Delete Urls With Bad Backlinks to Remove Google Penalty

Why not delete a bad url on your site and 404 it if thousands of bad backlinks point to it to remove a Google penalty. Many webmasters are using the disavow tool to disregard links, but sometimes there may be thousands of them which might be difficult to find as well as disavow.  Remember that removing a huge bunch of  back links can also drop your search engine rankings. But what if there are a few specific urls which have the maximum burden of poor backlinks?

404 Bad Urls

404 errors

I read this detailed article about 404 errors on Google and how the Google algorithm deals with them. Clearly 404 errors are part of any website and are meant to signify gone content or wrong urls which do not exist and helps to keep search results for your site clean. Google says 404 urls don’t hurt your site rankings

So 404s don’t hurt my website at all? A: If some URLs on your site 404, this fact alone does not hurt you or count against you in Google’s search results.

In fact Google’s John Mueller has beeen quoted in this post that it is a good idea to 404 target pages with bad back links and it might help to recover from a bad penalty.

…if you have bad links you know are hurting your ranking, you can 404 page not found the page, remove the page the links are pointed at and Google will disavow those links.

Can redirecting bad target urls  remove the bad links penalty?  Moz clearly mentions that redirecting urls to new urls will not remove the penalty as the link juice will get passed on to the new urls as will all the bad backlinks referral. So it is better to remove and 404 these urls  if and only if you really believe that the url is the cause of your penalty.

If you redirect a single URL with bad backlinks attached to it, those bad links will then point to your new URL. In this case, it’s often better to simply drop the page with a 404 or 410, and let those links drop from the index.

Conclusion: So this basically means that if you believe that a particular page on your site is  badly affecting your domain rankings due to a huge amount of poor backlinks, you might consider moving it elsewhere and 404 the url. Remember to check site headers that the 404 error is properly configured.

Warning:  Note this will wipe out all link juice to your url so be absolutely sure (seek SEO expert advice) that the url is the cause of your penalty. An hurriedly done 404 of an acceptable url might make your traffic drop further! Be careful and know exactly what you are doing. When in doubt, always seek expert advice.

Our Story with Bad Backlinks

I have particular interest in this topic because as you would be aware we were hit by multiple Google Panda and Penguin updates, and though we tried to fix a lot of issues, the  damage was already done and a never ending algorithmic penalty (though Google says there is no manual penalty) is on our site with already 90% drop in traffic since the last year.

Why this post is relevant to us is that there were thousands of bad backlinks to the 3 WordPress theme pages which could not be removed, though a simple WP theme update by these sites will remove those links (but then spam sites never update). Considering this I find it a good idea to move the 3 theme pages on our site to new urls and 404 the old urls. So all the thousands of bad backlinks will loose their effect on our site and we might recover from the Google penalty.

There is a flipside also as a loss of thousands of backlinks might also mean a very severe wipe out of rankings (and Google might have already ignored them). But considering there is already a 90% drop in search engine traffic in the last year, its a chance we might take. What are your thoughts on this?

45 comments on “Delete Urls With Bad Backlinks to Remove Google Penalty

  1. AgentWP says:

    How do you 404 a URL in WordPress? Does simply deleting that page from WP and then removing it from Google search using the GWT does the job? Kindly clarify.

  2. P. Chandra says:

    Just delete the post. The article becomes 404. You can post the content on a new page/post and build links to it.

    Note that editing the slug of the url, changes the url, but this does a 301 redirect from the old to the new url.

    You need not remove the url from GWT. Google regularly crawls you site and the url will appear in the Crawl Errors> Url Errors report as a 404.

  3. Ankur says:

    @PC: I have been following you and labnol’s blog since late 2006 (that was the time I started blogging too) and have seen it all. Sad to know that you have lost 90% of your traffic.
    As you may be aware, Google is relying more and more on social signals these days. An immediate affect can be noticed if you do a proper Google authorship for your website. A quick search and I find that your profile pic does not appear alongside Google search snippets.
    You may notice an immediate effect if you can implement it.
    Let me know if you need any help. All the best!

  4. Ninika says:

    Very nice post. I am new to blogging and recently working on creating backlinks to improve traffic. Thanks for this post, this wiill surely help me.

  5. Christopher says:

    That’s a good point about the possible adverse effect. Initial thought is that removing bad links is a good thing, but if you don’t stop to really think about how linking really works it becomes clear that it could possibly harm your ratings too. 404’ing sounds like the right answer.

  6. AjeetIPB says:


    I am also suffering google’s panda and penguin as my site also lost thousands of backlinks. Please suggest some great idea to come up.
    SEO Training Institute

  7. Siddhartha Sinha says:


    By the way also 404 error should be removed as it is not giving the user any kind of result. Earlier that page was existing but right now not existing and for that reason 404 error is coming. It is better to remove the 404 Error page and also it will help website or blog owner to manage the pages of their websites easily.

    Siddhartha Sinha

  8. Pankaj Jain says:

    Hello chandra,
    Really nice article, only few questions…
    How can I get to know that there are bad backlinks on my blog??
    How can I find those bad backlinks on my site??

    • P. Chandra says:

      We used the link detox tool to find bad backlinks

  9. Rajesh Singh says:

    Great post, for SEO.
    If any SEO doing SEO for website if he/she see this error then he/she will try to remove 404 error first then proceed further.

  10. Dean Saliba says:

    What do you guys do if you receive an email asking you to remove a link that someone has left in the comments section of your blogs? I get this a lot and it is always as a result of a link build campaign that they have done. I charge them. :)

  11. juliacora says:

    Yup this is a good practice to remove 404 errors and should be removed without any hesitation.

  12. Ashley Morrison says:

    I never really thought about this before but it makes sense. You spend so much time searching for high quality backlinks that you never tend to go back and check those you have are still live.

  13. Cesar says:

    I do not think removing links will get your old rankings back it has not been proved mathematically. Another point is that google does not show which links are the problematic one’s also Majestic does not know all the links out there for your site. Only the ones it can index and scan.

  14. Operion Skyz says:

    Thank for sharing the information. It might a good way to remove google penalty

  15. Rick Naufel says:

    Despite my new domain still recent, I will use this tool to eliminate these bad backlink already …
    Thanks for the post!

  16. Nina Miranda says:

    Why this post is applicable to us is that there were thousands of bad backlinks to a 3 WordPress thesis pages that could not be removed, yet a elementary WP thesis refurbish by these sites will mislay those links (but afterwards spam sites never update). Considering this we find it a good thought to pierce a 3 thesis pages on a site to new urls and 404 a aged urls. So all a thousands of bad backlinks will lax their outcome on a site and we competence redeem from a Google penalty.

  17. Nithin Upendran says:

    Good one sir! One of my blog is suffering from penquin updates could you provide some more tutorials for recovery my blog from the google update

  18. Earl Mike says:

    yeah the removal of URL’s is easy. you can do it by submitting those urls of your site by removal link of Google. You can add your URL in it and it will give you its status either it is removed or not. I used it for my website for those pages which aren’t working and not in use.

  19. Amrish says:

    Thanks for sharing this tip . one of my blog was also penalized by penguin last year on 24 April . Before that my site was made in HTML and in jan 2012 I moved that to wordpress to easy maintenance of post and other this . I was unaware about of problem and other issue with the wordpress . And my site lost its 90% traffic .

  20. Stephen says:

    404 URL/page means that the requested URL/page was not found?

  21. Murdo Guy says:

    This is enlightening and may have to do this immediately on the old site that I have. It’s not really that affected though a slight drop in PR has been done late last year. I tried several tactics in regaining it to no avail.

  22. Josh Brancek says:

    Wow, awesome tips!!! Have you seen any particular recovery examples???

  23. Homedesignplus says:

    Hi friends, If your sites have Bad Neighbor Hood link than remove them ASAP otherwise google can spam your sites.

  24. J.Edwards says:

    Its better to remove the bad links of your site. Cause bad link penalized your site. So try to remove as much as possible, and also care to create good quality links, otherwise your rank will be down.

  25. vinoth says:

    hi, P.Chandra good post.
    I m a little confused about whether to make the bad links as 404 or to remove them completely? pls help me with a reply ! :)

  26. tunes says:

    Its better to remove the bad links of your site.Despite my new domain still recent, I will use this tool to eliminate these bad backlink already …
    Thanks for the post!

  27. Rabokav says:

    Very nice and informative article. I never thought of this in this manner to remove the original link to which the bad URLs are pointing out and then re-post those articles once again. But what if those articles are very much high on SERP then we will loose considerable amount of traffic. You may use a very unique and appealing 404 page but in this way you are bound to lose some visits. But again this is the last thing you can do if you got hell lot of bad links pointing to one or couple of URLs.
    Though not sure but thanks for sharing and letting us know this process.

  28. M Nirmal Anandh says:

    Hi padma,

    Interesting post. If we think about google, we can do the above mentioned things.

  29. Asif says:

    Something similar happened to my tech blog.
    90% drop in the traffic. I think it happened because a hacker injected a code on my blog’s header.php which made the blog redirect to some viagra selling website. I saw the decline in traffic since then, I did a lot of work but Still not able to recover.
    One of my other blog was also hit by panda for band links, What I did was to move the blog to a new domain and it seems I am getting the traffic back.
    Do you think moving the blog to a new domain could help?

  30. seo package india says:

    Its ok but How to delete directory and bookmarks link from bookmarks and directory site .please suggest me how to delete those

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