Last updated on June 14th, 2018
When was the last time you perform backlinks audit for your blog? How can you tell whether a backlink should be disavowed or not? Disavowing backlinks is a technical part of SEO only the experienced should do because doing it wrongly can leave you regretting for months.
I, therefore, consulted 12 experts to teach you how and when to audit your backlinks profile and disavow them before you get penalized.
They recommend that you conduct a disavow backlinks roundup following their advice below.
Yep, they are experts in their industries by all standards.
Well, let’s hear from the experts…
I’m Janice Wald, the author of AN INSIDER’S GUIDE TO BUILDING A SUCCESSFUL BLOG, available on Amazon.com. I can also be found at Goodreads. I write about blogging in order to help bloggers by giving step-by-step directions for content creation.
If an unreputable site is linking to you, that link will tell Google you might have an unreputable site too. For that reason, you should disavow the link.
Sometimes, Google will contact you to let you know that you have an unreputable site. In this case, once again, you should disavow the links.
My name is Nikola Roza. I’m a freelance SEO writer with a passion for everyhting SEO and link building related. You can find my blog at: https://nikolaroza.com
Bad links are spam-simple. And they can hurt and destroy your site just like that.
The good news is that an honest webmaster can fight back.
By having a squeaky clean backlink profile. By letting Google Penguin discount bad links for you AND by using the disavow tool to make sure only good links remain.
I won’t go into detail how to audit a link profile, because that is the whole guide right here (read about it at Moz)
But I will mention specific cases where you better disavow bad links or you can get into some mighty hot water with Google.
- Avoid a manual review and penalty. When a Google spam team member comes across your site for whatever reason, and see that some of your links are affected (devalued) by Penguin 4.0, they’ll then investigate further. And if they find other sketchy links or other attempts at manipulation, they’ll slap your site with a manual penalty. And those are a pain to get out from.
- Other algorithms. Google also evaluate spammy links with other algorithms, for example, Payday loans algorithm. Though it is different than Penguin, it’s possible there’s some kind of overlap. This means there’s no guarantee you won’t be hit even if Penguin already devalued those links algorithmically.
Better disavow now, than be sorry later.
Fun fact about foreign anchor text
All foreign anchors raise red flags and should be disavowed… unless they have a legitimate reason for being there.
Let me explain:
Let’s say you wrote about getting traffic from Reddit, and you notice your article got a weird link from a Japanese site.
Should you disavow?
Maybe, but first, run that page through Google Translate and see what the page is about.
If the page that holds the link is also about Reddit traffic generation – you’re good.
And it’s a good link that can help you rank:)
Alex Hargrove is passionate about finding new and novel ways to use technology to make legal services more accessible and affordable to underserved populations by the legal community.
Google loves to favor pages that serve amp (Accelerated Mobile Page) contents. Contents served in this form is…
Gregory Golinski is an SEO Manager for YourParkingSpace
You should disavow a backlink if it originates from a low quality website, with a high spam score. You can check the quality of a website with SEO tools such as Moz Open Site Explorer. In some cases, you might also want to disavow a backlink from a decent quality website if it looks very unnatural (if it looks like you bought this link, for instance), or if it was added to a huge list of links that have nothing to do with your website, a list that looks like it was created for SEO purposes only.
The reason why you might want to disavow these links is that they might look suspicious to Google and penalize your website.
Tegan Groombridge is a Digital Marketing Manager based in Bath. She works for My Favourite Voucher Codes. an online voucher code website that donates 20% of its profits to charity every month. She has worked within SEO and Marketing for 8 years and specialises in onsite optimisation but enjoys delving into backlink profiles.
I use lots of tools and metrics but so much goes for gut instinct and actually looking at each link individually.
Content – Assess the content on the site? Does the site conform to google onsite guidelines with full length good quality content? Is this content you would be happy to have your business connected to? Is it written well, make sense, spell checked? Again, if you feel that the content is low quality then have a look around the site, is all the content low quality or is this a one off.
Quality – Time for your gut feeling? The site has passed every test so far or maybe the results of some sites are a bit vague then let’s look at the site. What feeling do you have when you look at the entire domain. Sometimes a simple glance at a site lets you know that its not a good quality site.
Assessing link building is like buying a dress, a dress can be the right price, be in the right place and look amazing but when you try it on you see that the quality of the dress is poor and its not worth the money. Other time you find a real gem of a dress by trying it on, it didn’t look much on the hanger but it makes you look a million dollars.
My name is Eric Johnson, and I’m an SEO Specialist working with a company called FeedbackWrench. At FeedbackWrench, we develop and implement digital marketing strategies for small business clients.
Disavowing backlinks is a big step to take and should only be considered if you have reason to believe that your site is being punished by search engines as a direct result of having the link. Unless your site has amassed a significant number of spammy or low-quality links, it’s rarely necessary to address even the worst links.
That said, if your site has become the victim of an attack on your SEO efforts or if you’ve suffered by the work of a bad SEO, then you may need to get your links disavowed. That said, it’s important to first attempt to get the links removed by any other means – mistakes made in the disavowing process could cause serious damage to your site’s SEO efforts.
Whenever I notice a new referring domain, I immediately plug that referring URL into either Ahrefs or SEMrush. I pay attention to two metrics in particular:
1) In Ahrefs, I look at the “Domain Rating,” which is Ahrefs’ overall score of the website’s authority and the strength of its backlink profile.
2) In SEMrush, I enter the web address and pay attention to its “Overall Toxic Score” in the backlink audit section. A low score means the website is probably safe.
Some other red flags that you can identify quickly:
1) Does the domain show a low number of referring domains, but a high number of backlinks (use AHrefs for this)? That can be spammy.
2) Use Ahrefs to check out the anchor text of a website’s backlinks — if they have thousands of keyword specific links (like “miami car dealership” in the anchor text), then they may be participating in link spam.If it’s a foreign site, like .ru or .de, and you can’t vouch for the content or understand its relevance to your site.
If a website demonstrating the above characteristics links to your site, and you aren’t personally familiar with that site or site owner, you may want to “disavow” the link.
You can do that easily in Google Search Console or in SEMrush. If you hook it up to Search Console’s API, you can directly identify links in SEMRush to be uploaded into Search Console with just one click.
My name is David James. I am the founder of the agency “Business Growth Digital Marketing”. We help businesses grow their customers by using digital marketing tactics such as SEO, PPC and content marketing to generate leads and sales.
I’m an SEO expert and I used to do disavow files regularly in the past.
Here are some things that we always looked out for.
1) We would do a backlink check in ahref and check the referring domain to backlink ratio.
2) We would assess the amount of site wide links used and aim to get them removed if they were spammy. If this couldn’t be done, they would be recorded in a Google Spreadsheet and also added to the disavow file.
3) We would look for any low-quality sites (link farms) and add them to the disavow file.
4) We’d disavow links that were clearly selling links in every post.
5) If the anchor text was too keyword rich (e.g 70% exact match) from low quality sites, they would be considered for removal.
6) Links from forum signatures and low quality bookmarks would also be considered.
7) Anything that didn’t look natural.
Simon Ponder is the SEO Outreach Manager for Image Freedom, an SEO firm located in San Antonio, Texas. Before joining the Image Freedom team, Simon spent 8 years working for various radio and newspaper companies developing content and advertising opportunities.
When I am going through a client’s backlinks, I am looking for anything troubling that would penalize them. These can be links to unsecured wiki sites that have been built by bots, links from adult content sites and links from gambling sites. I try to download backlink information from multiple sources, as different crawlers can sometimes show different backlinks for a site. Usually, you find links like this when someone goes to a gig site like Fiverr or UpWork and buys a ton of backlinks for a low price. They use bots and scripts to plug auto-generated content into a blog comment sections, or wikis in an attempt to build as many links as possible in a short period of time.
When I am hunting for links that may be hurting the site, I am looking for links with weird URLs, links with numbers in the domain, domains with foreign TLD’s. All of these need to be investigated.
When I find these links, I build a spreadsheet of them. Once I have this sheet built, I then start contacting site owners to see if I can get the link removed. Sometimes you can get lucky and easily get a link removed so that the next time the site is crawled by the search engine, it knows not to include that link. Depending on the number of backlinks you are trying to remove from your backlink portfolio, this might not be easily scalable. In this case, a disavow document needs to be built. The formatting for this document can vary depending on the search engine, but you can check with them for the correct format and upload into their utility to disavow any negative backlinks.
Marina Pilipenko is the marketing manager at actiTIME, the software company, providing a time-tracking solution to companies all over the world. She is passionate about productivity and work-life balance and loves giving tips on how to achieve more.
Here’s my tip on How to Assess if Backlinks Should be Disavowed:
Remember that it takes much longer to restore the link than to disavow it. Start with the smaller list. Include only backlinks that are 100% bad. Upload the list and monitor your ranking for a month. If everything is okay, add more bad backlinks to the list and monitor the progress again.
When you want to add backlinks to the existing disavow file, first download it from your Google Search Console. Then add the links to the downloaded file and upload it again.
Stan Digital Marketing Manager at Selby’s, an Australian printing company for companies like McDonald’s and Mercedes.
If you show this link to your boss, will you be embarrassed? If you answered yes, disavow. If you answered no, keep it.
Tabitha Jean Naylor is the owner of TabithaNaylor.com and a certified Inbound Marketing Consultant with over 15 years of sales and marketing experience in both B2B and B2C markets. Her intimate knowledge of how sales and marketing go hand-in-hand has resulted in a variety of successful campaigns for start-ups through NASDAQ traded companies.
Backlinks are an important part of SEO and can help your site to rank high in the SERPS. Only good quality backlinks should be used, though, and too many poor-quality links can lead to penalties in rankings. This means that your link portfolio should be pruned where necessary, with poor quality links being disavowed. But how to tell which to keep and which to let go?
One of the biggest flags that grabs unwanted attention from Google is relevance. If a backlink to your site is located on another site that is completely irrelevant, the search engines will know it doesn’t belong there. Such links should be among the first to be disavowed. Also, be mindful of links with over-optimized anchor text that are a clear attempt at manipulating the SERPS. The search engines will also not look favorably upon links that are located on sites with a high spam rating, so these too should be disavowed.
All in all
Google has backlinks guidelines, much like they have guidelines for everything else. So, it’s important you conduct a disavow backlinks roundup. Kindly let us know other means you are using to assess if backlinks should be disavowed through commenting.