Today we’ll be talking about choosing and disavowing backlinks via Google Disavow tool. This information will be in use for those who have been penalized by Google for low quality links and whose traffic has decreased. And here are some thoughts and nuances in regard of links disavow in this tool.
The world’s leading search engine has started a struggle against backlink spam. And the Penguin algorithm stands now as a main chastener for unnatural or low quality backlinks. Google Penguin has already left numerous website owners and webmasters in rage and anger.
Disavow Links tool has been introduced about a year ago. It allows pointing at pages and whole domains, which contain unnatural links to a website. On one hand, the tool is useful. On the other, it witnesses that algorithm Google introduces as Penguin is not ideal and it can penalize good websites by mistake as well. If this happens, a webmaster can try refusing from links Google does not appreciate. However, there is a contradiction: although it’s a search engine that does not like those backlinks, still it’s a webmaster who has to refuse from them. It means a webmaster has to try to guess what pages and domains to add to the Disavow tool
This article will be useful for three cases:
- A website has suffered from Google Penguin.
- A website has received messages about unnatural links in Google Webmaster tools.
- A webmaster suffers loss of rankings on his project, and after doing everything to remedy the situation has come to a conclusion that backlinks are the cause.
Generally, Google recommends removing unnatural links. It is not always possible, and there are several reasons to it:
- Inability to remove them – no response from a webmaster, competitors’ machinations.
- The procedure is too long and boring.
So using Google Disavow Links is more convenient. And it would be ideal if there were no such nuances as:
- The link list uploaded to disavow via the Tool is a recommendation for Google, not a rule to obey. However, just uploading those links may not bring any effect.
- If your website was hit by Google Penguin, then checking if the tool is effective or not will be possible ONLY after the next Penguin update.
- If you received a message about unnatural links, the result could be achieved after month or two.
- If there was no traffic drop, there is no need to use Disavow Links.
- The tool should be used very carefully, as using it can devalue not only bad links but good links as well. If your traffic from Google continues dropping after you uploaded the links, you probably should clear the list with pages and domains, or reconsider it.
But enough theory, let’s proceed to the practical part.
Getting a backlinks list for analysis
We are dealing with Google, so we should work with a link mass Google is aware of. It can be found in Google Webmaster tools. If your project is not yet there, then add it there (backlink data will be available in a few days).
Go to your project’s profile and then to ‘Links To Your Site’ tab in a section ‘Search Traffic’.
See the ‘Who links the most’ block and go to ‘More>’. You will see a list of websites linking to your project. It is limited to 1000 domains. Click ‘Download more sample links’. Export as a CSV file is possible.
Say, we have downloaded 427 URLs. We can assume that either there is more than one backlink on each domain, or Google does not show all linking pages (considering 310 linking domains).
Since Google indexes all possible links, we can see such a big number of links to our site. It also shows links via redirect, and those with nofollow attribute.
We can assume that such backlinks also take part in ranking calculation, though they have smaller role in it. So if the link is a redirect or a nofollow, it doesn’t mean it should not be considered when you choose which links to disavow.
If traffic from Google is less than 5-10% of overall traffic to your website, then perhaps refusal from all these links would be the easiest way. For instance, if you believe that only low quality resources link to you and these links have keyword rich anchors, then follow this little guide:
- Copy the URLs from a CSV file to a new .txt file. Each URL must be ona single line.
- Visit Google Disavow Links.
- Select the site and click Disavow links.
- Upload your .txt file with URLs (it must be no more than 2Mb), click ‘Submit’ and ‘Done’.
That’s all! The procedure is quite fast.
If you caught Google Penguin, which is an automatic penalty, then you should make conclusions only after the release of the next version of this update. If it was just a message about unnatural inbound links (manual spam action), then you should send a reconsideration request to Google. And links from Webmaster Tools won’t be removed.
What to do if you are sure that apart from bad links there are really good natural links to your site from authoritative resources? They can bring positive effect to your website. And removing them would only harm you. In this case you should select and disavow bad links only.
Selection of low quality backlinks
Well, we have to choose bad links, which we are going to disavow. There are several ways to do so.
1) Manual method. If the amount of links is not so big, you can do it manually. Just open each URL from the list downloaded from Google Webmaster and analyze its quality. If not only a page, but a resource in whole are low quality, you can disavow the whole domain. Just type the following instead of the URL:domain:site.com
This will help save time working on your link profile. You can use the following criteria to evaluate the quality of your backlinks:
- Indexing. The resource is poorly indexed or banned by Google.
- Low traffic volume (less than 50 visitors a day).
- Quality of backlink profile: PR, MOZrank of a homepage, link analysis.
- Placement of a link. It must be located only in main content. Sitewide links on high quality websites can be exclusion.
- Relevance of the page (and perhaps the whole resource) to your website.
- Quality of content.
- Anchors. Anchor texts such as URL, phrases like “here”, “read more” and so on may be left as they are in most cases when the quality of a linking domain is high or medium. Anchors containing exact keyword or a phrase containing a keyword may be left as well if the following conditions are kept: variety of anchor texts, quality of a project and content, naturalness of a link, variety of documents links lead to.
- Sitewide links. Leave these only if they are either placed on projects of medium quality and anchors consist of the site name or its URL, or on high quality resources (with the same anchor texts).
Generally, these criteria will be in use anyway. The example of a bad link:
An example of a good link:
2) Mozcheck. We will review several Moz tools, and one of them is Mozcheck. This is a backlinks tool developed by the largest Internet marketing resource Moz.com. It allows evaluating the quality of web pages and domains using its own algorithms. You can get such results:
I believe that the Domain Authority and MozRank are the most important factors to consider. Resources with Domain Authority more than 35-40 can be left for further analysis. The rest should be placed to a .txt file for disavow.
As we can see from the screenshot, Mozcheck cannot calculate Domain Authority for a subdomain. In these cases we can examine MozRank, and place everything below MozRank 3-4 to our .txt file.
To use the service registration and registration verification are needed. 2500 checks per account (and no more than 100 URLs at once) are allowed. There is also a Pro account with advanced options: more checks, export to CSV, and so on.
All pages/domains left after the selection (which have Domain Authority 35-40 and more) sould be checked manually.
OpenSiteExplorer.org is one more of Moz tools. They use the same Domain Authority parameter, which can be used to sort links. However, OpenSiteExplorer data won’t match data provided by Google Webmaster.
3) MajesticSeo is another interesting SEO backlink tool that can be in use. Registration and a basic account are enough to work with it. Here it’s better to analyze domains, not single pages (up to 20 at a time).
Main metrics are Citation Flow (a Pagerank analogue) and Trust Flow, which should be used to make conclusions about the quality of a resource. Resources with Trust Flow less than 20 can be added to our .txt file at once. The rest should be examined manually. If you make simple and quick verification of your projects from Google Webmaster, you’ll be able to examine all these metrics for your complete link profile for free (sorting and export as an Excel table are available).
The only drawback is that MajesticSeo bases do not correspond to those provided by Google Webmaster.
There are more and more discussions about Google backlink policy in general and Google Disavow in particular these days. This tool cannot guarantee the return of all traffic, but such a possibility definitely should not be ignored.