How Do You Uncover Your Spammy Links?

May 30, 2013 • 8:52 am | comments (40) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Link Building Tips & SEO

spammy linksA WebmasterWorld thread has a webmaster who seems to have been hit by the Penguin 2.0 update. He is now asking how he should go about discovering which of his links are spammy.

He asked in the thread:

The only thing I can think of is that I may have spammy backlinks. I have 1500 backlinks but do not recognise all the sites that link back to me. How can I find out whether they are spammy and harm my website?

He also details some of the ways he initially acquired those 1,500 backlinks and some of those techniques are a red flag. Now what?

Some suggestions on how to discover the bad links include using Google Webmaster Tools link report. Download all the links and go through each one manually.

Others suggest you use a third-party link tool like Majestic SEO, Raven Tools, SEOmoz (now Moz) or others to get a more complete picture of your links.

You can also use Bing Webmaster Tools.

Either way, with only 1,500 links - I'd spend the time going through each one manually and disavowing the bad ones.

He started the process and was shocked on what he found:

I now had time to look more thoroughly at my backlinks.

Goodness, there is some junk in there: from Russian #*$! sites to numerous article sites that I never posted on.

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

Update: See our story named Have Links To Disavow? Google Says Google Webmaster Tools Link Report Is Enough.

Image credit to BigStockPhoto for one bad link image

Previous story: Google AdSense Updates Ad Review Center


Alexander Soloviev

05/30/2013 01:32 pm

I just tried to do the same on my site - found "a few" suspicious links from previous SEO "handlers". Asked Google to disavow in a hope that it'll get me back to the top of our relevant searches...


05/30/2013 01:42 pm

Thank you for the helpful information. This is what visitors would like to read on regular basis in this blog. Please post more. Oh, by the way, links here are nofollow.

Emma North

05/30/2013 01:58 pm

I agree, unfortunately it is very much a manual process. I've put more detail in a recent guide on SEO health which you might find useful: Basically; use as many link analysis tools as you can to get the biggest possible picture of your link profile and trawl through them manually to highlight the spammy or potentially unnatural ones. It's long, time-consuming and pretty mind-numbing (especially with huge link profiles!) but it's the only way to find all the dodgy links!


05/30/2013 02:14 pm

To be SEO health, one must forget about SEO by SEOs.

Emma North

05/30/2013 02:19 pm

Not necessarily although when it comes to "link building" I do agree; if you're building links they will never be natural in the truest sense. But when it comes to other aspects of today's SEO such as ensuring unique, quality content on-site and making sure technical aspects such as robots.txt and XML sitemaps are optimised for search engine accessibility...


05/30/2013 02:49 pm

It's truly sad that this is the webmaster's responsibility. Google should be ashamed.


05/30/2013 02:49 pm

To ensure unique, quality content on-site one must hire an editor(s) or, being the website owner, use her/his own skills. There are tons of information posted about robots.txt and XML sitemaps. There are even free generators. If one can't find and use such things by her/himself, then hiring SEO will not help either. However everyone can waste personal money as she/he wish. In this case, there should be a person/company to receive such wasted money. No doubt SEOs are good in this. Just not sure if this is about the web industry.

Emma North

05/30/2013 02:55 pm

Content is becoming an increasingly important part of optimising for search engines and users equally, meaning SEO's have a far broader range of tasks that several years ago. SEO is never again going to be the same as it used to be and that's no bad thing.


05/30/2013 03:13 pm

Content is valuable as it is. This is what internet is about - free flowing content. "Optimising" means censorship in one or the other way. If "SEO is never again going to be the same", then probably you need to make re-branding first. Probably even make public excuse in front of the web community and your customers ..... ) You need to hire professionals in PR )

Emma North

05/30/2013 03:15 pm

I guess we just have to agree to disagree here! Thanks for your feedback though :-)


05/30/2013 03:20 pm

Top linking domains to WS? Russian pr0n.


05/30/2013 03:34 pm

You're welcome )


05/30/2013 04:19 pm

You can't have a list of ways to discover spammy links without mentioning Link Research Tools.


05/30/2013 04:47 pm

To weigh in, I think SEO skills are most valuable when paired with other skills. For instance, I do a lot of my SEO work in the course of my work as a web developer, so not only can I identify technical issues, I can resolve them as well. I don't really charge extra for this, it's just something I do in the course of my work. There's definitely an issue when an SEO is simply giving a webmaster a list of problems and telling them to hire someone else to do the work. As for content, agreed 100% that it should be organic. Usually the only advice I ever give on that subject is that a) you should be producing it, and b) keep in mind searchability when writing things like headlines so readers can find you're content. Otherwise, I try to stay hands-off.

Craig Hamilton-Parker

05/30/2013 05:29 pm

How spammy is spammy? I have a lot of links to my site from well-meaning people with often redundant trashy homepages on hasbeen sites like Tripod and Angelfire. They often have 'my link page' with long lists of links to other sites in my genre. Should I disavow these 'link pages' as methinks the search engines could now read these pages as link spam?

Alexander Soloviev

05/30/2013 05:36 pm

Thanks for your encouragement! :) And I've seen about "nofollow" in the other thread too, so I'm aware of that


05/30/2013 06:12 pm

Yup, SEO is just a part of the web development. (I believe it's tiny and not necessary part). Anyway, SEO is not kind of separate science some try to present it. However, there are believers, still searching for the magic bullet and they need the sellers of the hope. This is just their way of living. So SEOs still can sell the hope. But market will level everything up sooner or later. Some SEOs will become web developers, others will be out of the web business.


05/30/2013 06:20 pm

Q: "How to you uncover spammy links" A: You look under Matt Cutts dress....


05/30/2013 07:53 pm

what is russian pron?


05/30/2013 07:58 pm

You sure waste a lot of time on an SEO site for someone who thinks SEO is not necessary.


05/30/2013 08:01 pm

Links from pornographic websites on legit web platforms like - yeah, imagine discovering the source of these links at work.


05/30/2013 08:08 pm

mmmmm, yummy!


05/30/2013 08:09 pm

yea I know ethalon and anti-seo, terrible no lives...... poor people, sometimes it's good to go outside every once in a while - it's called civilization LOL


05/30/2013 08:10 pm

I was super excited... ;)


05/30/2013 08:44 pm

This is your fantasy. I never visited SEO websites on regular basis - total waste of time.


05/31/2013 05:36 am

If spammy links affect your ranking now, isn't this a tool for people to do damage to other people's sites without them knowing?


05/31/2013 07:31 am

My site is hit by Penguin 2. Looking at my link report in GMT, i figured out that links are placed in different unrelated sites like male eja*** site (hidden link), different free blog platforms having themes like movies, make money online and 2-3 online backup sites (hidden links) etc. All are links that are not placed by us but probably someone who don't want us to rank well. Many have placed our articles and blog posts on different unrelated sites even on different languages sites like Russian etc.

Lenka Istvanova

05/31/2013 08:41 am

I use combination of tools - MajesticSEO together with Link Detox plus GWT. If you have a lot of links to go through I would check first for some spammy, not relevant or keyword-rich anchor text. But if you want a healthy link profile you need to definitely invest some time into it and go link by link. In the end, hard work pays off.

Adam Robinson

05/31/2013 11:03 am

All this disavow links stuff is ridiculous. Google say write original and good content and forget SEO. However, i'm sat here going through the disavow tool looking for spammy links instead of writing content! Looking at my link profile i have loads of spammy forum signatures which i have in no way put there! Googles policy on spammy links is pathetic, if they can detect spam links why not ignore them rather than penalise webmasters? I have lost 70% of my traffic through this update for no fault of my own. Google are only interested in people lining their share holders pockets with revenue through adwords!

Webstats Art

05/31/2013 06:25 pm

You need huge page rank to be outside the spammy link penalty. It means small and medium sized companies/sites can be crushed and only one will remain = google


05/31/2013 07:17 pm

PageRank affecting spammy link penalty? Any source for that or is this conjecture?

Greg Meggs

06/01/2013 03:17 am

All the old methods of getting links seems to be coming back to bite many of us. i am currently in the process of removing (or at least asking) old spammy links. Many I did not ask for but other people picked up some of my content and reposted it. I have found a terrific blueprint to go through this process and request Google re-evaluate my site. if anyone wants it just write to me greg AT dagreco DOT com

Greg Meggs

06/01/2013 03:19 am

you are is hard work, but definitely worth it.


07/08/2013 07:16 pm

So as long as Google Webmaster Tool doesn't say you have any problems you're fine. I have some weird link coming to my domain, I've had problems with hotlinkers, scrapers, intellectual property thieves, etc. These links aren't me attempting to game the system, they are people stealing from me from Russia, India, China, Germany etc. etc. In Google Webmaster Tools Google says I've had no problems in the last 90 days so even though I've never heard of some of the websites that link to me, they must not be considered spam, even if they did steal my bandwidth or intellectual property...


07/16/2013 09:17 am

Does GWT reports any such kind of link that is spammy ? If a website is penguin hit how one can differentiate it from Panda hit?


08/18/2013 03:41 pm

how will i know which link is good and which one is bad?

Flower Delivery Guy

08/20/2013 09:46 am

problem is Google Webmaster Tool - link report shows up nothing on my website. So what should be my next best step forward?

Ben reid

10/06/2013 03:28 pm

I want to get spammy link of this blog:, the problem with this blog is that many of its links are coming from profiles of people using Please tell me that is it good to get near about 3000 links from youtube profiles in just 7 days? Should i disavow these links? can Google take it as link spam?

Spook SEO

02/01/2014 05:29 pm

Knowing links if it is good or bad in manual by looking at the content of the website, checking its PR/DA, its trust and if they are also hit by the update. Hope it helps.

Susheel Sundar

04/16/2014 07:46 am

I was expecting a solution on this page...damn me and thank you.

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