Disavowing links is tedious work. I have been doing quite a bit of it since the Google Disavow Tool launched back in October 2012. I’ve been fortunate to get some sites re-included, but I’ll be honest, it can be hard for sites with nearly a decade of poor links. I have learned a lot by forging ahead in this new sector of search engine optimization.
At this point, it cannot be argued, it is true the Google Disavow Tool can improve rankings when used correctly. Ignite Visibility published a study that showed sites often see an increase in rankings after disavowing links. Out of 10 websites in the study, 9 of them increased traffic after a disavow was performed by a professional SEO specialist. I played a large role in this study. This is why I decided to write a post on a few things I have learned after disavowing so many bad links.
It is pretty funny to come across a website and see a clutter of text link ads on a random page hidden in an inaccessible corner of the website. In some cases, you will see an entire industry listed, all trying to rank for similar terms. I would love to leave an example of this here, but I am sure the websites would not appreciate it. But what reviewing backlinks has told me, is that almost all the sites that have significant SEO traffic have bought links or participated in grey areas in Google linking guidelines.
The Same Bad Sites Show up Over and Over
Once you have done enough bad backlink reviews, you start to see the same bad websites over and over that are linking in. If I am seeing trends, imagine how easy it is for Google! The same sites surface when looking at purchased links, often across different industries and they’re easy for search engines to find.
High Page Rank Does Not Mean it is a Good Link
When I started reviewing backlinks, I operated under the assumption that if the website had a high page rank, it was fine. But that is not the case, there are sites out there that have high PR, but clearly have been selling links. Just because a site has a PR 5 on Google, doesn’t mean it’s safe.
You Need to Block All the Bad Links
You can’t just block a couple links here and there; you need to block ALL the bad links. If you have 2,000 bad links and you only block 1,990, you often will not be let back in the index after a re-inclusion. Google is that stringent about it.
Lots of Offsite Linking is a Clear Pattern to Google
Say you visit a domain that looks high in quality. But then you read a few posts and notice that in each post, they are linking off to another website in a subtle manner. In most cases, a site like this can be on Google’s link network list. You don’t want a link from this website. Especially, if the links have keyword anchor text.
Off-Topic Websites are Bad
If you have a link from a website that has no reason to link to you, you should get rid of that link. There have been so many times I see a link from a site that is off-topic and linking in. Often times, it will be an old site that used to sell a product or a blog that covers every industry or an entirely different industry. Most times you can look at the website, fell the desperation, and understand that this person wanted to make a couple bucks so they started selling links.
Sites in Different Languages can be a Red Flag
When you get a link from a site that is in another language, it can seem spammy. Often times, many of these factors will relate to the same website. It is in another language, it is off-topic, it links with exact anchor text for a keyword, etc. But usually when the site is in another language and the content seems unrelated, you don’t want that link.
It Doesn’t Matter How Great the Website Looks
Who cares how great a website looks. A bad link is a bad link! Design has nothing to do with a quality link. You can still get a bad link from a beautiful site. I recently got in an argument with a guy on this topic. A link was on a site that was clearly penalized. But he kept saying, “but look how great the design is.” Ayayi…
Security Warnings are a Red Flag
If a site is infected with malware or simply raises a security warning from your antivirus software when you try to visit it, you probably do not want that link. If that is not the case, turn down the settings on that antivirus software. Some antivirus software is really touchy and can misfire.
Third Party Ranking Tools can be an Indicator
If you do a quick SpyFu or SEM Rush organic traffic or keyword report and see that a website has had a huge drop in traffic or even zero keyword rankings, that is an issue. Interpret it how you will, but for me that is a red flag. I usually don’t want that link.
Don’t Forget About your Onsite Issues
The last thing I wanted to throw out there is don’t forget about onsite link schemes. You can spend countless hours reviewing external links, only to realize later that there is a hidden link exchange page on the site you’re working on. Additionally, make sure to do a full review of the actual website first or you could end up blocking way too many links, when the main issue was the website the whole time. Make sure you know your quality guidelines.
I am sure there are things I have forgotten that can be useful. Let’s make this a great post. What did I forget? What comments do you have? Add them below!