If you own a website or blog, then it’s a good idea to know the importance of backlinks and how to audit them. There are many SEO tools on the market to make evaluating all links pointing to your site easier. Tracking backlinks is a necessary part of your SEO strategy.
If you see warnings about harmful links directed to your website, there’s no doubt it can cause panic and fear.
So, if this happens, it’s natural to think that you should simply disavow those links, and you can get on with your day like drinking coffee. But doing so can cause more damage to your site than just leaving them where they are.
Let me explain why.
What Does A Disavow Tool Do?
Before discussing the dangers of disavowing links, we must first understand what a disavow tool does.
The disavow links tool is an option found inside the Google Search Console dashboard. It lets you upload a list of links or domains that you don’t want the search engine to count as backlinks to your website.
The file tells Google to ignore all of the links included, ensuring that all of the sites or backlinks won’t affect your site’s ranking.
It was created to help users address any poor SEO decisions to rank on Google, especially if they have participated in any link-building schemes. In the past, many SEO specialists and website owners have resorted to creating strategies to try and trick the algorithm into giving their sites more love. From a cold calling software to eCommerce businesses, all website owners must follow Google updates and improve SEO accordingly.
For example, many have created blogs and sites known as PBNs (private blog networks) just to generate backlinks to their sites where the pages they are linking from are full of keyword-rich text.
Google was able to identify these links and impose penalties on sites that use unnatural backlinks. To recover from the penalty or to stop Google from imposing one, web admins must use the disavow tool to remove any spammy links on their site. That’s essentially what this tool does. It’s important to share this information during the employee onboarding process so that everyone knows their task and won’t do anything harmful.
Should You Disavow Spammy Or Unnatural Links?
By now, you may be thinking, “Well, if the disavow tool removes spammy links, and I have found some of them on my site. I should go ahead and use the tool, right?”
Well, deciding if using this tool is necessary isn’t that simple.
According to Google, it can assess which links to trust without further guidance, so most websites don’t have to use the disavow tool. You should only disavow links if it falls under these two factors:
- Your website has a considerable amount of artificial low-quality backlinks.
- They have caused a manual penalty or will likely cause one to your site.
Unfortunately, Google is not very clear about this guide. First, it doesn’t mention what exactly is a considerable amount of bad backlinks. Next, it also doesn’t say how to determine if your site is at risk of getting penalized.
So, is there any way to make it easy for you to find out whether you need to use a disavow tool or not?
Of course! You have to ask yourself if you ever participated in link-building schemes or paid someone for backlinks. If you have hired an SEO agency or specialist before, you also need to know if they have ever engaged in such practice. Both of these go against Google’s terms of service.
Just make sure to truly grasp what link building strategies represent and how they should be implemented to build your backlink portfolio.
If you haven’t, then there is nothing to worry about.
How Can Disavowing Links Harm Your Site
If you visit their guide on disavowing links, you will see a warning on top:
This sums it up nicely. Unless you’re familiar with uploading files to Google and ensuring that they conform to UTF-8 or 7-bit ASCII standards, it’s best to leave this alone.
Google hasn’t disclosed how they count links or use them. They don’t want people taking advantage of it to rank and gain more traffic. Look at what happened when link-building schemes were introduced.
The search engine was forced to implement penalties and create the disavow tool to stop people from exploiting backlinks.
All links pointing to your site can add value to your overall website’s authority, especially if you don’t have any manual actions to your site. Whether you’re working on Amazon, Ebay USA as an eCommerce or provide SaaS services, this is an important step. So, disavowing links can significantly impact your site since it’s as good as removing them from your site. One less backlink means fewer votes for the article you’re trying to rank.
What To Do With Spammy Links?
If you have been receiving warnings and can’t ignore them, there are other ways you can address these problematic links.
The first thing you should know is that Google knows that spammy links exist. According to the tech giant, it’s impossible to have a website without any weird or unnatural links in this day and age of the internet. So, if you have a few of them, don’t make a big deal out of it and try to ignore them. They’re not harming your site anyway.
But if you have a lot of these links and are worried that it may backfire sooner or later, don’t just jump the gun and use the disavow tool. First, check whether or not the links are actually spammy.
Don’t just put all your faith in the tools.
Actually investigate them for yourself and see if your browser will allow you to visit the site. Add the domain to the list if there are some signs of phishing or any indications that it is indeed a bad site.
If, after your investigation and find that the website isn’t problematic but is unrelated to your industry, you can either keep it or reach out to the site to see if they can remove the link. However, if it’s harmless, don’t think about it too much and just let it be.
After you find actual spammy links that you want to remove, create a list of the URLs and domains you wish to disavow. Carefully follow Google’s instructions on formatting your list and uploading the file. If you can, triple-check the file and make sure that everything is formatted correctly.
Lastly, be sure to watch your site’s organic traffic closely. Any decline or dip in your traffic, cancel your disavows right away. This means that it’s definitely doing more harm than good to your site, and you just have to let go of fixing these spammy backlinks.
Remember, unless you really need to, don’t disavow links. Google has gotten smarter over the years and understands that all websites will have several irrelevant links, and it actually forms part of a website’s natural backlink profile.
Only take action if you have received a penalty from Google or believe you are in danger of having one. Because if there is nothing to see when you log into your Google Search Console dashboard and continue disavowing links, your website may suffer.
So if you can, don’t pay too much attention to these lower authority backlinks and instead, spend your time gaining higher quality links from the highest authority websites that you can.