Disavowing Links Update 2017
Due to Penguin’s significant changes over the course of 2016 you may be curious if link monitoring and disavowing is still a necessary course of action in 2017.
That’s a great question. And the answer is still…yes.
“What? How Can That Be? You Said Spammy Links Are Devalued!”
While that’s absolutely true here is where most SEO professionals stand on this topic… If your backlink profile contains hundreds or more low quality links you’re still at risk of being penalized. Manual penalties are still alive and well. If your site becomes a target and your profile is messy you could be in trouble.
In today’s search engine optimization environment monitoring your backlink health is crucial. And a key to making sure you do that well is knowing when, how, and why to disavow links. There are a few very important scenarios that will prompt you to remove bad backlinks. Let’s take a look at those.
Scenario #1 – Your Site Has Been Penalized Manually
Hundreds of thousands of webmasters are receiving manual penalty notices in Google webmaster Tools on a monthly basis. Some experts say that getting hit by any type of penalty is not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.
Very often that manual penalty was triggered by your site accruing too many bad backlinks. This is often a result of outdated and aggressive link building tactics. Though, sometimes website can be harmed simply by the natural collection of links that Google deems unworthy.
Scenario #2 – Your Site Was Penalized Due To Penguin
This is an algorithmic penalty as opposed to the manual penalty discussed above. It could affect specific pages of your site as opposed to a site-wide penalty like Panda. If you do everything to recover correctly your site will not recover until the next Penguin refresh. Google has said that they’re working to make Penguin refresh faster, however that has not happened yet.
Scenario #3 – You’re Actively Checking For Bad Backlinks To Maintain Link Profile “Health”
Yes, this has become the new normal. SEO’s and webmasters absolutely monitor their link profile health as they continue to promote their websites. If you don’t do this you run the risk of the above scenario happening to you.
Scenario #4 – Your Clients Need Your Help With Recovering From A Link Penalty
As we’ve been saying this is such a common occurrence today that if you’re an SEO professional you’ve most likely been asked if you can disavow backlinks. It’s not the easiest of processes. It can take time and it’s certainly a bit tedious.
How To Check For Bad Backlinks
Essentially, checking for bad backlinks consists of a couple of processes. First, you’ve got to get your hands on a list of every unique link the site in question has accumulated. Next, you need to evaluate each link source. Does the link source fit Google’s guidelines? If not, you’re going to add it to your growing list of links to disavow.
Yes, there are software services to help you through this process. These can certainly cut your time invested down but they’re not replacement for human eyes. No matter how sophisticated an algorithm you may have a human is always going to be able to evaluate a link source better than software. So if you’re using software make sure you’re going back through and checking the links they mark as bad and see if you agree.
Here are a few backlink tools that will help you find bad backlinks – ahrefs.com, monitorbacklinks.com, and majesticseo.com
How To Remove Bad Backlinks
Again, this is a multi-step process to fully remove bad backlinks from you profile. Once you’ve done this though you’re on your way to a healthier link profile. In some severe cases doing this may not bring back your traffic levels to pre-penalty days. Keep that in mind. As you delete links from your profile you have a less links (obviously). You’ll need to rebuild high quality links to replace those.
Ok, back to the point. To remove bad backlinks you’re going to have to first contact the webmaster where that bad link resides. Google wants us all to try and remove links ourselves before using their disavow tool. When you do this process you’re going to have to make sure you do a few things:
- Send the email from the site’s domain
- Be kind and courteous in your communication – it goes a long way.
- Forward all emails to your gmail account so you can track their open rates
- Use a tool like hubspots chrome extension that lets you see when someone has opened your email.
- Give the webmaster at least a week to reply and try again.
If they don’t answer after the second attempt add that link to your disavow file.
Which brings us to the next step. Creating a disavow link file.
Using Google’s Disavow Tool
Ok, we’re going to assume you’ve read this whole guide and followed all of the necessary steps before getting to this point. Google is going to be very clear with you when you use this tool. They want you to be certain that using this tool is exactly what you want to do. In fact you’ll see a warning from them before you do. It’ll read:
This is an advanced feature and should only be used with caution. If used incorrectly, this feature can potentially harm your site’s performance in Google’s search results. We recommend that you only disavow backlinks if you believe that there are a considerable number of spammy, artificial, or low-quality links pointing to your site, and if you are confident that the links are causing issues for you. This is an advanced feature and should only be used with caution. If used incorrectly, this feature can potentially harm your site’s performance in Google’s search results. We recommend that you only disavow backlinks if you believe that there are a considerable number of spammy, artificial, or low-quality links pointing to your site, and if you are confident that the links are causing issues for you.
To use the Disavow tool you need to:
#1 – Create a Super Clean disavow file
There is formatting that Google wants you to follow. If you don’t do this right you could have your request denied. Here’s how to do it
- Use a .txt file
- Each line of the file should contain one link or domain
- When you disavow an entire domain it should be recorded as “domain:” at the beginning of the URL
- Use a “#” on every line of your comments about removal requests.
We like to disavow the specific URL’s as well as the domain (if it’s very bad). There’s the thought that if you don’t specify the exact URl where your link is (and you just list the domain to disavow) then Google might need to find the actual page your link is on to disavow it. This is very hard to prove, but it’s a whole lot more thorough.
Once you’ve done all of this your file is ready to upload to Google. Just login to Webmaster Tools go the Disavow Tool and submit it.
Ninja SEO Tip For Faster Disavowal of Bad Links
The tactic to follow is not one you’ll see in your typical “disavow links guide.” That’s because it comes from the trenches of real-world SEOs. In order for the links in your disavow file to be officially recognized and removed by Google, the links must be crawled by their spiders again. In fact, some links on really bad pages that aren’t crawled often can take an excessive amount of time to be crawled again (IE: 3-6 months).
Here’s how to speed up the disavowal process. Build links. Yes that’s right. You should build links to the bad links you’ve listed in your disavow file. It doesn’t matter what quality these “booster” links are made of. The only reason you are doing this is to draw spiders to the links you want gone. This could easily speed up the entire process by up to 6 months.
This entire process is going to take some time. Be patient. Firstly the work will take time. Secondly Google is going to take some time to recognize your request and have it reflected in the SERPs. There’s no getting around that. Penguin only updates every so often (although they’re working on making it more frequent).
Keep in mind that doing this is no guarantee of anything. Sure it may get you out of your penalty status but in the end your rankings may not come back. When you disavow links from your backlink profile you’re most likely not going to rank that well. There will be more work to do in order to get back to the top. But, it’s worth it.
Q: What Are Disavowed Links?
A: Disavowed links are a list of links that webmasters submit to Google to have them taken off of their backlink profile. This list typically consists of single page links as well as entire domains that webmasters have deemed harmful to their website’s backlink profile. Google will then eventually recrawl the list of links and remove them from that site’s records.
Q: What Is A Disavow Links Tool?
A: Disavow links tools on the market today offer similar analysis options of backlink profiles of the analyzed URL. These tools will attempt to find all of the backlinks pointing to your site as well as try to analyze each individual link to determine their value. The reason webmaster’s use these tools is to find links pointing to their site that may be considered harmful or potential for triggering a Penguin penalty.
Q: How Long Does It Take To Disavow Links
A: Google’s search engine spiders have to recrawl the links in your disavow file before they can be considered “disavowed” or removed from your backlink profile. This can take up to several weeks or even months. But, there is a faster way to get the spiders to go to the links in the disavow file rather than just waiting. The best way to get spiders to your list of links to disavow is to literally build new links pointing to each individual disavow link. It may sound crazy, but it works well. It draws spiders faster than any other method like pinging for example.