Google: Don't disavow bad links unless you are responsible for those links


djbaxter

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Google Discourages Use of Disavow Tool. Unless You Know the Bad Links
by Roger Montti, Search Engine Journal
Jan 28, 2019


In a Webmaster Hangout, Google’s John Mueller stated in clear terms that the “vast majority of sites” do not need to use the disavow tool. He noted that Google actually hides the tool and makes it hard to find in Google’s Search Console on purpose. The reason is because the tool is primarily useful if you know the links are bad because you or your SEO are responsible for the bad links.
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Phil Rozek

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Thanks, David. Funny how that conflicts with the advice of, "When in doubt, disavow" that I seem to remember hearing a lot of a few years ago.
 

Dan Foland

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I think it's important to remind ourselves that it's in the best interest for Google to gatekeep answers to these type of questions.

No algorithm can possibly distinguish between paid links by the website owner and paid links by a smart blackhat SEO.

What Google is actually saying (but won't tell you) is that they ignore garbage backlinks that everyone gets e.g. links from keywords.io, but links from a smarter blackhat SEO trying to harm your SEO can negatively impact your website.

Fortunately, most of the blackhat SEO attacks are lazy. They buy 1,000 Fiverr style junk backlinks to no avail.

IMO if your site has links from low-quality scraper sites or those that are obviously baloney you can ignore them.

But if you are getting links from a coordinated higher level attack you should disavow them, particularly if you're seeing the impact in GA, GSC, conversions.
 

CallumS

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We have been doing a fair few more manual audits and disavows for sites that have backlink profiles filled with what we call 'Made for SEO' links and have been seeing some good results. The spammy 'cruft' that everyone gets is probably being ignored by penguin 4.0, but the 'quality mentions' that have just been designed for the purpose of getting a link, if done large scale, appear to be resulting in some kind of algorithmic suppression.
 

djbaxter

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Google's John Mueller on How to Use Disavow Tool - Two More Times
Search Engine Journal
Feb 7, 2019

In a recent Webmaster Hangout, John Mueller discouraged the use of the disavow tool. Apparently his comments have inspired more questions. He keeps getting asked about it. In a tweet and in a Reddit post, John Mueller directly states that his comments in the video about the proper use of the disavow tool were specifically recommending it only for links that you were directly responsible for. ....

Someone stated in Reddit:
“…recently John Muller from Google confirmed that bad links can in fact hurt your rankings in some cases…”​
To which John Mueller replied:
“This was specific to links that you’ve built yourself, not about negative SEO.”​
and

“If I have a “medium” sized website with lots of local physical branches, tens of thousands of backlinks, very old website with a 3-letter domain that gets linked to a lot by crap websites and 0-value directories, are those directory links hurting me? Should we disavow?”​
Then followed up with:
“Or does it not matter, and Google knows these websites link to sites like mine for no reason on a daily basis and we don’t seek these links out?”​
John Mueller responded:
“Random links collected over the years aren’t necessarily harmful, we’ve seen them for a long time too and can ignore all of those weird pieces of web-graffiti from long ago. Disavow links that were really paid for (or otherwise actively unnaturally placed), don’t fret the cruft.”​
and

John Mueller revealed in the Webmaster Hangout that Google purposely hides the disavow tool so that people have a hard time finding it. The reason is because Google has consistently said that it’s not necessary for most people to use except if you actually know about it. This has been consistent since the first day of the disavow tool to now.
In the Webmaster Hangout Mueller asserted:
  1. Vast majority of sites don’t need to use it.
  2. He wouldn’t go looking for bad links to disavow then says, but if you know about bad links then go ahead and disavow them.
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