It’s a fact that good backlinks help increase a site’s rank. On the other hand, bad backlinks only give you problems. And you only have limited control on which of the links can point to your website.
If you’re not new to SEO, then you already know these essential things. Plus, you already know that the Disavow Links Tool of Google can protect your website from any penalties from bad links.
But even with this knowledge. A lot of SEO experts will tell you that it depends if you’re going to disavow a link or not.
It’s hard even to separate the links that threaten your site’s rankings and the ones that boost it.
We’ve created this article to help you decide on when you should and shouldn’t disavow links. It includes how to identify the “bad” links.
But first, let’s discover why Google created the disavow tool and how it has changed over the years.
Google’s Disavow Tool helps you tell Google to ignore specific backlinks so you can rank better. The disavow file is a strong suggestion and not a directive.
It’s all pretty simple really. You submit a text file which contains all the linking domains and pages that you want to disavow. However, deciding on which domains you should disavow is a bit more complicated. You have to understand two things: the importance of the Disavow Links Tool of Google and how this has changed with the algorithm updates.
Why Google Created The Disavow Links Tool?
For more than a decade, Google has fought link building that’s all about spams. In January 2005, the “nofollow” attribute was introduced in hopes of reducing link spams.
In April 2012, Google rolled out the very first Penguin algorithm. It was the start of a significant change in targeting link schemes.
Penguin became some “external filter” which is what search results have to pass through. With Manual Actions, there were algorithmic penalties supplemented by Google. If there are a pattern of unnatural artificial, manipulative or deceptive outbound links, you’ll receive a penalty.
When a link scheme targets a single page or even a small subsection of your site, your entire website can get demoted. With the Disavow Links Tool, webmasters have more control over the links that Google has used in ranking or penalizing your website.
In October 2012, the disavow link tool was rolled out to help address the issue of unnatural links that are pointing to your website.
In September 2016, the Penguin 4.0 was introduced which allowed Google only to target link spams at pages.
So now, there’s a great debate on whether disavowing is still necessary or not.
Where Do Bad Links Came From?
What is a low-quality link? What’s a bad directory and what makes a guest post “good”? Well, according to Google, a low-quality link intends to manipulate the rank of a website in Google. It includes managing both outgoing and incoming links to your site.
One tip you should remember is that if a link is not relevant to your users or your site, then you probably shouldn’t include it in your profile. Ask yourself whether or not a link serves a purpose or brings business to your site.
In comparison, high-quality links are “editorially-earned.” It means that you should only put out useful content. In doing so, someone will find that content and link to it.
But despite this, there are a lot of “bad” links. But how do you know these? Here are some sources of bad links.
Google is targeting a subset of non-editorial and dofollow links which are designed to pass PageRank. It can be challenging to detect, but there are some red flags for this including:
- Dofollow links from unrelated sites or content.
- Dofollow links with the exact–match anchor text.
- Dofollow links from pages that have footprints like “Sponsored Post” added.
Private Blogging Networks (PBNs)
In 2014, Google was de-indexing PBNs and low-quality domains. But now, they are still existing, and it’s essential that you know these aren’t included in the white-hat link-building strategy.
What’s a low-quality directory? You can easily find one when you can’t expect to get any referral traffic from this listing.
Low-quality directory submissions haven’t been working for many years now. And a lot of people now use nofollow links. Still, some unethical SEOs are claiming the contrary when pitching these services. If you want to grow your site’s authority, this tactic is not sufficient.
Comment and forum spam
Google allows and encourages commenting on authoritative and relevant sites and forums then linking back to your site. However, the problem with this is that a lot of comment systems only make links nofollow, so you get little to no reward here.
When it comes to hacked websites, there’s no gray area. Links from hacked sites guarantee a penalty from Google and participating in hacking can get you in trouble.
Negative SEO is all about backlink spamming. It includes intentionally linking back to a competitor from thousands of low-quality sites. If you open your Site Explorer and see a massive jump in your referring domains, this could mean that your site has been attacked.
Disavowing Risks to Keep In Mind
Disavowing remains risky even if you know which links are good and bad. A link that seems bad may still be able to help your website. But because of the fear of receiving the penalty, a lot of site owners disavow links aggressively.
When Should You Disavow?
Here are two instances on when you should disavow links.
- A dramatic jump in low-quality links which correlates with a sharp drop in the rankings – A stable site that vanishes from search results after there’s an influx of bad links is the main candidate for disavowing the link.
- If you find a suspicious backlink profile to paid links in the past -you should disavow these.
Nevertheless, SEO specialists remain divided between these situations and other instances that can fall into the “gray area”. So how can you make sure that you’re making the right choice with so much “gray area”? It only needs a comprehensive evaluation of the site, the client, and your job.
Because disavowing bad links won’t affect many sites, that’s why you should make a persuasive case first to your client about why it is important. You need to position your disavow effort as well within a hierarchy of SEO opportunities. And usually, disavowing links is a second priority that preserves gains made through much more important SEO tasks.
But in the end, it’s found that a lot of well-known SEO experts has given more control over how Google assesses the links that point to their site and it’s because of Disavow Links Tool. This type of control was essential in the pre-Penguin 4.0 era. However, they don’t seem to have that much impact like before all thanks to Penguin 4.0. It has changed the perspectives of some analyst, but regardless of whether you disavow, monitoring and evaluating a backlink profile remains a primary part of SEO. If you are seeking a peace of mind, a disavow file is excellent.