Google: What to do About Spammy Links from “Malicious Domains”

  • May 10, 2022
  • SEO

credit: Roger Monti

Google’s John Mueller answers a question about how to handle unwanted spammy backlinks

Google’s John Mueller answered a question about what to do about spammy links. The links and a subsequent “penalty” coincided with the date of one of Google’s 2021 spam updates.

Mueller provided guidance for this specific situation.

Spammy Links and Correlations

The person asking the question related that spam sites were linking to non-existent pages and triggering a 404 response.

Google Search Console may alert publishers to 404 error responses but that in itself is not a problem.

Referring to them as “errors” implies that there’s something to fix. But the word “error” simply means that a browser request for a web page resulted in the server responding that the browser request is in error because the requested page was not found.

The use of the word error in the context of a 404 Page Not Found response means that the error is on the browser side.

The W3C, the non-profit HTML standards body states that the error in on the side of the client (which means the browser or a web crawler) that is making a request for a web page has made an error because the page was not found.

W3C documentation states:

“The 4xx class of status code is intended for cases in which the client seems to have erred.”

The 404 response code is called, 404 Not Found in the W3C documentation:

“10.4.5 404 Not Found

“The server has not found anything matching the Request-URI.”

So the fact that a spam site was triggering 404 page not found responses doesn’t mean it’s harmful.

And Mueller shows in his answer why links that cause 404s are neutral.

This is the question:

“What can we do if we have thousands of spammy links that are continuously placed as backlinks on malicious domains?

They contain spammy keywords and cause 404s on our domain.

We see a strong correlation between these spammy links and a penalty that we got after a spam update in 2021.

We disavowed all the spammy links and we reported the domain which is listed as a source of the link spam.

What we else can we do?”

John Mueller answered in three parts, first addressing the what the importance of the 404 response is and the second part addressed the disavow.

Links to Missing Pages Are Dropped

The first part of the answer noted how Google treats links to pages that do not exist.

Mueller responded:

“I think this is always super frustrating as a site owner.

When you look at it, you’re like, someone else is ruining my chances in the search results.

But there are two things I think that are important to mention in this particular case.

On the one hand, if these links are pointing to …pages on your website that are returning 404, so they’re essentially linking to pages that don’t exist, then we don’t take those links into account because there’s nothing to associate them with on your website.

Essentially people are linking to a missing location and then we’ll say, well, like, what can we do with this link, we can’t connect it to anything, so we will drop it.

So that’s kind of the first part, like a lot of those are probably already dropped.”

If you or your company needs any help with getting rid of spammy links, please contact the experts at at 833 377 9337 x 701 or

Jim is a Senior Digital Marketing Strategist Spyder Digital and has over 19 years of experience in the field. His insight and ability to drive new business for his clients from the Internet is unparalleled.


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