Do Link Tools Help Find Your Really Toxic Links?

Jul 12, 2013 • 9:05 am | comments (49) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Link Building Tips & SEO

link detoxI've been playing around with various link tools for the past few weeks, some much longer than a few weeks, but recently I've been playing with the Link Dtox tool from Link Research Tools. It is a very impressive tool but I really wanted to see if it matched up with what Google says are the problem links with sites.

So I've been waiting for Google to publicly reply to a recent unnatural link complaint in the forums and they did this morning. A Google Webmaster Help thread has a site complaining about an issue, where Google's Aaseesh Marina responds with two example links that is causing the site to have unnatural links.

The links he calls are are from and

So what I first did was plug in this site's URL into Majestic SEO to get all the links they have in their index for that site. It came back with over 3,700 links pointing to the site. But the two links mentioned by Google were not in Majestic's report. You need to feed Link Dtox links from Google Webmaster Toolkit, Sistrix, SEOmoz/Linkscape, or Majestic. Since I have access only to Majestic, I used that. Obviously, it would be preferably to use Webmaster Tools in this case.

So what I did was manually add those to links to the Majestic report and uploaded it to Link Dtox.

Link Dtox came back calling these links as "moderate" risk, specifically labeling them SUSP16: Article Directory Links.

I've been looking at Dtox reports over the past two weeks, I ran about seven reports on quality sites and poor sites. By looking at the Link Dtox report, based on Majestic links, not Google links, and comparing it to reports for this site and (both my sites), I would have assumed the site Google called out for bad links would not have been flagged by Google at all.

Let's compare the sites...

Site With A Link Penalty:

link dtox

RustyBrick - No Link Penalty:

link dtox

Search Engine Roundtable - No Link Penalty:

link dtox

Now it isn't 100% fair because I am comparing Google Webmaster Tools links to links via Majestic SEO.

But when I plugged in the two examples from Google as to links actually hurting a specific site, those links only came up as only moderate risk with Link Dtox.

Either way, I find all these tools incredibly useful and they all have their place.

Forum discussion at Google Webmaster Help.

Update: Christpoph from Link Research Tool gave me a comment, which adds more clarity to this story:

  • As you say, it’s correct, the more links you upload in addition to our own sources, the more precise the result will be.
  • Risk-levels are different for every niche/language, so we launched the Competitive Link Detox tool last week to allow such niche-specific risk analysis (see launchpost here and sample use here
  • Manual review is still mandatory, especially for the case of suspicious links like SUSP16. Exact match money phrases like a heavily overdone “equity release schemes” phrase in this example (7% just that) make low quality links even riskier. We are working on improvements to the rule for over a year now and will incorporate keyword-classification knowledge as well soon, to automate the evaluation further. We also sped up manual review work also with our new Link Detox Screener™ feature (see launchpost above)

Previous story: Google May Be Updating Search Algorithm



07/12/2013 01:13 pm

Hi Barry - I've been toying with the Link Dtox too - I wonder why it doesn't take into account IB-SWL - inbound site-wide links as these tend to be quite damaging - especially from Fora....

Jamie White

07/12/2013 01:15 pm

On the odd occasion that I've used Link Detox, I've found it way too confusing and still does not replace the effectiveness of a manual check. E.g. I had already identified a number of spammy links in a clients profile (commercial anchor text, irrelevant site, many other paid links on there, poor placement) however because this site had good core metrics, according to Link Detox it was fine. There's no way I would have considered keeping this link, yet Detox would have had me believe it was fine. I think the general rule to come out of this is simple - do not simply rely on tools to tell you what is good and what is bad about your link profile.

Jereme Thomas

07/12/2013 01:45 pm

Very interesting. There are so many good tools out there anymore it is tough to stay current with all of them. It would be really interesting to see the "Link Detox" number if you had all of the GWT information for the first site.

Christoph C. Cemper

07/12/2013 01:53 pm

Hey David, we actually take IB-SWL into account as well and we also tell you how many links we found per domain to sort by/filter now since last week, which helps you in addition to review those site wide links. If you click on "Theme" you could filter by "Forum" and set the sw-filter to 100 min you can target those links very easily now. Best, Christoph

Christoph C. Cemper

07/12/2013 01:54 pm

Jamie, I don't know when you tried Link Detox, but a lot has improvement since it's launch in August 2012. Manual review is ALWAYS recommended, and just made that so much faster and convenient with our Link Detox Screener... if you would like to re-run/re-try let me know. Best, Christoph


07/12/2013 01:55 pm

Hey Christoph - Thanks - I should have gone with my original typing - I wonder IF ! I'll take a look, thanks so much

Christoph C. Cemper

07/12/2013 01:56 pm

Great. If you need any help, contact us at the helpdesk and my team and I will try to WOW you with fastest possible help :)

Christoph C. Cemper

07/12/2013 01:58 pm

I agree, the more data we get the better the results. Maybe that webmaster wants to provide info for a deeper analysis? Also - niche specific rules are different, so a CDTOX per niche would make sense to understand the actual playing field per site.

Jereme Thomas

07/12/2013 02:12 pm

I would like to see a comparison between all of the different tools. A real Apples to Apples comparison. I have compared data from different tools before and it seems like in a lot of cases the data being shown is different which makes me wonder how accurate and reliable it is. I understand some of this is experted but still.

Nick Ker

07/12/2013 02:20 pm

Dtox is really helpful when working on penalized sites with thousands of links. But definitely take the time to manually check, especially the "moderate" warnings - you may actually want some of those directories, and other Moderate risk links. I usually trust it to accurately flag the really toxic links and it has found a few that I may not have noticed on my own. The Suspicious category is a good starting point when trying to get rid of a Penguin by looking at those for overdone anchor text. @christophccemper:disqus any plans for some type of indication of high anchor text percentages?

Andy Kuiper - SEO Analyst

07/12/2013 02:51 pm

For those small sites, where manual checking is possible, is it ok to send in a list of 200 or so suspicious back links to Google Disavow? As I'm having quite a bit of difficulty getting ahold of anybody to remove most (almost all) of these links. Thanks :-)

Jamie White

07/12/2013 02:56 pm

Hi Cristoph. I have tried Detox quite recently (April/May/June 2013). I admit that I have found it very useful in some aspects, such as identifying which links are not indexed by Google, or have malware/virus on them; however my point was that using a tool alone is not a thorough enough process to analyse a potentially toxic backlink profile. After all, the Google manual review is done by a human pair of eyes, and they will see a lot more than an analysis software can detect!

Marie Haynes

07/12/2013 03:42 pm

You can put way more than 200 links (or domains) in a disavow file. If you're trying to get rid of a manual penalty though you need to actually make attempts to remove them and communicate that to Google. Just disavowing is not enough.

Marie Haynes

07/12/2013 03:50 pm

I think these tools can be useful to some extent but my experience with them has not been great. I have had several people send me their Link Detox reports that they previously used to audit links and file for reconsideration. It seems to me that the links marked as Toxic are usually bad ones. But, there seem to be a lot of links marked as healthy that truly were horrendous. I could see possibly using the tool for a large audit and immediately addressing the toxic links and then manually auditing the rest. The other thing is that quite often if you have a manual penalty there are things that no tool is going to be able to pick up. For example, did you know that in October, Google added this line to their "link schemes" page? "Building partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking" I have seen sites get a manual penalty because they have too many links on resource/partners pages. Quite often these links will be on high quality sites and contain urls rather than keyword anchor text. If you look at one or two of these links you would call them great natural links. But, if you see the pattern that a site has hundreds of them you can start to see why a manual reviewer would call this unnatural linking.

Michael Martinez

07/12/2013 04:33 pm

I have been saying FOR YEARS that these third-party tools -- no matter how useful they are -- provide ABSOLUTELY NO INSIGHT into what a search engine indexes or "thinks" of any given linking resource. Good case study.

Andy Kuiper - SEO Analyst

07/12/2013 05:45 pm

thanks Marie - ...let the documenting begin ;-)


07/12/2013 06:53 pm

I like Link Detox, I do. It's a tool we use here at WrightIMC especially for new clients. However, the 'toxic' rating to me is almost always completely off. For a small local business it continually tagged yellow page sites as 'toxic' because not all of their pages were indexed by Google. I found it peculiar because the main domain and other pages on the sites were indexed by Google. I'm sure that's something they'll work out in time, but please please please never take what a link analysis tool says as gold. Like Christoph said, you must do manual review.


07/12/2013 06:54 pm

It's helpful working on new client sites who say "we never did anything bad" even if they arn't penalized.

Marie Haynes

07/12/2013 07:00 pm

Good luck! You'll hear lots of people tell you you need to get xx% removed, but I've gotten lots of penalties removed where I have only had 10-15% success at removing links. I document everything really well. What Google really wants to see is that you have correctly diagnosed where the self made links are and that you have tried to clean up as best as you can.

Casey Markee, MBA

07/13/2013 03:28 pm

Ditto. The Cemper Tools, especially Link Detox, are something I use regularly. But you really MUST avail yourself of the "upload" option which allows you to add your GWTools links export into the analysis. It's just a sound practice. Usually, we'll have clients contact us and they have used the tools but instead of doing a "manual review" of the report results they'll just choose to dump everything into a Disavow file. That's a huge mistake and we tend to spend a lot of time combing through their link report and removing links that don't make the "cut" for inclusion. Bottom line: used CORRECTLY, the tool is a great addition to any link auditing arsenal. But again, it's just one tool (of many) a competent site auditor should be using. I would also like to give a shout-out to Christoph for ACTIVELY engaging in this thread to answer questions and clarify Link Detox and other Cemper offerings. I can tell you right now that GOOD customer service with many of these tools is flat-out terrible! That's not the case with LRT.


07/14/2013 08:37 am

Very good post. I am currently developing a link tool to find toxic linking domains algorithmically. I base my analysis on GWT and Searchmetrics visibility data, to detect linking domains that where hit by Penguin or Panda updates. Especially Penguin victims might hurt you when present in your link profile to a large extent. It will work like this: you can upload your GWT links to my tool, then all unique domains (even more than 1000) are determined from that file. For each unique domain, the pre / post penguin scores are calculated. So you will see at a glance, which of your back link domains could be truly toxic, determined by a drop in Searchmetrics visibility. My tool will also feature a manual review of the domains in question and disavow functionality. Anybody interested in my tool?

Chris Faron

07/14/2013 08:47 pm

Sounds interesting Tassilo, where can I get it from?


07/16/2013 02:09 pm

Hi Chris, the tool is not ready yet. I will contact you once the public version is released.

Chris Faron

07/16/2013 07:35 pm

Any chance of beta testing it? I work with a lot of sites? my email is thanks for your time

Tom Parling

07/17/2013 05:50 am

Great post - and very true. We find there is limited benefit to using such tools, versus a manual analysis - based on years of knowledge. Just because the tool says there is an issue with some of your links - doesn't mean you need to worry/take massive action against it.

Christoph C. Cemper

07/17/2013 01:25 pm

Thanks Casey, glad you appreciate our WOW support! Let me know if you need anything.

Christoph C. Cemper

07/17/2013 01:26 pm

Exactly, no tool replaces an experience human in front of the tool. Edge cases with deindexed "Yellow Pages" look like penalized link networks sometimes, but then - who needs links from deindexed sites anyways? You can safely disavow those and still get click-thru traffic (if any). So Disavow is superior to removal in that case.

Christoph C. Cemper

07/17/2013 01:27 pm

Nick, thanks - that's exactly what we're already working on - you can see it it other modules like QBL, BLP, CLA already, but more automation of high anchor density will come soon.

Andy Harrison

07/19/2013 11:24 am

I'll be interested in this tool. When is it likely to be released?


07/19/2013 11:47 am

In August. Please post your email here, I will then notify you. Thanks.

Patrick Coombe

08/04/2013 02:40 am

IMO only way to really check is to manually scan.

Chris Koszo

08/06/2013 01:38 am

I am interested. Always like to play with new tools. Thanks, Chris


08/06/2013 01:55 pm

Please use application for beta invite at: Thanks.


09/06/2013 09:41 am

There are companies out there that will claim they help you in removing harmful links, but the majority of them will do nothing but detect them and will not remove them from your site. This maybe due to not having the right tools, the know how, or the experience to do so. One company I highly recommend is The Link Auditors. They have tools they've designed themselves to detect harmful links and to get them removed. One tool in particular is the ‘automated email tool’. Once the bad links have been found, the email tool will automatically send out removal requests to the specific websites; a process when done manually can take a very long time when you have a big list of bad links, but with their tool it is done with one click of a button! It is very quick and with possible over night results!

James Contardo

10/02/2013 12:50 am

Linkdetox is indeed a great source for identifying toxic links, it provides an in depth analysis of links. I have one issue though, disavow never removed any penalties from my site. I used linkdetoxs reports and disavowed links on a regular basis but my penalty was never removed. Did anyone else experience this? The only way I finally got my penalty removed was to use a link removal service called linkdelete. The nice thing though is that I had the links I needed to remove because of linkdetoxs reports so we were able to get started right away. Four months later my penalty was removed. Great work linkdelete and linkdetox! Now I know better than to use spamming in my SEO.

Peter Traychev

10/08/2013 06:18 am

I got a reply to a reconsideration request from Google with sample URL's that weren't in Linkdetox report as domains BUT were in GWT. Apart from that, I have to check suspicious and healthy manually. Recently, I got a link from in the suspicious category...

Christoph C. Cemper

10/17/2013 07:09 pm

Hi Peter, I couldn't find any communication in our helpdesk about your case, please send details, I would love to look into your case further with our current release candiate for Link Detox Genesis that is going live very soon. I found a report, but not sure if that's the one you're referring to 1. did you upload the GWT links as suggest? we do highly recommend that and any other external source you can provide for analysis 2. the report I looked at had a link from a section of, not and it looks like a very "unnatural" link in my manual review - there are some duplicate content issues on that site and those "copies" were flagged as suspicious indeed Looking forward to further discussion in our helpdesk Christoph

Peter Traychev

10/19/2013 01:53 pm

Hi Christoph, Thanks for replying. 1. GWT links - I received a couple of replies to reconsideration requests specifying sample links that were not found by link detox. I imported csv with GWT links but linkdetox does not pull out anchor text and nofollow/follow status, so i have to make my own check for that with another tool. The site-wide filter of 5 links per domain is also a tough one, because if a webmaster asks me for the full URL list with links for removal, I can't provide it. I understand there is a difference in crawl databases, but we have to not miss any link in GWT. 2. You are correct - it is, but it is still BBC, a quick whois check confirms it. The link itself is with brand anchor text, but even if it was otherwise, the domain authority of this site is super-high. I can't agree that this link is a suspicious one.

Christoph C. Cemper

10/21/2013 10:58 am

Hi Peter this sounds like a bug "not pull out anchor text and nofollow/follow status" as we recrawl all links, so they should be in there... can you please mail us the files and the report urls to our helpdesk for investigation? Also I would like to run your specific excample thru our Link Detox Genesis candiate >if a webmaster asks me for the full URL list with links for >removal, I can't provide it. Understood - but if it's a sitewide link, he won't need that anyways. Worst case you could use our Backlink Profiler (BLP) tool to analyse that specific case with sitewide filter disabled. But really, if the webmaster needs a list of all his pages to to remove a site-wide link, somethings wrong anyways with his motivation or skills. Also I would love receive copies of those replies from Google for further testing against our upcoming Genesis algorithm - can you send them to our helpdesk as well please? Thanks & Best regards, Christoph

Christoph C. Cemper

10/21/2013 10:59 am

Also re 2) - this is what our upcoming Link Detox Genesis will help you with as well - you can rate links good/bad and it will be reflected in the overall calculation then - at no extra cost for reprocessing

Christoph C. Cemper

10/30/2013 05:06 pm

Hey everyone! Just a heads up. Thanks to Barry's and your feedback we finally launched our new algorithm Link Detox Genesis that will work wonders on cases like this. Looking forward to your feedback. Existing users will receive the chance for bonus credits for testing in the next days also! Christoph

Michael Lane

12/03/2013 09:18 am

I found the best link tools are available at The Link Auditors. Their unique tools are fully automated and work very efficiently. When I got an audit from them one of their team, Jason, took me through each tool and explained to me what each of them do in depth. I had a full understanding of each tool, and he then advised me which would work best for me. Using them for my audit was a really good decision. I had two long in depth phone consultations, advise on how to go about my audit and best of all, I got all my toxic links removed using their removal tool. I definitely recommend them to anybody who needs to get their backlinks cleaned up.

Michael Usov

12/12/2013 12:10 pm

I've got 5 clients sites that have been penalised by google penguin. we ran the old link detox before genesis and generated disavow files and well as tried to get our bad links removed. That was several months ago. Although the tool looked good, all the sites are actually still penalised by google. We wrote to support who suggested we get the new link detox genesis with boost that will be out in 2 days. The problem is my clients are asking me why the should spend money on it again when it didn't work before. Would love to hear from anyone that has actually recovered from penguin. Deciding which tool is one thing , but a real result is another.


12/22/2013 01:57 am

How about ranking recovery?

Michael Usov

12/31/2013 06:51 am

I had another look at link detox genisis webinar and saw that the main 2 changes are they they find more links and get google to crawl the sites mentioned (they call this boost) . Thought that was interesting so I got all my links ever made except for about 50 very high quality links and disavowed the domains. this meant I had about 800 domains disavowed doing this manually as opposed to the 19 recommended in link detox. ( the 19 links was from a link detox report 6 months ago so its not the genisis one ) I then used 2 indexing services and feed the links i had into them ( to replicate boost in detox ) However there have been no results. I rechecked the claims link detox have in there webinar and there has been 1 successful case according to their advertising which tool 3 days to get the site out of penguin. ( this was before the released it to the public ) Now that they have been out for a few days will we see lots of sites recovering from penguin? I don't think so. From what I see they only detect a fraction of the links and even if they did detect them all from what I have seen from tests with the 2 indexing services it wont work. I really hope someone can prove me wrong but it wont work from the basics tests I have done. If there's a flaw in my logic let me know or if you think i should do a different test. My assumption is that indexing services would be the same as their boost technology.

James S.

01/21/2014 03:48 am

Like Marie I also have not had much luck with link detox tool. When I first received my link penalty from Google I signed up to have my links diagnosed. While they did do a good job of marking bad links as toxic they missed the mark on thousands of backlinks! Links that were marked as clean were the same links Google showed me as sample URLs as unnatural! It also didn't show me all of the links to my website. Whats up with that? For a tool I paid this much for I would expect all of my links to be shown but it didn't include links from all of the major link checkers. There are better tools and services fro the price, I wrote about my experience on my website here: I hope this is helpful for people going through the same thing I am.

Christoph C. Cemper

01/31/2014 11:24 am

Michael we gave away Link Detox for free for many months and started charging in 2013. The fact that we now have a new improved version that can do a lot more things cost us money, and therefore we're charging again too as we provide additional tremendous value. If you go to another meeting with your client next week you also charge him again too, or are all meetings free, because you talked to him once?

Christoph C. Cemper

01/31/2014 11:27 am

Michael if I get you right, you tried to mimick what we are doing in Link Detox Boost by your own means and expect the same result? Doesn't make sense to me. When it comes to recovery keep in mind that also the amount of disavowed / removed links is important. Genesis finds A LOT more toxic links that need to go, and from your comment below it appears you did NOT re-run thru the Link Detox Genesis algo. So that sounds like too many changed variables to me. Suggestion: convince your clients to give it another try if their web business is worth something to them. If they don't care about their web-business, then it's hard to justify extra spendings, I know. Christoph

Ravi Malhotra

02/28/2014 11:32 am

I think we should not just rely on SEO tools yet they are really helpful in finding number of harmful links to us. But I personally have seen on 3-4 domains that even after downloading, uploading, removing all the suspicious links found with the help of these tools, disavowing the domains , google comes up with few more sample links which are nowhere in GWT or SEO tools. So it might be possible that we missed them considering "no risk links". So as discussed among the comment, I think it's good to manually review all the links.

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