Link Detox Complete guide_1280x720

Link Detox – The Complete Guide

With the recent May Core 2020 update, having a healthy backlinks profile is more important than ever!

If you believe that Google just ignores bad links and those can’t hurt you, then you are a perfect idiot 

Also, if you believe that nofollow links cannot hurt you because they are nofollow, then you are a double idiot 

Just kidding, there are many articles on the internet that mention that having spammy backlinks pointing to your website is risk-free and that you can safely ignore them… but it’s important to not believe everything you see on the internet.

In this guide, I will show you the complete walkthrough I’m doing to detox my websites and how to keep a healthy backlinks profile… You will see, it’s pretty easy and can be easily delegated to an employee.

Let start!

Step 1 – Export Pages With Active RDs

The first thing to do is to go to, and in the left menu, click on “Best by links” to get a list of all your pages with active backlinks. Like below:

Ahrefs - Best By Links

Sort your pages by “Referral Domains” to get the list of all your pages with backlinks first and export it to excel. Once you have downloaded the excel file, copy the list of pages and their RDs in the detox sheet.

Detox Google Sheets - Pages

Once all your pages have been added to the Detox Sheets, just set the status to SKIP for the pages you don’t need to verify (ie: image links, etc..)

Detox Google Sheets - Skip Pages

Okay, time to move to the next step… The detox process!

Step 2 – Start The Detox Process

Now that you have cleaned your pages and kept only the ones that need to be verified, it’s time to start with the first page URL… so add it to Ahrefs and go to organic traffic overview.

Ahrefs - Traffic Overview

Now it’s time to check all drops and compare with the “First Seen” referral domains to find the toxic backlinks.

Ahrefs - Ranking Drop

The first drop happened around the 9th of February 2018, so we will have a look at potential toxic backlinks that have been detected around this date.

Potential Toxic Backlink

Please note that sometimes, Ahrefs is slow to detect backlinks so when I investigate, I go up to 1 month after the ranking drop and analyze every link (dofollow & nofollow). In this example, we just have one link in the 30-day period after the ranking drop so it makes it fairly easy to find the toxic link.

So now that we have a potential bad link.. let’s check it in-depth… So at first view, the site seems unhealthy.. he has lost most of his traffic a few weeks/months before the link has been added.

In that case, it looks like the guy just added a link from another site he owns and placed the link to the homepage thinking he could get more link juice from it… However, the site has no authority so it was not really a smart move lol!

Some of the reasons that link could be toxic are;

  • Irrelevant link (golf to soccer)
  • A huge drop in traffic on the domain
  • Homepage link
  • No authority

According to my book, this link is definitely the reason for the drop in traffic that happened around the 9th of February 2018 so I will add it to my Detox Sheets.

Let’s continue…

Ranking Drop #2

The second ranking drop happened around the 24th of April 2018, so let’s find which link caused this one.

Ranking Drop #2

When checking the referral domains, we see that the link from the site “” has been detected on the same week that the drop happened.

Potential Toxic Link #2

Now let’s have a look in-depth at this site. At first view, it looks like a PBN site disguised as an affiliate site… but it’s easy to see it’s fake since on the article, there are no affiliate links, we just have 1 dofollow link that points to our site.

Toxic Link - PBN

Another toxic link has been found… I think you got it now how to proceed? In those 2 examples, the 2 links were probably PBN links… it’s easy to see that the guy on this site is a noob and doesn’t have a clue of what he is doing lol!

However, I had expected to find cases of drops caused because of guest post links… so I will try to find another site.

What to Look For?

When investigating, you have to find detected sites around the date of the traffic drop. What I do personally, I check all backlinks detected by Ahrefs, starting from 1 week BEFORE the traffic drop, up to 2 months AFTER (I start with the closest date first and move above until I’ve found the toxic link).

I suggest opening the backlinks and checking the published date, it’s the best way to get the accurate date of publication.

Some patterns of toxic links:

  1. Traffic (If the site is toxic, mostly you will see a traffic drop in Ahrefs that happened close to your publication date).
  2. Aesthetic (Check if the site looks legit… PBNs, Scraper sites, etc…)
  3. Anchor text
  4. Authority