When it comes to search engine optimisation (SEO), backlinks are highly important for a website’s ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs). Yet, not all backlinks are good. Some can actually hurt your site’s rankings and result in penalties from search engines like Google. Known as ‘toxic backlinks’, they put website owners in a difficult situation, wondering whether to disavow these toxic backlinks or leave them as they are.
What Are ‘Toxic’ Backlinks?
Most organic backlinks are considered “good backlinks,” as they reflect Google’s ideal internet where valuable content is freely and frequently referenced. While these good backlinks may not have a significant impact on your website immediately, they gradually contribute to building your reputation as a reliable and authoritative source.
In contrast, “toxic backlinks” are typically unnatural or inorganic, with a few exceptions. Two major culprits of bad backlinks are links that can be bought in bulk from dubious SEO websites and intentional backlinking schemes using private backlink networks (PBNs). Google has clear guidelines on these “link schemes.”
However, not all backlinks are toxic or harmful to your site. Sometimes, Google can ignore unnatural links that aren’t part of a link scheme or a manipulation attempt. According to Google Search Advocate John Mueller, “If you weren’t buying links, you don’t need to disavow them”. He said that disavowing links won’t improve your ranking and that it can be risky if done incorrectly. He also advised that you should only use the disavow tool if you have a manual action or a clear reason to do so. Therefore, before you disavow any backlinks, you should carefully evaluate their quality and relevance to your site.
What Occurs When You Disavow a Backlink?
When you disavow a backlink, you are essentially indicating to search engines that you want them to ignore or discount that particular backlink when assessing your website’s ranking in search results. In other words, you are informing search engines that you do not want the link to be considered as a part of your website’s link profile.
By doing this, you are attempting to distance your website from potentially harmful or low-quality backlinks that could negatively impact your search engine rankings. Disavowing a backlink is a way to signal to search engines that you are not endorsing or associated with that specific link, and you want it to have no bearing on how your website is perceived in terms of SEO.
It’s important to note that disavowing backlinks should be done with caution and only when you believe those links are harmful or spammy. Google, for instance, provides a Disavow Links tool allowing webmasters to upload a text file containing the list of links they wish to disavow. However, improper use of this tool or disavowing high-quality, relevant backlinks can have adverse effects on your website’s overall SEO performance. Therefore, it’s essential to analyse and evaluate backlinks carefully before making any disavowal decisions.
When to Disavow Links?
Deciding to disavow backlinks is a serious matter, and it can greatly impact your search ranking, either positively or negatively. You should only disavow a link if you’re certain it’s dragging down your website’s performance. It’s essential to remember not every link from a low-traffic or low-domain authority site is necessarily bad. Each link, even from less influential sites, serves as a vote of confidence for your website in Google’s eyes.
Typically, Google is quite adept at identifying spammy backlinks. So, using the Google Disavow tool should be considered a last resort. Here’s what Google recommends to determine if you should disavow a link:
- If you are confident your site has a lot of artificial, spammy, or low-quality links.
- If these links have already led to or may lead to a Google penalty on your site.
In fact, Bing recently announced it is removing its Disavow Tool in favour of artificial intelligence, which will be used to determine whether backlinks are natural or unnatural. This is a sign search engines are further improving their algorithms and systems to more accurately determine the source or health of a backlink.
When to Avoid Disavowing?
As previously mentioned, disavowing should only be applied in specific scenarios. In most instances, Google’s algorithm is proficient in identifying and disregarding low-quality links automatically. There is no necessity to disavow in the following cases:
- Naturally Occurring Links: Links originating from reputable websites within your industry or niche should not be disavowed. Google views such links as positive endorsements and rewards them accordingly.
- No or Low-Risk Links: Links coming from low-authority websites or directories with minimal impact on SEO should not be disavowed unless they are overtly spammy.
- Internal Links: Disavowing internal links is unnecessary, as they remain under your control and are typically not harmful.
Why Should You Disavow Links?
The main reason is to handle penalties imposed on your website by Google. If you get a message from Google about “unnatural links,” it means you’re being penalised whether you were aware of those links or not.
As the owner of a website, dealing with Google penalties is part of the job. It shouldn’t be a problem if you follow ethical SEO practices, but it’s essential to know how to maintain a clean backlink profile for a successful long-term SEO strategy.
Why is Disavowing Important for SEO?
Having bad links to your website can harm your SEO efforts. Here’s why:
- Low-quality links can prevent your website from gaining authority.
- Spammy links can make your site look untrustworthy.
- Google may think you’re buying links (a frowned upon SEO tactic) and penalise you.
Having low-quality links can lead to a Google penalty, causing a significant drop in rankings, site traffic, conversions, and revenue.
The choice to disavow backlinks can greatly influence your website’s SEO performance. It’s essential to carefully consider the potential risks and rewards before proceeding with disavowal. When confronted with harmful or toxic links that jeopardise your site’s ranking and reputation, disavowal can serve as a valuable resource for recovery and safeguarding. However, in the majority of situations, concentrating on establishing high-quality, pertinent backlinks and allowing Google to handle low-quality links is the most effective strategy for enhancing your website’s SEO and organic search results. As a leading SEO agency in Perth, find out how we can help your business bloom, contact us today!