There are varying opinions in the SEO industry as to whether link disavows are still a necessary part of SEO.
Some say that Google simply doesn’t count harmful links. Others say that Google still uses disavows as a means of “policing” spam links. Additionally, some argue that disavowing harmful links is essential to a site’s health and growth.
I prefer to be careless and disavow toxic links.
Perhaps, for now, Google simply ignores harmful backlinks. But what if Google decides to pay attention to these in the future? Google is always changing. Are there any guarantees that harmful links will not lead to manual actions or algorithm downgrades?
This article provides a step-by-step process for comprehensively auditing your backlink profile and saving updated disavows on file in Google Search Console.
Get the daily newsletter search marketers rely on.
Create a list of backlinks
It’s important to use as many sources as possible to build your initial disavow list. We usually download backlinks from Google Search Console, Ahrefs, and LinkResearchTools. Then upload all these links to Semrush’s Backlink Audit tool.
Once the audit is performed, you will get an overall toxicity score and other important data.
Categorize your links
Click audit A tab displays a list of all backlinks. For each, Semrush lists the anchor text, authority score, and toxicity score.
Ideally, all links should be examined and categorized as follows:
- Whitelist: Safe and healthy links that should be kept as part of your link profile
- delete: Links that should be removed. To do this, you must contact the site owner and ask them to remove the link.
- Denial: These links should be disavowed from your backlink profile.
Semrush saves this audit and prompts you to categorize new links as they are found. This allows you to easily and systematically maintain your backlink profile without harmful links.
Identify link patterns
in the audit report, toxicity markerYou will see a list of patterns that you can use to filter your backlinks.
By using these markers, you can see your backlink profile in the context of patterns instead of checking each backlink one by one.
A link may look fine when analyzed in isolation, but toxicity markeryou may find that you are part of a link network, that you have many links from the same C class, or that many of them have the same Google Analytics or Google Adsense code.
First, click on each section of toxicity markers.
Then review the links that appear and label them to whitelist, remove, or disavow.
Once all patterns have been identified, review the remaining links and use the harmful score and other link details to decide whether to whitelist, remove, or disavow the link.
When analyzing your backlinks, you should look at the full context of your backlink profile to make decisions. You can also audit your competitors’ backlinks, especially those that rank higher, to understand the backlink rate that is working in your particular industry.
Here are some of the percentages you can look at and keep in mind when deciding how to label your links.
Top referring domain categories
Based on your business, the categories of internal links are important. Do most links come from:
- Websites with relevant topics?
- Is it a directory or an unrelated website?
Look at the percentages. Compare them to your competitors and use their percentages to decide which links to keep or disavow.
Referencing domains by authority score
Many believe that all links with poor quality or low authority scores should be rejected. But think about the natural growth of the web.
Is it natural for a site to only get links from popular and authoritative websites? Think about how many people have small sites that only their close circles follow.
Looking at the link patterns, it’s clear that the site has a mix of high, medium, and low quality links. The goal is to create links from each of these levels, much like a link pyramid.
In the “natural state” of the web, there are many low-quality links that are not authoritative or potentially toxic. Some of them should be kept, especially those that do not belong to other patterns.
Backlinks by anchor type and anchor text
How many of your backlinks are branded? How many of your links use your keyword in their anchor text? Keep an eye on this as patterns will emerge.
If you have a high percentage of money anchors, your ranking may be suppressed due to the penguin filter of the algorithm. When reviewing backlinks, disavow some of the links that contain money anchors to lower their percentage.
Look at the exact anchor text to identify what’s being abused or what looks unnatural.
Semrush lets you click the links in each of the charts above to get the context of your filters, so you can look straight at and disavow links that belong to particularly obvious patterns.
By looking at link attributes, you can determine if you have a large number of followed and unfollowed links or links from user-generated content (UGC). Expect lots of nofollow links. However, if you follow, sponsor, or have too many UGC links, we recommend disavowing some to even out the proportions.
Check your disavow list
After the audit is complete, deny Click the tab to see all the URLs you’ve added to this list.
Use our metrics tool to get additional data about each of these URLs before uploading your disavows to Google.
In some cases, you may find that some of the links with toxic markers have good metrics and are safe to keep. Scrubbing all your links one last time will help ensure that you’re not disavowing links that could help your site rank better.
To decide which links to keep, look at your authority score, keyword ranking numbers, and organic traffic to see if you want to keep the link in your disavow file or remove it.
Once complete, export the disavow file.
Google disavow file
Once you have your disavow file in .txt format, you can access the Google Disavow Tool and upload your disavow file.
Monitor Link Profile
You should run a new backlink audit at least quarterly to ensure your backlink profile is healthy. Using the same Semrush project saves all data and only adds new links that are not labeled or categorized.
By monitoring your backlink profile, you can see the difference between increasing traffic and suppressing rankings.
Although Google claims that it can’t be negatively impacted by SEO attacks, there are enough reports to prove that sites can be negatively impacted.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.
What’s New in Search Engine Land