The world of SEO is constantly changing. New SEO tools are constantly released to make it easy to keep up with the changes.
One such, too, allows you to audit backlinks. While it can be helpful to track backlinks, it can be alarming if you discover information about “toxic” backlinks or warnings regarding harmful links that point to your site.
It is only natural to want to keep your site in good health. This is why you put so much time and effort into generating traffic to your site and leads from that traffic.
If you use a tool that warns your backlinks are toxic, you need to eliminate them. For many, the easiest way they know to do this is by disavowing them.
However, this isn’t a smart move. In fact, it is a waste of time – time that you could be spending on SEO tactics that matter.
The Disavow Tool Defined
Before diving into why this is a waste of time, it is smart to learn more about it.
Google launched a disavow link tool that lets you upload a list of domains or links that you don’t want to have counted as inbound links that point to your site. When it is used properly, the file lets Google know it should disregard everything that is included. None of the sites or links listed will contribute to the site’s ranking.
The goal of the tool is to help sites address bad decisions made in the past. While bad link-building tactics aren’t commonly used today, in the past, it was not uncommon for SEO professionals and webmasters to try to “trick” Google.
To do this, sites would be built just to create links. Usually, the pages would be filled with random keywords, and the outbound links would include keyword-rich text.
One of the penalties Google uses comes from unnatural links pointing to websites. If you own a site that is recovering from this penalty or trying to avoid it, the disavow tool is helpful. It gives these site owners a chance to distance themselves from spammy links.
This is all it is for.
In fact, you can’t even see it from the regular Search Console view because Google doesn’t want people using it unless they absolutely have to.
Who Should Use the Disavow Tool?
Google has made it clear who should use the disavow tool. At the start of the article about the tool, Google clearly states disavowing backlinks is only a good idea if:
- You have several spammy, low-quality, or artificial links pointing to the site
- The link has caused some type of manual action or will cause a manual action on your site
While the “who” in this is clear, what is not as clear is the following:
- What is “a considerable number”
- How to know if your site is in danger of a penalty
It is important to note that Google has clearly stated what types of actions and links will be penalized. It is actively searching for paid links or other types of link schemes that violate the established quality guidelines. At this point, attempting to “out-smart” Google is not a good idea. It has dealt with this so much that it can easily determine if you have engaged in practices that go against the established quality guidelines.
Google staff have stated that the disavow tool is not about relevance. It is all about discounting bad links that have been placed and that you can’t remove. It is not designed to be an SEO “tweak.” Instead, it is a rather large hammer used to fix significant link problems.
This is just more information that shows how Google has encouraged site managers to avoid using the tool unless it is truly needed.
Should You Disavow Links?
It is important to note that disavowing links is just one part of a much larger strategy you should have to remove bad links.
Clearing your website from spammy backlinks is a long and drawn-out process. Unfortunately, if you do need to use the disavow tool, it is not the only step in the process.
There are some questions you can consider to determine if the disavow tool is really needed for your site:
- Have you ever participated in link schemes or paid to have links to your website?
- Have you hired someone who utilized link-building schemes or who paid for links to your website, or have you hired someone who may have done this?
If you answered “no” to these questions, then there is no need even to attempt to use the disavow tool.
Potential Dangers of Disavowing
If you have gotten this far, you may wonder why disavowing links is such a big deal. The primary reason that Google discourages it is that doing so may cause negative consequences for your site. There is even a warning at the top of the article Google released about the disavow tool that states that the tool is an advanced feature that should be used with caution. Also, if you don’t use it properly, the results may harm your site’s performance and rank in search results.
While Google has not revealed everything about backlinks, a few things are known. For example, there is no way to know if Google “counts” a link. The SEO tools that rate links are good if you work on removing links because of a manual penalty. In these situations, you will be working on getting your site “good” again when it comes to Google, which means that anything that may be seen as spammy should be removed.
If you are not under or even at risk for a manual action from Google, disavowing links may hurt your rank, reducing your site’s visibility and traffic.
There is no way to know what Google does and does not count. They never have and will never provide all the information regarding how links are used because they don’t want sites to start taking advantage of it. People trying to take advantage of backlinks is how the world of manual actions and disavowing tools all got started. Because of this, any link can be meaningful to the algorithms used by Google. Disavowing has the same impact as it is removed – one less backlink present and, as a result, reduced relevance. Now think about if you will upload a file with ten links or ten domains, all with several links.
Why SEO Tools State That Links Are Toxic
It can be frustrating and even scary to log into your SEO tool or receive an email from the tool that lets you know your backlink profile is toxic. This is one of those features that is somewhat unnecessary.
However, if you are going through the complex process of cleaning your backlink profile, it can be helpful – there’s a reason for this.
If you receive a notice via email that lets you know your site has received a penalty because of an “unnatural backlink profile,” Google is just going to provide you with an example list of the links they view as “spammy.”
This type of example list isn’t exhaustive and rarely helpful. This is where tools such as Ahrefs come in. The rating system helps with a list of links you should investigate. It’s challenging to get a comprehensive list of all the backlinks that are pointing to your site. The list provided by Google Search Console does not always include everything, and the various tools will pull different backlinks that don’t appear on any other tools. You need as much information as possible to clean up your backlink profile.
This is what they are good for. There is no real answer to why the tool will state that your backlink profile is toxic. Some websites still use shady SEO tactics or have in the past. You may need a reminder that the paid links aren’t good. No matter the situation, business owners, marketers, and site managers must ignore what the SEO tools say about toxic backlinks and start working on other things that will yield more value.
How to Handle “Spammy” Backlinks
If the warnings are something you can’t ignore, and you feel like you need to do something with the backlinks on your site, this is where you need to start.
Spammy backlinks happen. Google knows this. It is something the company has stated several times. It is nearly impossible to have a website online without weird links. If you only have a few, you should ignore them since they are not hurting your site in any way.
You can get assistance with this by contacting our Small Business SEO team. We are here to help with your backlink profile and ensure that you don’t experience any type of negative backlash because of certain backlinks on your site.
Keep this in mind to ensure that the right steps are taken to keep your site visible in search engines and ranking well.