About toxic links and the Google Disavow link tool

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Picture1Google, as the main search engine on the internet, is in competition to provide the best listing of results for each particular search query. To perform this, Google, and other search engines, calculate various parameters of each unique webpage. One such recently critical parameter is the reputation, and trustworthiness, of a “backlink”, which includes the quality and uniqueness of the surrounding content.

Along with the advent of search engines, since the beginning of the public internet itself, the stage was set for the emergence of different manipulation strategies being developed by SEO consultants and webmasters to achieve better ranking results. So for many years, an uncountable “tonnage” of irrelevant or ‘low-quality’ backlinks paved the way, temporarily at least, for webmasters to reach higher rankings.

But each new algorithm update progressively changed the rules of the rankings.

Regarding artificial or ‘spammy’ backlinks, with their “Penguin” update Google decided to get tough against backlink manipulations. Initially, they decided not to pass “link juice” (which can be considered as “ranking credit”) through spammy backlinks. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of websites across the board and all around the world, would up penalized because of bought, irrelevant or poor-quality backlinks that were laid-down in the past. The more the link spam – the higher the penalty was.

So how can you remove “Toxic Links” From Your Backlink Profile?

Let’s first examine – how badly was your site penalized?

If your position in the SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages) has or is dwindling and you’re not yet sure why, it most likely involved a penalty. To reclaim valuable web traffic and therefore increase business, the best thing to do is to simply move forward. Listed below are the items and the process that you will need to follow, how to clean up your backlink profile, and ultimately how to achieve grace with Google, and possibly some of the various other search engines as well.

A) Understanding Your Website’s Penalty

If the number of business leads from organic traffic are declining, you are likely witnessing either a manual or algorithmic penalty from Google. In order to better resolve your website’s drop in traffic, it’s important to understand the difference between a “manual penalty” or “algorithmic update” since your best way to recovery can differ depending on the source of the issue.

Differences between Manual Penalty vs. Algorithmic Penalties

A manual penalty is when a manual action is taken against a website. The length of the penalty is proportional to how badly the site was violating Google’s webmaster guidelines, and how severe the penalty issued was. Websites should apply for a reconsideration request after they address the penalizing issue. Google’s reconsideration request form doesn’t guarantee a recovery, but it is necessary to submit to speed things up.

If your website has not been singled-out for breach of Google’s guidelines, then a worsening rank is due to an algorithm update. For algorithm updates, reconsideration request should not be submitted. To boost search results, site managers need to identify which practices the algorithm update was targeting such as: link exchanges, cloaking, keyword stuffing – and then subsequently move away from the use of those tactics.

If you are not sure how your site lost ranking, you may need to investigate any previous “black-hat” SEO tactics that may have caused the penalty, either manually or from an algorithm update, for your site. Reviewing the techniques any previous SEO consultants/companies did for you in the past is the place to start looking.

B) Conducting a backlink audit

If you have received a notification in Google Webmaster Tools that states a manual penalty resulted from spammy link building, you should conduct a comprehensive link audit. As all SEO agents know, link building is at the core of matters. Cultivating a link profile for a website is critical for increasing search ranking and traffic.

Google’s complex link analysis routines are designed to determine the popularity and “authority” of a website, by examining whether the website has incoming links from either trustworthy or spammy blogs/website.

To rid your link profile of toxic links, you have to first see where the toxic links are coming from. The best way to do this is through Google Webmaster Tools.

Using your Google Webmaster Tools account: Select your site > Traffic > Links to Your Site > More > Download latest links > Export to .CSV or Google Docs.

However, there are several different tools available which track down links which are pointing to your website. Good links are beneficial to your site, just as bad links are detrimental. It is critical that the negative links are removed – all the while preserving most all of the good, high reputation, links to your website.

If you need help deriving your backlink profile, for a service fee we will help you with it.

C) Filtering links

There are 4 major categories of how toxic a link is to your site. Either 1) high, 2) average, 3) low, and 4) very low. Initially, focus on the high and average links.
Low and very low can be disregarded as these most likely are not ones which are resulting in your website’s penalty.

After you have the list of backlinks sorted based on toxicity, then you need to manually go through each link; classified as follows:

  1. Type (directory, guest blog, forum, comment, etc.)
  2. Action (Keep/Remove):
  • Does the site have good domain authority? If an associated Domain Authority is less than 2, it is a good candidate for removal.
  • Is the referring site indexed in Google? If it isn’t, that site was probably identified as a link spamming site.

D) Contacting referring webmasters

After forming a list of links you want to remove, start reaching out to the operators of the websites hosting those links, to reflect your efforts to Google in trying to remove them.

You can research the link to find contact information through the referring site’s about pages or using Whois.net to look at the domain ownership records. You can use URL Profiler & rmoov for efficiency in gathering this information. Usually a contact form or email address is sufficient for this step.

It is recommend that you set up a special email account using your domain in order to more easily keep track of every email sent and received, so that you don’t clutter up your regular inbox with email from this project

E) Utilizing the Google Disavow Tool

If the referring site’s Webmasters aren’t responding, you need to utilize Google’s Disavow Tool. Before using the Disavow Tool, do your best, through persistence, to remove links from the now offending websites. A large percentage of businesses rely on the Google Disavow Tool but you should still make the attempt to remove the links at their source before jumping into disavowing them.

The Disavow Tool is a way for you to inform Google to not account for specific backlinks when assessing your site. Although it may seem easier (and quicker) to disavow them instead of trying to remove them, it can take longer for link disavowing to be accepted by Google (if you haven’t made good effort to have the links removed first).

If you don’t hear back after several tries at contacting them, then you can still go through the disavowing process following the steps below:

To get started with your link disavowal, first create a disavow text file that lists all of the links (and domains) that need to be barred from Google’s consideration. Within the list, you should record your removal efforts. Make sure you format your list correctly:

  1. Use the proper file format (.txt)
  2. Disavow the entire domain, not just the link. I.e., use a machete, not a scalpel. Instead of removing just the link (spammysite.com/bad-link-for-you), submit your disavowal for the whole domain (spammysite.com) in your consideration.
  3. Don’t use “http://” or “www.” Domain removals require “domain:” at the beginning of the URL. E.g., “Domain:website.com”

Once you’ve developed your disavow file properly, it’s now time to give the list to Google. Here’s how:

  1. Log in to your Google account
  2. Go to the Disavow Tool
  3. Select your site
  4. Click “Disavow Links”
  5. Locate and upload the disavow file you created
  6. Click “Submit”

It will take a while for this to be processed on Google’s end so you will need to be patient at this point. The entire process can take a number of weeks and sometimes months, so don’t expect instant results. The Disavow Tool is not a cure-all solution to give you the SEO results you’re looking for, but it does serve as a great resource to clean up a toxic backlink profile when outreach isn’t cutting it.

F) Submission of reconsideration request to Google

Here’s a breakdown of a successful reconsideration request:

  1. Provide a brief history of your site in terms of how you acquired the backlinks in the first place. Was it an agency, friend, or SEO manager? Be honest and tell them how it happened.
  2. Discuss the process you went through in removing the links: how you identified the harmful links, how you categorized them, how you reached out, and how many times you tried. Tip: Throughout the process, be sure to keep records so that you can provide relevant examples, evidence, and documentation within the letter to demonstrate all of your efforts.
  3. Tell them what you will do differently to get links in the future, and how you will actively make sure that this doesn’t happen again.

We have dealt with this process first hand, so we know how frustrating and tiresome it can be. Be diligent, do what needs to be done, and don’t give up. Most importantly, make sure that your future marketing efforts align with Google’s guidelines—they’re there to ensure a positive search experience for everyone, including you!

If you need further helpful advice, just write us at support (at) 4goodhosting.com.

Post Navigation