Toxic links are backlinks harming the search ranking and Page Rank (PR) of any domain.
The Penguin updates from Google changed the search engine scenario forever. To explain simply, the purpose of Penguin updates was to target sites occupying top search ranking results unjustly.
You must already know that it is easy to rank any domain with black-hat SEO methods and these rankings manipulate the overall quality of Google search.
Further, backlinks are still the most important factor behind search rankings. If a website has reputable backlinks, Google values it higher and gives it prominence in search engine results over other sites with poor backlink connections.
However, you must also know that it is easy to acquire backlinks. Paid posts, use of link networks, site wide links are some methods used to gain backlinks and boost SERP.
Google used Penguin update to bring down the axe on various websites. Needless to say, some genuine sites were affected in the process and some sites, which were genuine but had bad link management, got penalized as well.
The only solution is removal of toxic links.
How to Know if Your Site has Toxic Links?
If your site is affected by Penguin update, the site must contain toxic links. You can find out if the site was affected by Penguin or not through these methods:
Drop in Search Traffic
If you notice a sudden drop in organic traffic, the Penguin axe has fallen. Go to Google Analytics or Google Webmaster Tools to check it.
You Created Toxic Links
If you or your SEO agency created toxic links to manipulate search results, look no further.
Google Webmaster Notification
If Google doubts your site, a warning message is sent. Did you get one? Act fast to get those toxic links removed. You can pull up the backlinks profile from Webmasters, scan it manually and start getting them removed.
Most of the Toxic links are those backlinks which came from using link networks, links from unrelated domains, sites with malware warning, spammy sites, casino or porn links, and sites with a large amount of external links.
How to Remove Toxic Links?
Once you have identified the toxic links, take these steps to remove them.
Remove them manually
Make the effort to contact the website owners and place a request to remove the toxic links. This strategy works most of the time as website owners want to protect their interests too. Wait for a week for response and send a follow-up email. If there is no response still, you can file a disavow request.
Alternatively, if the toxic links generate from sites owned by you, just login and remove them.
Use the Disavow Tool
This is a very important tool for webmasters. If you are unable to get rid of the toxic links using the first method, use the Disavow tool. It tells Google not to count listed links while determining the PageRank and search engine ranking of a particular site.
Read this detailed post on using the Disavow tool.
Note that you should use this method ONLY when the first method does not work.
Remove your Site Completely
This is a solution for extreme cases. I know few bloggers who had to delete their blogs completely because it was too difficult to manage links. Starting over once again seemed like a better option.
If your website is new and does not attract much traffic and you have toxic link situation to deal with, you can choose to remove the site completely and make a fresh start.
Use this idea only if there are no options left.
Step to Take after Toxic Links Removal
Once all the toxic links are removed, file a reconsideration request with Google. Here is our detailed article on Google Reconsideration Request.
In short, you have to contact Google, tell them what steps you have taken to clear the link profile, with an assurance not to violate their guidelines again and send it. It takes about two to three weeks for the reconsideration request to process.
If Google is satisfied with the efforts, they restore the site back to its original place.
If not, you get another notification denying the reconsideration request. In short, toxic links are still there. In such case, repeat all the processes given above.