google’s Expertise in Ignoring Links

In a past incident, an acquaintance experienced a considerable drop in rankings due to what they believed was negative SEO. Upon closer inspection, their site was inundated with poor-quality links. To confirm, I contacted someone at Google’s Mountain View headquarters, and they verified that the ranking drop was due to a Panda update related to content quality—not the poor links.

This incident, dating back to 2012, demonstrated Google’s efficacy in ignoring detrimental links. If Google could manage this task efficiently then, it would be even better now, especially with advancements like the spam-brain AI.

Watch the Full Question and Answer Session at the 8:22 Minute Mark:

Image courtesy of Shutterstock/New Africa

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