Thinking of disavowing poor-quality links to your site? It’s an intricate process that demands thorough consideration. Here are 5 steps to determine to-be-disavowed links.
Disavowed links represent the backlinks you no longer wish to have. So, you request Google just to ignore the respective links for your domain.
Around 50% of marketers consider keyword ranking and organic growth as key metrics for their SEO success, and backlinks help you achieve that. But, not all links facilitate your site’s optimization. Some of them have adverse effects. In this case, disavowing such links is a viable option to avoid link-based penalties.
The question is, how would you find those links? And if you found them, what’s the process to disavow them?
Disavowing poor-quality links is considered a standard practice in digital marketing. However, not many know how to do it right.
Let’s explore how to determine to-be-disavowed links and why you should do it.
What are poor-quality links?
Backlinks are important. Around 91% of websites are deprived of organic traffic due to the absence of backlinks. Backlinks don’t just facilitate websites to get organic traffic but also help you build trust among the audience and establish authority in the industry.People perceive your website as a reliable source of information if other domains link to it. This improves your search rankings and helps you get organic traffic. But, not all links are of good quality.
Poor quality links are harmful to your site and affect its search rankings. There are ways you can find if a particular link is of good or bad quality. A link is of poor quality if:
It’s from a shady or spammy site
It’s from a site in the foreign language
It’s from a site with a low domain ranking
It’s from a 404 page
Your domain is linked to bad or irrelevant anchors
Keeping poor quality links disrupts your website’s organic growth. So, it’s best that you consider removing them.
What causes poor-quality links?
Different scenarios can lead you to have poor-quality links. And, it’s often difficult to determine the one that applies to your case.
Poor quality links can be generated by marketers with poor SEO expertise. Since they are unfamiliar with the SEO best practices, it can lead them to create links that do more harm than good.
Marketing agencies can also be responsible for your domain to have poor quality links. Many agencies resort to spamming to promote affiliated products or services online. This ill practice may lead to favorable results in the short term. However, in the long run, these links can lead you to receive a penalty from Google.
Poor quality links can also be an outcome of negative SEO attacks. This is an unethical strategy that can be used by your competitors to disrupt your website’s search rankings and domain authority. Excessive bad-quality links can result in a link-based penalty for a domain. So, your competitors can use this to their advantage by launching a negative SEO attack.
In either of the aforesaid scenarios, a viable counter is to identify and disavow the poor quality links to prevent them from causing any damage.
Which links should you disavow?
Disavowing links is an intricate process. It demands careful planning and consideration before you take the required action. Ranking on top of Google is a priority for most websites as 67% of users only click on the first five search results. So, if certain links fuel your organic rankings, you wouldn’t want to disavow them accidentally.
Disavowed links affect your search engine rankings. Do it right, and you can boost your site’s organic growth. But, doing it wrong can lead you to lose your search rankings on the targeted keywords. So, you have to be extremely careful.
Keep an eye out for poor-quality links and filter down to the ones that are negatively affecting your domain. For this, you can refer to Google’s quality guidelines and get started.
A link that doesn’t drive much traffic or represent a website with low domain authority is not always a bad link. Maybe it’s a new site, and the link is genuinely built. Disavowing such links is not a viable approach. So, it’s recommended that you carefully examine all suspicious links before making the final decision.
How does link disavowing work?
Link disavowing is a process in which you request Google to ignore specified links to your domain. Once disavowed, your domain won’t be associated with the respective links anymore. That means the disavowed links would no longer affect your search rankings.
The standard practice here is to check if the poor-quality links can be removed manually before disavowing them. For this, try and reach out to the linking sites and ask them to remove the poor-quality links.
Generally, legitimate sites entertain link removal requests when receive them. However, if you don’t get any response, it’s best to submit the links disavow request to Google. Google will then disassociate the specified links from your domain and neutralize any harm they could have caused.
It takes some time for the disavow request to take effect. So, patience is the key. Wait for Google to crawl the pages. You won’t see immediate changes in your site performance even after the links have been successfully disavowed. So, try not to give in to the temptation of experimenting further.
Steps to determine to-be-disavowed links
There are two ways to determine potential disavowed links. You can either explore the backlinks manually or use an SEO tool to make the process easier. The manual process is a little less data-driven. Here you find the sites linking to your domain and explore them one by one to verify their authenticity.
Your observation governs your decision when checking links manually. You decide based on the site structure, navigation, and content whether or not you should disavow links from a particular domain. Since a lot of guesswork is involved, this approach is a little less viable to consider.
Planning is everything when determining to-be-disavowed links. So, investing in an SEO tool and making informed decisions based on insights is better.
You can consider many tools, with SEMrush and Ahrefs being on the top of the list. Here I’ve used SEMrush to determine potential disavow links. But, you can use any SEO tool best suited to your needs. The process is more or less the same.
Go to “SEMrush” and use provided credentials to log in.
In the “Link Building” tab, click on “Backlink Analytics,” then type your domain in the field provided and click “Analyze”.
Now, click on the “Backlinks” tab and click “Page AS” to arrange the backlink report in ascending order per the authority score or domain ranking of linking websites.
Look for shady websites and manually explore the links to confirm your suspicion.
Click “Export” to download the links in CSV format to create a list of to-be-disavowed links.
Steps to submit disavow request
Once you’ve found bad-quality links, it’s time you submit a request for disavowing them. For this, you need to access Google’s disavow tool and follow a series of steps to submit your request.
Start creating a list of links you wish to disavow and save it as a “.txt” file. It’s preferred that you prepare your list containing domain names, not the links.
The benefit of having a list containing domains is that Google would entertain your disavow request for all the links by the prescribed websites. This is a much easier and less time-consuming approach than compiling a list containing all the links you want to disavow.
Ensure that you have followed the proper format when creating the list. Here’s an example of a format you should follow.
Start each row with “domain:” as a prefix followed by the domain or subdomain you wish to disavow, such as “spammy-website.com.” So, a single entry in your file should appear like “domain:spammy-website.com.”
Access “Google’s Disavow Tool” and then “Select Property” if you own more than one domains.
Click “Choose File” and select the file containing disavowed domains from your computer. Once the file is uploaded click “Submit”.
Wait. You won’t immediately start seeing changes. It may take days or weeks for Google to index the changes requested. Once Google recrawls the pages, the process completes.
Can you reavow previously disavowed links?
You can reavow previously disavowed links by removing respective links from the file you submitted to Google and then resubmitting it.
For example, you submitted a file to Google comprising a list of domains as a disavow request. The file contains the following fields:
As per your request, Google disassociated your domain from the links of the sites specified. But, after a few days, you went through the links again and found that you mistakenly added a good domain to the list.
To make amends, you need to download the file submitted and resubmit an updated list of domains. The list in your file should now look like this:
So, technically you can reavow previously disavowed links. All you have to do is replace the previously uploaded file with a new one containing an updated list of domains.
However, many don’t consider it a viable approach. It’s uncertain how long Google will take to reinstate previously disavowed links. So, disavowing links that are of good quality by mistake would likely affect your website’s organic performance in one way or another.
That’s why you should refrain from trial and error when compiling a list of to-be-disavowed links. You need to be extra careful and shouldn’t experiment with the link disavowal process unless you know what you’re doing.
How long does it take for Google to reavow links?
Despite it being a practice not generally recommended, having an option to reavow links is nothing less than a blessing. We all make mistakes. So, mistakenly, it’s possible to add legitimate domains to your disavow list. Google gives you the option to reavow such links and allows you to rectify the mistakes.
It may take some time for your reavow request to take effect. But, you will start seeing the changes once Google starts crawling your new list. However, the reavow process completion might take a bit longer than the disavow request. This is to prevent spammers from exploiting the link disavow and reavow process.
You know your request has been entertained when disavowing links as Google starts caching the linking pages. However, when you try to reavow previously disavowed links, there’s no certainty for the changes to have an effect.
Even if the links are reavowed, Google might consider them differently than before. So, you can’t go back to things exactly how they were. This is a smart move by Google to prevent
spammers and shady marketers from exploiting the process to gain an unfair advantage over others sites. But, this also affects marketers who genuinely trying to rectify their mistakes.
So, you should be extra careful when planning to disavow links. You might have a second chance to do things right, but consider this a last resort. You wouldn’t want to lose links from legitimate domains that positively contributed to your organic growth.
It’s a wrap
There you have it. The 5 steps to determine to-be-disavowed links and why you should do it. If you had trouble creating a list of to-be-disavowed links previously, you should be able to do it easily now. Just follow the steps recommended and wait for the changes to take effect.
However, you must be careful when compiling a list of to-be-disavowed links. You wouldn’t want to lose quality backlinks in the process. There may be a process of reavowing previously disavowed links, but it takes much longer to take effect. So, double-check the list for errors before submitting.
Syed Balkhi is the founder of WPBeginner, the largest free WordPress resource site. With over 10 years of experience, he’s the leading WordPress expert in the industry. You can learn more about Syed and his portfolio of companies by following him on his social media networks.