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12 Essential SEO Data Points For Any Website

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12 Essential SEO Data Points For Any Website

Optimizing a website according to best practices is a starting point.

Once a site is published, out the door comes the next process of monitoring performance and improving based on the data.

The key to success is choosing the best SEO data points.

Here are a collection of 12 data points to consider that will help improve all areas of your SEO.

1. Core Web Vitals

Core Web Vitals (CWV) are a set of metrics representing what the page loading experience is for site users. The CWV metrics are also a (minor) ranking factor.

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The importance of CWV extends beyond its being a ranking factor. It helps optimize a site for speed, which is known to influence factors such as conversions and earnings.

2. Server Speed

Website server speed influences how fast pages are served and how many of them can be served at the same time.

It’s one of the few conversion- and sales-related variables that can be easily controlled.

Shared hosts can have hundreds or even thousands of websites all competing for the same limited resources.

While shared is fine to begin with, be ready to scale up to a faster host as soon as the site gains traction and begins to succeed.

In some cases, 500 error response messages are an indication that the server is running out of resources, and it’s time to upgrade.

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Managed WordPress hosting can be somewhat restrictive of what plugins are allowed to be installed.

But the trade-off is that, because resource-hogging or unnecessary plugins are not an issue, there is more server power available for everyone.

There are many flavors of web hosting – from Shared and Shared Premium to VPS, Cloud, and Dedicated.

There is almost always someone who can say something nice about any given web host and someone else to say something negative.

Sometimes, it can boil down to matching what you are prepared to pay with the level of server control you are able to handle.

If you don’t know anything about server management then something with a simple control panel is the best approach.

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3. Publishing Frequency

People want lots of quality content, and they want it all the time. The more content that is published on a daily schedule, the better.

It’s tempting to publish a large group of content and then say the website is done.

For many kinds of sites, especially one that publishes articles, a website is never done.

There is no “set it and forget it” in terms of content.

What that means is that the path to success is created with a constant creation of more content, always more and as often as possible.

It’s not really about generating content that’s ten times better than the competition, either.

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It’s simply about generating quality content on a regular basis and doing the best that you can do to provide readers with what you believe they want.

The path to success is almost always through publishing as much quality content as possible.

4. Number Of Indexed Pages

If Google isn’t indexing your pages, that may mean there’s something wrong with your content and/or the entire website.

The Search Console Index Coverage Report provides the data on indexed pages, including discovered but not indexed pages.

If you find that your content is regularly not getting indexed, then this is an opportunity for improvement.

This isn’t a matter of bad luck, and it’s not necessarily a technical issue that’s easily fixed.

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Content problems can be hard to identify because it’s difficult to see one’s own content objectively.

Examples Of Content Problems:

  • Content is similar to what’s already published.
  • Content is thin (Screaming Frog provides Word Count data).
  • Content is poorly written.
  • Content is not focused enough on the topic.
  • Overall, site quality is poor.

5. Search Console Impressions

Search Console shows how often your site appeared in the search results for a variety of keyword phrases. In Google Search Console, this data point is called impressions.

It’s tempting to open up the Search Console to check out which keywords are performing best and bask in the warmth and sunshine of a job well done.

But that’s a waste of time.

Lower ranked keyword phrases are where your time is best spent. Always focus on your lower keywords because this is where the areas to improve can be found.

Some of these opportunities are quick wins, meaning that improving rankings for these phrases is relatively easy.

For other more competitive phrases, it may be that there’s nothing wrong with the content except that it needs more links.

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6. Excessive Scrolling

Excessive scrolling is a user experience data point provided by Microsoft Clarity.

Clarity is a free user experience analytics program that is low impact and GDPR compliant. It comes with machine learning that can alert publishers with problems, and provides a variety of metrics that show user behavior on a site.

Content is your most important ranking factor.

The excessive scrolling metric is a flag signaling that improvements to content are needed.

Anything that improves your content is helpful for SEO.

7. Reading Behavior

Reading Behavior is another Microsoft Clarity data point.

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This metric shows how many readers are engaged and how many abandon the webpage at the headline.

Pages with an abnormally high abandonment rate need improvement.

The Reading Behavior data point shows you which pages need improvement. This is valuable information.

The way Microsoft Clarity points out content that needs improvement is like employing a junior SEO to work full time creating site audits on a budget of free.

8. Scroll Data

The Scroll Data Microsoft Clarity metric is very important because it reveals how far down webpage users are scrolling.

Identifying where on a webpage visitors are abandoning a page can help debug a technical issue or maybe a problem with the content itself.

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9. Missing Or Duplicate Meta Data

It’s easy to drop the ball and roll out a website with unoptimized meta description or title tags.

Duplicate or missing title tags and meta descriptions are especially bad and surprisingly common on websites.

Screaming Frog provides the Missing/Duplicate Meta Description and Title Tag data point.

There’s a free version of Screaming Frog that crawls about 500 pages. So, if you’re just starting out, then give Screaming Frog a try.

10. Image Size

This is a data point related to speed. Mobile data bandwidth can be barely usable.

Even if a site is served on a fast web host, large images are going to pile up like cars on a one-lane freeway exit ramp when they reach a site visitor’s mobile browser.

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Image size is one of the easiest things to control, yet one of the variables that many sites ignore when optimizing.

According to HTTP Archive data, for a one-year period between 2021 and 2022, the median average of images per page is 751 KB for the top 1 million websites.

The amount of images per page for the same period of time for WordPress sites is a whopping 1,116.0 KB – that’s over a megabyte of images per page!

Screenshot from HTTP Archive, May 2022Median Image Size per page for WordPress sites

How big should your image sizes be? As small as you can possibly make them.

Just remember these tips:

  • Photographic images – save as JPEG.
  • Illustrative images – save as PNG.
  • Avoid superimposing text over photographic images.
  • Avoid images with lots of details, like trees with thousands of leaves.
  • Avoid illustration images that have gradients.

An easy way to shrink images is by serving images in the new WebP format.

Screaming Frog provides image size data for every image on your site. The tool is configurable to flag whatever target size you consider reasonable.

11. Backlinks

While backlinks are very much one of the most important ranking factors, in today’s search algorithms it’s not necessarily the deciding ranking factor.

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Search algorithms increasingly use links as part of a ranking algorithm to produce a set of candidate pages to list in the search results.

But, another layer of relevance can be applied that re-ranks the search results for things like relevance, user intent, geolocation, and user expectations, to name a few reasons.

The use of a modification factor or a modification engine is not new – it’s been around for at least 10 years.

So, while links are a highly important ranking factor, links are not necessarily the deciding factor.

This isn’t meant to minimize the importance of links, but simply to make clear where it stands in terms of importance.

Backlink data is available in Google Search Console.

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12. Earnings

Earnings might not initially seem like an SEO data point, but it is.

While earnings are the whole point of SEO, earnings are a data point that can work together with other metrics, like traffic and keyword rankings, to tell the entire story of what’s happening. This enables a publisher to make more accurate decisions.

Earnings Indicate Profitability Of Topic

Earnings are an indicator of whether your topic is lucrative.

Some topics have a massive amount of traffic.

But, some of those same topics may have slim profit margins, which can have a negative effect on affiliate commission rates and ad revenue.

Sometimes, keyword phrases with less traffic are more profitable.

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Earnings Coordinates With SEO Metrics

Earnings can signal if something has changed in traffic or rankings and contribute to understanding what those changes are.

For example, it’s not uncommon for traffic to decline while earnings remain steady or improve.

That could mean that less relevant traffic is hitting the site, leaving behind the most relevant (and profitable) traffic.

Should you panic? Maybe not.

It could be that the page wasn’t actually relevant for the query, meaning that it may be useful to create a new page to target the lost keyword/s.

This can happen to pages that rank for multiple, different but related keywords, like if a page ranks for plumbing, bathroom installations, and kitchen fixtures and loses all the keyword traffic except for plumbing.

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Earnings And Consumer Demand

Earnings can help to signal if consumer demand has changed.

Keyword rankings can remain the same while traffic steadily declines, which will be reflected in earnings.

What’s going on in this scenario is that consumer demand has changed.

This typically happens with the introduction of new product models and sometimes with the introduction of a disruptive new product or service.

SEO Data Points

There are many SEO data points, but the 12 mentioned here are, in my opinion, the most important.

There are many more data points that may prove more useful to your situation.

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What’s important is to get thinking about what can signal areas of improvement, identify the causes, then make improvements.

More Resources:


Featured Image: Khosro/Shutterstock

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Websites Created With Google Business Profiles To Shut Down In March

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Websites Created With Google Business Profiles To Shut Down In March

Do you have a website created through Google Business Profiles for your local business?

If so, you must find an alternative website solution as Google plans to shut down websites created with Google Business Profiles in March.

Websites Created With Google Business Profiles Will Redirect Until June 10, 2024

A redirect will be put in place from your GBP website to your Google Business Profile until June 10, 2024.

“Websites made with Google Business Profiles are basic websites powered by the information on your Business Profile.

In March 2024, websites made with Google Business Profiles will be turned off and customers visiting your site will be redirected to your Business Profile instead.

The redirect will work until June 10, 2024.”

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How To Find Out If You Have A Google Business Profile Website

To find out if your business has a website made with Google Business Profile, search for my business or your business name on Google. Once you find your Google Business Profile, edit your profile and check for your website in the contact section.

If you have a Google Business Profile site, it should say, “You have a website created with Google.”

Otherwise, it will allow you to add the link to your website.

Screenshot from Google, February 2024Websites Created With Google Business Profiles To Shut Down In March

Choosing An Alternative Website Builders For Small Businesses

Google suggests Wix, Squarespace, GoDaddy, Google Sites, Shopify for ecommerce, Durable, Weebly, Strikingly, and WordPress as alternative website builders to create a new website or ad landing page to replace the Google Business Profiles site.

While some, like WordPress, offer a free website builder with generative AI features, its users’ content may reportedly be sold to OpenAI and Midjourney as training data unless they opt out.

Regarding Core Web Vitals, WordPress, Wix, and Squarespace showed the most improvements in performance.

It’s also worth noting that while Google Deepmind used a Google Sites website to introduce Genie, its new AI model, Google Sites may not be best for SEO.

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Updating Ad Campaigns

If you have a Google Ads campaign that links to a website created with Google Business Profiles, the ad campaign will also stop running on March 1, 2024, until the website link is updated.

There’s still time to update your business website to ensure visitors are not sent to a 404 error page after June 10, 2024. If you haven’t chosen a new website builder or hosting service, review the reviews to find the most reliable, affordable, and optimized solution for your business.

Featured image: Vladimka production/Shutterstock

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How We Built A Strong $10 Million Agency: A Proven Framework

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How We Built A Strong $10 Million Agency: A Proven Framework

Building a successful agency can be a daunting task in today’s ever-evolving space. Do you know the secrets to succeeding with yours?

Watch this informative, on-demand webinar, where link building expert Jon Ball reveals the closely guarded secrets that have propelled Page One Power to become a highly successful $10 million agency.

You’ll learn:

  • The foundational principles on which to build your business to succeed.
  • The importance of delegation, market positioning, and staffing.
  • More proven lessons learned from 14 years of experience.

With Jon, we’ll provide you with actionable insights that you can use to take your business to the next level, using foundational principles that have contributed to Page One Power’s success.

If you’re looking to establish yourself as a successful entrepreneur or grow your agency in the constantly evolving world of SEO, this webinar is for you.

Learn the secrets of establishing a thriving agency in an increasingly competitive SEO space.

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View the slides below or check out the full webinar for all the details.

Join Us For Our Next Webinar!

How An Enterprise Digital PR Firm Earns 100’s Of Links In 30 Days

Join us as we explore how to scale the very time-consuming and complicated process of earning links from digital PR, with proven case studies showing how you can earn hundreds of links in 30 days.

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SEO Woe or a Load of Baloney?

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SEO Woe or a Load of Baloney?

Toxic backlinks are links that some SEO tools say could hurt your website’s Google rankings. The implication is that you should disavow them to keep your site safe.

But there’s some disagreement and confusion among SEOs as to whether “toxic” links are actually a thing and what, if anything, you should do about them. 

If you believe Google’s John Mueller, they’re not: 

Yet, according to my poll, the majority (just!) of SEOs think they are: 

So… what’s the deal here? Are toxic backlinks actually a thing? Are they hurting your site? And if so, what should you be doing about them? 

Before we can answer those questions, we need to understand the terminology… 

Every website has some spammy backlinks that just don’t make sense. But that doesn’t necessarily make them manipulative or “toxic.”

For example, here are a couple of obviously spammy links to our site: 

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Example of spammy links, via Ahrefs' Site ExplorerExample of spammy links, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

We didn’t build or buy either of these, so they’re not “manipulative” by definition. They’re just low-quality links we’ve attracted over time because the internet is rife with spammers. 

If you study Google’s link spam documentation carefully, you’ll see that, in theory, these aren’t the kind of spammy links they have a problem with. They warn only against the ill effects of spam links intended to manipulate rankings. 

Google uses links as an important factor in determining the relevancy of web pages. 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. 

Here are the examples Google gives of these manipulative links: 

What Google says are manipulative linksWhat Google says are manipulative links

As for “toxic backlinks,” this is just a term made up by certain SEO tools to describe backlinks they think could hurt your rankings based on several so-called “markers.”

Key takeaway

  • Spammy links are low-quality links that every site attracts through no fault of their own. 
  • Manipulative links are links built or bought solely to improve Google rankings. 
  • Toxic links are links that certain SEO tools say could hurt your website’s rankings. 

If you asked this question before September 2016, the answer would have likely been “yes.”

So what changed? 

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Penguin 4.0.

With this algorithm update, Google switched from demoting pages to a system that tries to ignore bad links.

Penguin is now more granular. Penguin now devalues spam by adjusting ranking based on spam signals, rather than affecting ranking of the whole site. 

Since then, Google’s stance has been that you can ignore spammy backlinks. 

If you’re seeing individual links that pop up and you say, “oh this looks like a spammer dropped the link” or whatever, I would completely ignore those. […] because these spammy links happen to every website and Google’s system has seen them so many times over the years that we’re very good at just ignoring them. 

John MuellerJohn Mueller

But is this true? Is Google really as good at ignoring low-level spam as we’re made to believe? 

Judging by my colleague Chris’s recent poll on LinkedIn, a good chunk of SEOs (38%) don’t think so, as they’re still disavowing them. 

Most SEOs either disavow or do nothing about spammy backlinksMost SEOs either disavow or do nothing about spammy backlinks

Does that mean they’re right to do so? Not necessarily. It just means they don’t fully trust Google that they won’t do any harm. They’re being careful. 

Personally, the person I trust most to answer this question in 2024 is Dr. Marie Haynes. I don’t think anyone’s done more research into this than her. She’s spent well over a decade working to understand Google’s search algorithms and auditing link profiles on behalf of business owners. 

Now, the interesting part of that statement (and why I actually trust her!) is the obvious conflict of interest. Until fairly recently, she made her living selling link audit and disavow file creation services—and for a pretty hefty sum at that! 

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Pricing from Marie's link audit services page in March 2023Pricing from Marie's link audit services page in March 2023
Pricing from Marie’s link audit services page in March 2023

Clearly, it would be good news for Marie if Google were still terrible at ignoring spammy backlinks because she could sell more link audits! 

Yet, these days, she no longer appears to offer such services. In fact, she’s actually been warning folks against the need to disavow low-quality, spammy backlinks for a few years. 

Here’s a quote from a 2022 blog post of hers:

While there is no harm in disavowing low quality spammy links, it likely does not help improve rankings. We believe that Google’s algorithms are already ignoring these links. […]. When we do see improvements these days after disavowing, it is always in sites where we have disavowed links that were purposely made for SEO and very little else. 

Marie HaynesMarie Haynes

It’s clear that Marie is being cautious with her words here. But overall, her opinion after digging into this for many years seems to be that, yes, Google is now pretty good at ignoring most low-quality spammy links. 

Does that mean they’re perfect? No. But it does mean that worrying about obvious low-quality link spam is probably a waste of time for most people.

If you’re buying or building the types of links that Google class as “link spam” then, yes, they can absolutely hurt your rankings.

But before you panic about that link exchange you did with your best friend’s wife’s brother, Google is likely looking for patterns of manipulation here. In other words, manipulative link profiles rather than manipulative individual links: 

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Danny Richman, founder of Richman SEO Training, agrees: 

Here’s a bit more context from Danny: 

As for Marie Haynes, she echoes a similar sentiment in this post. She states that manual actions aside, she would only recommend a client disavow links if they have “a very large number of links that [they] feel the webspam team would consider to be ‘manipulative.’ ”

In these cases, Google often slaps the worst offenders with an unnatural links manual action. If you get one of those, that’s Google telling you, “Hey… you’re being demoted in search because we think you’ve been trying to game the system with manipulative links.” 

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But this doesn’t have to happen for manipulative links to be a problem. It’s possible for Google to algorithmically demote a site if they detect a large volume of spammy and manipulative links, at least according to John Mueller.

If we see a very strong pattern [of spammy links] there, then it can happen that our algorithms say well, we really have kind of lost trust with this website and at the moment based on the bigger picture on the web, we kind of need to be more on almost a conservative side when it comes to to understanding this website’s content and ranking it in the search results. And then you can see kind of a drop in the visibility there. 

John MuellerJohn Mueller

Either way, the point remains: it’s patterns of manipulation that are likely to hurt rankings. There’s very little chance that you need to worry about the odd potentially dodgy link here and there. 

While it might be tempting to use an SEO tool that finds “toxic backlinks” for you, I’d seriously urge you to reconsider. Trusting these can do more harm than good. Way more. 

Just look at this unfortunate Redditor’s reply to John Mueller: 

Someone on Reddit's traffic tanked 60% after disavowing "toxic" backlinks in one SEO toolSomeone on Reddit's traffic tanked 60% after disavowing "toxic" backlinks in one SEO tool
A 60% drop in traffic! That’s no joke! 

Even if this is an extreme case, worrying about these links likely only wastes time because, according to Marie Haynes, they’re rarely truly toxic: 

I find that the truly toxic links…the ones that could have the potential to harm your site algorithmically (although you’d have to really overdo it, as I’ll describe below), are rarely returned by an SEO tool. 

Marie HaynesMarie Haynes

Sam McRoberts, CEO of VUVU Marketing, seems to agree: 

So… how do you find truly toxic backlinks that are likely to be hurting your site? 

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The truth? You might not even need to look for them. If you haven’t built or bought links that Google considers link spam at any reasonable scale, chances are you’re good. 

If you’re not confident about that, do a manual backlink audit with a tool like Ahrefs’ Site Explorer.

The Anchors report is a good starting point if you’ve never done this. It shows you the words and phrases people use when linking to you. If they look unnatural or over-optimized (lots of exact matches of keywords you’re trying to rank for), that could be a sign you have paid or other links intended to manipulate rankings. 

Example of keyword-rich anchors, which are often a sign of paid backlinksExample of keyword-rich anchors, which are often a sign of paid backlinks

If things look fishy there, use the Backlinks report to dig deeper and check the context of those links. It’s usually quite easy to spot paid and unnatural ones. 

The Backlinks report in Ahrefs' Site Explorer showing the context of the backlinkThe Backlinks report in Ahrefs' Site Explorer showing the context of the backlink

Just remember that you’re looking for patterns of unnatural links, not just one or two. 

WARNING

If you’re not 100% sure what you’re looking for when doing a backlink audit, hire someone who knows what they’re doing. You need to be confident that the links are truly “toxic.”

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If you have a manual action for unnatural links or a bunch of what you believe to be truly toxic backlinks, yes. Google’s advice is to disavow them (assuming you can’t get the links removed). 

You should disavow backlinks only if: 

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

AND

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

Marie Haynes advises the same: 

There are two situations where we will recommend to our clients a thorough link audit followed by filing a disavow: 

  1. The site has a manual action for unnatural links in GSC. 
  2. The site has a very large number of links that we feel the webspam team would consider to be “manipulative”.
Marie HaynesMarie Haynes

If you just have a bunch of spammy backlinks that most sites naturally attract or the odd paid backlink, probably not. Google probably ignores most, if not all, of these links, so disavowing them is likely a waste of time. 

While there is no harm in disavowing these links other than the time spent analyzing them, there is likely no benefit either. 

Marie HaynesMarie Haynes

But what about negative SEO?

Being the victim of a negative SEO attack is indeed the possible exception here. This is when a competitor sends a load of spammy or toxic backlinks your way to try to get your site penalized. 

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Google remains adamant that it basically never works, but it really comes down to what you believe. 

[I’ve] looked at hundreds of supposed cases of negative SEO, but none have actually been the real reason a website was hurt. […] While it’s easier to blame negative SEO, typically the culprit of a traffic drop is something else you don’t know about–perhaps an algorithm update or an issue with their website. 

Gary IllyesGary Illyes

If you see a traffic drop after an influx of backlinks in Site Explorer, I’d say that it’s at least worth a bit more investigation. 

Site with traffic drop coinciding with an influx of backlinksSite with traffic drop coinciding with an influx of backlinks
This site experienced a traffic drop coinciding with an influx of referring domains. Maybe there’s benefit to disavowing here… and maybe it’s something else!

As Gary said above, something else could be to blame—but you never know. There’s always a chance that Google’s algorithms rule it was you who built or bought those backlinks to try to manipulate rankings and penalize you for it. 

If you just found a bunch of so-called “toxic backlinks” in an SEO tool, probably not. Again, most of these are probably just link spam Google already ignores. 

Here’s yet another quote from Marie Haynes backing this up: 

While there is probably no harm in disavowing [links reported as toxic in SEO tools], you are not likely to see any improvement as a result. Disavowing is meant for sites trying to remove a manual action and for those who have been actively building links for the purpose of improving rankings. 

Marie HaynesMarie Haynes

There’s also the risk that you could end up disavowing links that are actually helping you… 

Patrick showed further evidence that this can absolutely happen when he experimented with disavowing links to the Ahrefs blog. Traffic dipped, then went back up after he removed the disavow. 

The impact of disavowing links to the Ahrefs blogThe impact of disavowing links to the Ahrefs blog

Final thoughts

“Toxic backlinks” is a term made up by certain SEO tools to scare you. That’s not to say bad links can’t hurt your site. They absolutely can. But fortunately for most site owners, it’s rarely a problem worth worrying all that much about. 

Got questions? Disagree? Ping me on Twitter X.

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