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Does Ahrefs provide an accurate way to detect toxic or manipulative backlinks?
Does Ahrefs provide an accurate way to detect toxic or manipulative backlinks?

Find out the best way to identify toxic or manipulative backlinks, or negative SEO as a whole.

May avatar
Written by May
Updated this week

What is toxic or manipulative backlinks?

From Google's John Mueller himself, he states that there's no such thing as "Toxic backlinks":

"Toxic backlinks" is just a term made up by certain SEO tools to describe backlinks they think could hurt your website's rankings based on several so-called “markers.”

Manipulative backlinks on the other hand, are a thing, and they are described in Google’s link spam documentation as "Any links that are intended to manipulate rankings in Google Search results may be considered link spam. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site."

The documentation linked above also gives some examples of links that can result in your website receiving manual action from Google (a.k.a. Google penalty). These penalties will certainly hurt your rankings if not resolved.

You may also notice that the guidelines do not specify any specific metric or score that would determine if a backlink is considered manipulative or spammy. Thus, it is not enough to use a backlinks' DR, UR, or some other metric alone in order to determine if a backlink should be disavowed.

When should you remove or disavow backlinks?

Since the algorithm update Penguin 4.0 was launched in 2021, Google switched from demoting pages to a system that tries to ignore bad links. You can view a video of them answering questions about this here.

"In most cases, Google can assess which links to trust without additional guidance, so most sites will not need to use this tool”.

You should disavow backlinks only if:

  1. You have a considerable number of spammy, artificial, or low-quality links pointing to your site,
    AND

  2. The links have caused a manual action, or likely will cause a manual action, on your site.

Google works very hard to make sure that actions on third-party sites do not negatively affect a website."

If you've received a manual action for your website, you can follow our guide on how to remove these backlinks from your website.

You can also follow our guide on manipulative backlinks to learn how to manually review your website's backlinks and see if they need to be disavowed, or if they can be ignored.

In Ahrefs we provide a Best links filter that helps you filter out any backlinks you wish to ignore across Site Explorer reports. This filter affects both the actual backlinks you wish to see, and the number of backlinks displayed in tables and graphs.

best links filter in ahrefs site explorer


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