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I've been reading that Google can actually penalize you if some spammy websites backlinks to you, which I found totally unfair as I have lots of websites linking to me that I've never heard of. And finding which links are good or bad seems to be an impossible job with GWT.

Should I care about those links or not? Google is offering a tool to disavow links, does it value my time to use it?

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    Asked and answered. However, it seems that Google is changing the rules as we speak. It is too early to know where the new line is drawn. Google does realize that you have no control over who links to you and there is a grey area where grace is given. The disavow tool should be used very sparingly if at all. Keep in mind that there are sites who either benefit from your fear of so-called toxic links or others who benefit from parroting gibberish and bad or poorly conceived advice. The web is full of junk advice. Take it on a case by case basis and only worry about truly bad or spammy links. – closetnoc Nov 3 '15 at 17:04
  • I couldn't find the same question in here, only questions about backlinks from same domains. Do you have the url? What would you classified as spammy links? Is one link from one domain would be enough for you to disavow it? I have a lot of domains like web search app, or analytics app, that backlink to me. Would you call this bad backlinks? (Knowing that for now, my ranking is going up even with those backlinks). – NLemay Nov 3 '15 at 18:09
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    Here are two semi-generic answers from me: webmasters.stackexchange.com/questions/83825/… and webmasters.stackexchange.com/questions/71644/… I am sure there are others. This question does come up a lot. I stop bad back links mostly through controlling site access. Users get in, but bots generally do not unless they behave extremely well or are white-listed. I found that 8800 low quality back links dropped to just over 400. For a long while it was just 125. Low quality links are not bad, just low value. – closetnoc Nov 3 '15 at 18:19
  • "Users get in, but bots generally do not" That's an excellent idea! You should write this as an answer, as it totally solve my problem (I don't want backlinks, but I don't want to loose all my time fighting those) – NLemay Nov 3 '15 at 18:29
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    I have code in my CMS that I also wrote that restricts accesses and therefore not an easy thing to explain and certainly no instructions for users to follow. As well, this is a test bed for other security work that I do some of which I cannot divulge yet. There are some software packages that restrict bots, though I do not know any of them. – closetnoc Nov 3 '15 at 18:42
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If you have Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools), you'll be notified if your site is being penalised. No notification? Don't worry.

In general, penalties will only apply to links that are, or are suspected to be a result of practices prohibited by Google guidelines, especially those pertaining to link schemes.

I wouldn't recommend using the disavow tool unless you have an explicit notification that action has been taken against your site, and then only when other clean-up methods have been exhausted.

  • Thanks! Just to clarified : to you mean that as long as you don't get a notification, links can't hurt your seo? – NLemay Nov 4 '15 at 15:45
  • @NLemay No, not quite. Your question concerned Google penalties, which are deliberate manual or algorithmic measures to punish certain activities, so my answer relates to those. To answer your follow-up fully we'd need to define what we mean by "hurt SEO", but in general I think it's enough to say don't obsess about links Google isn't warning you about. – GDav Nov 25 '15 at 8:41

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