The Good the Bad and the Disavow

BY erdal

Updated: 11th October, 2022

Cleaning up spammy link profiles has become a priority for SEOs – but could the process be doing more harm than good? Online Marketing Manager Erdal Enver investigates…

One of the main challenges for SEOs is to improve their website’s reputation online, also referred to as Pagerank or Domain Authority. Essentially, Pagerank/Domain authority is determined based on the quality and quantity of inbound links pointing to a website. Inbound links continue to be a fundamental factor of how Google orders it search results. This caused many SEOs to artificially inflate their websites’ backlink profiles by obtaining irrelevant links purely to improve search engine ranking. To combat this behaviour, Google implemented its Penguin algorithm.

Google Penguin Algorithm

The Penguin algorithm update was designed to identify websites that are violating Google’s Webmaster Guidelines by using ‘black hat’ link building techniques, such as buying links or obtaining links through link networks. Websites with spammy backlink profiles are being penalized thanks to the Google Penguin update.

The Link Profile Clean-up

Since the announcement of the Penguin algorithm, the SEO industry has gone into a frenzy to ensure their websites’ backlink profiles are squeaky clean. There are various tools where you can download an extensive list of backlinks pointing to your domain. Some of the main ones we recommend are:

·         Google Webmaster Tools

·         Moz Open Site Explorer

·         Majestic

The old school techniques of building links on low authority directories and syndicating content on junk websites to cheat Google algorithms are over. If your site has backlinks as a result of such activity, you will most likely need to take action to clean up your backlink profile to ensure you will not be penalised by the Penguin algorithm.

It is important to understand your current backlink profile and categorise links based on relevance, quantity and quality. Here at Bravr we build complex linkography maps evaluating inbound links to each of our client’s sites, and the inbound links to those sites that are linking to our clients.

Once you have identified which backlinks are low quality, irrelevant and could be can be seen as a result of spammy link building techniques, you should take steps to remove them. Contact as many of these domains as you can to have the links removed. Google has also launched the Disavow Tool, allowing webmasters the option to inform Google not to take certain links in account when accessing their websites.

Cutting Too Deep

However, the horror stories about websites being penalised by the Penguin updates make it easy for SEOs to take cleaning your link profile too far. Webmasters and SEOs can become overly obsessed with every backlink that they may take drastic actions when it is not entirely necessary. The Google Disavow Tool is often abused by people who have overreacted after reading a few to many articles about how your backlink profile will harm your SEO positioning. The Google Disavow Tool itself comes with a warning:


Unless you are one of those sites who have/are participating in a considerable number of spammy, artificial, or low quality links, you should not need to use this tool. In some instances we have found webmasters have gone too far and disavowed links that are relevant and deemed natural from quality domains. This has caused their sites to drop in SEO positioning as they no longer have enough quality backlinks to rank highly in Google’s SERPs. If you are certain your backlinks are causing your site harm, it is best to get all of the facts on the tool and understand the best practices on using it. The Q&A with Google’s Matt Cutts on how to use the Link Disavow Tool from Search Engine Land is a great article to begin with. I also recommend the Search Engine Watch article on 7 Things You May Not Know About Google's Disavow Tool to get further information on how to use the tool. This article highlights how Google uses the Disavow Tool and several other useful tips such as how to reavow backlinks that have been wrongfully disavowed.

Think before you leap

While it is vital you tend to your backlink profile, be wary of misdiagnosing a drop in rankings as a backlink issue. The Disavow Tool was primarily created to help websites clean up paid links, not to remove natural, organic links that just happen to come from a website with a bad Pagerank or Domain Authority. By being too zealous, you can seriously damage your link profile. Disavowing relevant links can be as hazardous to your rankings as not using the Disavow Tool at all.

If you are worried about your search rankings but are unsure how to act, consult the experts. The elite team at Bravr are specialists in all aspects of SEO, with a track record or achieving outstanding results for clients. Contact us to discover how we can help improve your online visibility.

Written by erdal

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