Link Removal and Disavowing

Q. Is disavowing a link as good as backlink removal?

A. To get around Google Penalties and Manual Actions we believe it is. Google would rather you got the link taken down, but this is not always possible. If you do require a backlink removal service it can be arranged. However, we do believe it is not the best use of our time and your money. There is more about this in the next question. Do bear in mind that disavowing a link in Google will obviously not affect anything in other search engines such as Bing, Yahoo, Yandex, and Duck Duck Go.

Q. If I disavow links will I still see these in Google Search Console

A. Yes, you will still see backlinks to your website even if they are disavowed. That’s just how it is.

Q. My link Link Audit is done and the Disavow File has been uploaded. Moving forward, how do I ensure my link profile is clean?

A. Unfortunately the only way to ensure that you always have a clean link profile is to do regular Link Audits. Depending on the niche and amount of traffic you get we would suggest anything between monthly and quarterly Link Audits to keep your link profile clean.

Q. How long does it take before my (now) clean link profile affects SEO traffic?

A. This is a difficult question and the answer isn’t good. We like to say “anything between a few weeks and never”. This sounds harsh, but sometimes there may have been other factors that have been influencing your traffic as well as backlinks.

Although links are still an important ranking factor in Google, content is more important than ever.

Generally, we find that your time is better spent on making sure your content is top quality, rather than building links.

In particular, try to make sure that your content is answering a question that somebody may be asking. Your content should be unique and provide the most satisfying answer available on the internet.

Q. If I disavow links that have my best keyword in the anchor text, how can I rank for that keyword?

A. Google’s algorithm is clever enough to understand what your website is all about. You no longer have to stuff your keywords into the anchor text of the links pointing to your site. Anchor text selection is a complicated subject. It really has to look as natural as possible, even if it is not.

Q. Why don’t you suggest webmaster outreach to get links taken down?

A. From experience we have found this to be a huge waste of effort for two reasons:

  • Firstly most webmasters do not reply.
  • Secondly, those that do reply usually demand a large fee for link removal. In some circumstances, we have known a friendly link removal request to result in massive extortion with threats of a Negative SEO war. Not nice.

Q. I don’t like the size of the disavow file, do I have any other option?

A. Not really, we can pussyfoot around with gentle disavows and go thru endless cycles of rejection, but we don’t recommend it. Link penalties are hard to get out of these days.

Q. Is it really necessary to remove backlinks from the outreach campaign that I paid good money for?

A. Unfortunately to get past a Google reviewer, probably yes. The fact that you said you paid for them, means Google Webmaster Guidelines were violated, which is what they don’t like. Don’t worry – we may be able to get them back after the penalty is revoked.

Q. The disavow file you provided looks like a garbled mess, why?

A. The format of a disavow file is not a standard text file, if you look at it with Notepad on a PC it will not display correctly. We recommend using UltraEdit on a PC. TextEdit on a Mac works just fine.

Q. The backlink packages that I bought were advertised as white hat, was that a lie?

A. Sadly, yes. The fact you have paid money for backlinks means that you have violated Google’s guidelines.

Q. Do you typically see a huge traffic drop across the board after deleting/disavowing this many links?

A. TBH in the majority of cases, no, it’s really weird like that. Most people have many links that they believe are helping them, which actually may have no effect whatsoever or even a negative effect. If you remove bad backlinks it can certainly have a positive effect.

Q. I’m really nervous about seeing a major ranking drop (maybe it already happened?)

A. You can probably see a loss of traffic in Google Search Console already. Unnatural links penalties can be catastrophic. With an ‘affects all pages’ penalty this will certainly be the case. What seems to happen with ‘affects some pages’ manual actions is that certain penalized sections/pages on your site lose their power due to decreased engagement and UX. This, in turn, will decrease the effectiveness of your internal linking. Without fixing the penalty, the traffic erodes over a few months. In our opinion, the traffic lost due to losing links is insignificant compared to the traffic that is lost by having a manual action.

Q. During the Link Audit, you have found about 19,000 backlinks. I was very surprised because I thought Google Search Сonsole should show all domains, and there were only 6,000 backlinks. What other link search tools did you use besides LinkResearchTools and Google Search Console?

A. None. LinkResearchTools uses 25 link sources which (we believe) is collected from data sources like Majestic, Ahrefs, SEMRush, Systix etc. In our opinion it finds the most complete backlink profile ever. Google Search Console only shows a sample. Despite what Google says, we have found it impossible to fix a Manual Action from GSC data alone.

Manual Action Removals

Q. My Manual Action has been revoked but it is still showing in Google Search Console, why?

A. It takes about 48hrs for the manual action to disappear from Google Search Console. Please be patient, we have never known this to not happen.

Q. You only sent a Reconsideration request to the http://domain.com version of my site, should I send it to all versions – www and https for example?

A. No this is not necessary and should be avoided. When the Manual Action is revoked, it will disappear from all variations in Google Search Console. A Manual Action is applied to all versions of your domain and similarly will disappear from all when the penalty is removed.

Q. What happens if you submit a Reconsideration Request to all versions of the domain e.g.

A. As stated above, this is not necessary. The exception to this is when Google are really slow to reply to a Reconsideration Request. Sometimes when one month has passed we will try a second Reconsideration Request from a different URL variation. Please note that each Reconsideration Request will eventually get a response. We have even seen two responses where one is positive and the other is negative. In this situation, our experience is that the positive one wins.

Q. My manual action has been revoked, most of the keywords are in their previous positions, some are slightly down. How long will they sustain their positions?

A. This is very hard to say as we cannot predict what Google does and how it will value or devalue links in the future. To keep your rankings we suggest that you still try and acquire links, but keep them looking as natural as possible. Please also see the next question.

Q. To remove my Manual Action most of my inbound links have been disavowed, can I get them back now?

A. Yes, but you need to be very careful not to get yourself another Manual Action. Our suggested steps are:

  • Wait for at least two weeks after the Manual Action has been removed – this is a very sensitive time and you really want to make sure that Google reviewer is not going to come back! Contact us and ask for a Disavow File Audit, in many cases this will be included in the original fee you paid.
  • After analysing your best and safest links we can then undisavow them – the goal is to get your high quality links back, whilst staying ‘under the radar’ as far as Google is concerned

Q. Do you think previously penalized sites are flagged for a manual review more often than other sites?

A. We have known sites get a second penalty within days of their penalty being revoked, by webmasters doing foolish things such as deleting the disavow file or building tons of low-quality links. We have no hard evidence that previously penalised sites are more susceptible to penalties, but we do suggest being very careful in the first few weeks after a penalty has been revoked.

Q. We have a ton of .info domains linking to our sites. Should we be pro-actively disavowing these and other scraper sites or is this low risk?

A. We think that Google probably ignores all these scraper sites, so yes they are most likely low-risk links. However, we do recommend regular link audits and keeping your link profile clean by pro-actively disavowing undesirable links. We can offer monthly disavow services if you require this.

Q. What software do you use for the Google Penalty Removal Service?

A. We have tried various link detox software including SEMRush, Cognitive SEO and Kerboo. However, the software that gets the job done is LinkDetox from LinkResearchTools. Because LinkDetox uses 25 link sources we believe it provides the most complete backlink audit possible

Q. What additional information can I provide to help with your Google Penalty Removal Service?

A. If you have any old lists of links, maybe from previous link building campaigns, this will be extremely useful.

Q. Is it possible to contact someone like John Mueller at Google to help speed up the reply from a Google Reconsideration Request?

A. I messaged John Mueller directly on Twitter in October 2019 to try and get things to happen faster. At first it worked, but then he said “I’ve been trying to avoid pushing things to the top of their list”:

John Mueller Twitter Conversation

John Mueller Twitter Conversation (October 2019)

Algorithmic Penalties

Q. Will disavowing bad links improve my organic traffic?

A. Sometimes it will, but it really depends on what the rest of your links are like and other factors such as your content, site speed, on page SEO etc. etc.

Q. In your experience, how long does it take for Google to start recognizing and applying the information in the disavow file?

A. Usually, it is a few weeks, but we use this tool to speed things up.

Q. Have you ever experimented or thought about uploading the disavow contents in stages? It seems that if you uploaded the information in broken up segments, you might be able to track whether or not there were some good links in the file that were helping. then, if you were tracking rankings, you could “undo” the last segment upload.

A. The effect of disavowing in an algorithmic scenario is never as dramatic as you think it would be, so doing that you would see minimal change. If the effect was more dramatic it might be easier to interpret this, but unfortunately, it isn’t.

Understanding TAGS in Link Audit spreadsheets

If you order a Link Audit you will receive an Excel Spreadsheet with a lot of data about your links. This includes a column called ‘TAGS’ where we will have added TAGs to explain why a link was disavowed, undisavowed etc. Here are some commonly used TAGs:

ALEXA: These pages are generated by scraping results from https://www.alexa.com/ The URL format is easy to recognize as it usually has ‘-list-‘ in the URL e.g. https://www.onemanarmy.in/domain-list-292. The links are usually NoFollow, but the fact that there can be hundreds of these makes them look really spammy. We don’t believe these links help your rankings at all and, in large quantities, could harm your rankings.

AUTOGEN: Autogenerated junk pages.

CLIENTNAMEOK: This is a link that the client knows to be legitimate.

COMMENT: Comment Spam.

COUPON: Scraping sites that usually have ‘coupon’, ‘promocode’, ‘voucher’ etc. in the domain name. These are autogenerated pages that have no original content. The links o these pages are not specifically malicious, but in large quantities, we have known them to wreck rankings.

CPA: Your link is on a page that uses scraped content to redirect to a CPA (cost per action) offer or some kind of unrelated offer.

DEAD: For one reason or another the page or domain with the link on is completely dead and not working.

DESPERATE: This is only used when fixing manual actions. This a link that we really can’t see anything wrong with, but our experience tells us that a Google Reviewer is going to dislike this link and reject a Reconsideration Request. Once the penalty is revoked, these will be the first links to get undisavowed.

DVP0: This link is already in the current disavow file, disavowed by URL.

DVD0: This link is already in the current disavow file, disavowed by domain.

DVR0: This link is already in the current disavow file, disavowed by root domain

DONATION: This link is the result of donation. Usually, the donation provides a link on a page with many other links, often unrelated.

FORUM: Spam forum entry or spammy looking forum profile.

FREENOM: Free domains such as .tk .ml .ga .cf or .gq which are used for spamming and mass page generation.

GSAMPLE: This is a problematic link which has been given by Google in a failed Reconsideration Request.

HIDDEN: Hidden links that could be seen as being manipulative.

HTTPERR: The page that the link is reported as being on is returning an error code, such as 500, 503, 404 etc.

IMGAGG: This is an autogenerated page that scrapes images from all over the internet and hotlinks to them. You generally do not want these sort of links linking to your website.

KW0: The domain does not rank for any keywords. The assumption here is that it is either a very weak domain or it is penalized.

LNF: Link Not Found. A link was not found when crawled, but it would have been an undesirable link anyway. Sometimes we disavow these in case there is a possibility that the link could reappear.

MOSTLINKED: The link is one of an unusual amount linking to one particular page. This is often the case when removing partial match penalties i.e. “Affects Some Pages”.

NEG: This is a link that is intended to harm your rankings using Negative SEO. These kind of links are often built by competitors using automated software.

PROFILE: A profile that has been set up purely for the purpose of adding a backlink, usually with ‘money heavy’ anchor text.

SCHOLAR: This link is part of a scholarship linking campaign. A scholarship linking campaign was the sole cause of a Manual Action on 10beasts.com back in 2017. For this reason, we strongly advise against this type of SEO campaign now.

SCRAPE: Autogenerated scraped content.

SPUN: This link is on a page that is very poorly written, scraped or produced by a text spinner. It is unlikely that a link on a page like this will ever pass a manual review.

STORY: These are ‘news blast’ links that look like:
https://www.lubbockcw.com/story/38579396/july-4th-sales-on-mattresses-save-with-tempurpedic-latest-guide we have seen these given as samples of problematic links in failed Google Reconsideration Requests. For this reason, we assume that Google considers these to be unnatural links.

SUSP1: This means your link is on a very weak page.

SUSP2: This means your link is on a very weak domain.

SUSP4: This means that the homepage of the domain where the link is placed does not rank for its own title. The assumption here is that the domain may be penalized.

SUSP8: This domain has the same Class-C IP address as other linking domains. This means that you have multiple links from some sort of network. At best Google will ignore the majority of the links. At worst it will be seen as an attempt to manipulate the SERPs which could result in a penalty or manual action.

SUSP10: The domain that the link is on has very negative Link Velocity Trend. This domain is maybe part of an Expired Domain link network or a domain that the public has lost interest in.

SUSP11: These links are usually sitewide links in the footer of each page. This is typical of web design/web development agencies where they put links in the footers of their client’s sites. This worked well in the 1990s, but today it can raise a huge red flag with Google and wreck your traffic.

SUSP15:  These links are coming from pages that have a typical Web link directory footprint. These are usually used to increase link popularity or to sell premium links. These type of links were common practice for years, but is no longer recommended today.

SUSP17: This means that your link is on a page with a massive number of outgoing links. Usually, this is a ton of comment or pingback spam.

SUSP20: This an automatic evaluation and calculation of the risk score, based on a large number of data signals and user ratings. Links triggering the SUSP20 will rarely be able to get out of a Manual Action.

SUSP22: The link is on a page that appears to be part of a network. Often this will be a large set of directories or ‘news’ sites that get little or no traffic and do not rank for anything worthwhile. As well as being useless, they can make link profiles look very unnatural, increasing the possibility of a manual action.

SUSP24: Link Network – Domain has the same website footprints as other linking domains.

SUSP30: This is a link on a potentially spammy forum.

SUSP31: This means that your link placement is very unnatural. Links like this often cause Google Manual Actions for Unnatural Inbound Links and/or Google Penguin Penalties.

SUSP32: These are links that are strong but drastically lack trust. These links are ones often found in the gambling industry.

SUSP34: The link is on a domain that has a TLD that is often used by spammers. Typical examples are .xyz and .us

TOX1: This means that your link is on a page that is not in Google’s index.

TOX2: This means that the domain may contain malicious scripts, virus or malware.

TOX3: This is a known risky domain.

TAG+PTD0: In addition to whatever the main tag means the domain the link is on is super weak.

TOX10: The domain has a very negative Link Velocity.

UDYYYYMMDD:: This indicates that we have decided to undisavow a link that was previously disavowed. The date is also included. Please note that the date is always written YYYYMMDD. This is to avoid confusion when working with, for example, US and UK clients.

TAG+UV: The UV is added to a tag when we could not actually find a link present when we crawled it.

Do you need your Google Penalty Fixed? Get a Link Audit today.