What is the Process for Disavowing Toxic Backlinks as An SEO Specialist?

    How do you approach the process of disavowing toxic backlinks, and can you give an example?

    In the intricate world of SEO, disavowing toxic backlinks is a critical task, so we've gathered insights from top industry professionals, including a digital marketing manager and a Director of SEO. Starting with implementing a multi-step disavowal process to questioning the very need to disavow, here are the four key strategies they recommend for handling harmful links.

    • Implement a Multi-Step Disavowal Process
    • Review and Disavow with SEMrush and Moz
    • Exercise Caution with Google's Disavow Tool
    • Question the Need to Disavow Backlinks

    Implement a Multi-Step Disavowal Process

    I approach disavowing toxic backlinks with a multi-step approach: Use tools like SEMrush, Ahrefs, or Moz to identify low domain authority, spammy content, or unnatural linking patterns. Prioritize high-risk backlinks, such as penalized websites or manipulative anchor text, and consider the source. Attempt link removal by contacting website owners and using Google's disavow tool. Create a disavow file following Google's guidelines, cautiously rejecting only toxic links. Keep an eye on backlink profiles and SEO metrics.

    Imagine you have an e-commerce website. You discover a backlink from a website promoting counterfeit luxury goods. This link is toxic because it's irrelevant and potentially malicious. You would:

    1. Identify the link as toxic through a backlink analysis tool or manual review.

    2. Prioritize it for disavowal due to its high risk.

    3. Attempt to remove the link by contacting the website owner.

    4. If removal fails, add the link to a disavow file, specifying the URL.

    Fahad Khan
    Fahad KhanDigital Marketing Manager, Ubuy India

    Review and Disavow with SEMrush and Moz

    I regularly conduct a backlink profile check every two months using both SEMrush and Moz. With SEMrush, I meticulously review links flagged as toxic or potentially harmful, disavowing those originating from link farms, displaying spammy traits, or resulting in 404 errors. Similarly, within Moz, I methodically assess each link and disavow those surpassing a spam score of 45%.

    Mei Ping Mak
    Mei Ping MakDirector of SEO and Web, Weave Asia

    Exercise Caution with Google's Disavow Tool

    Use caution when using Google's Disavow Tool to remove harmful backlinks. First, use third-party SEO tools or Google Search Console to identify any malicious links. Make a text file with a list of these links, then use the Disavow Tool to submit it.

    In the event that a website has spammy links from dubious sources, such as "buycheaplinks.com," you would add "domain:buycheaplinks.com" to the disavow file. It's important to note that accuracy is crucial; only disavow links that actually endanger the credibility of your website.

    To maintain a healthy link profile, keep an eye on backlinks and update the disavow file as necessary.

    Ella Miller
    Ella MillerPediatrician, CEO, Founder, CoalaHola

    Question the Need to Disavow Backlinks

    This might be controversial, but I think disavowing backlinks is overrated and a waste of time nine times out of ten.

    If you accept the idea that a backlink can have a significantly negative impact on your website because it's spam or from a bad source, you also must accept that “negative SEO” is a real and viable SEO strategy in 2024 and beyond.

    By negative SEO, I mean buying spam and toxic backlinks and pointing them at your competitors' websites.

    This is unethical and against Google's guidelines, but I believe Google can only negate it by applying only positive SEO signals from backlinks and no negatives.

    So, if you have a spam backlink, it's obviously not going to affect your site positively, but it also won't affect it negatively‌; therefore, it's not worth disavowing. Otherwise, Google would be incentivizing not just “black hat” techniques, but truly unethical SEO strategies, which are a thing of the past. It would be too risky for Google to implement any kind of negative SEO link algorithm from a legal perspective.

    Samuel Hodgson
    Samuel HodgsonPensions Expert, SIPP Advice