This post will guide you thoroughly about every aspect related to the Google penalty on your website due to bad inbound links. You will also come to know How to disavow links that are known as bad or toxic. It will help you gain authority and SERPs ranking back for your site.
- A website needs a High Ranking in Search Engine Results for more Traffic!
- Rankings matter a lot on the SEO of the site.
- SEO is powerful only depending on its Quality Backlinks.
- Hence, we can identify the truth that Backlinks relate to the Search Engine Ranks of their linked website. So any change in their Quality or Numbers will straight reflect in the overall traffic of its Website.
- Did you recently see a drop in your website Search Engine Rankings?
- Did you receive any Mail from Google about it? Or, it could be regarding Manual Unnatural Link Warning through the Google Search Console.
- Alas! It indicates your website has been penalized by Google for unusual activity!
- Are you confused about what to do in this case?
- You will never be in confusion if you are aware of the know-how behind it! Let us understand the underlying basics before knowing how to deal with or avoid any Search Engine Penalty.
An Outlook on the Backlinks for SEO
In this blogpost
When any other site uses your website’s URL to create a link to its platform to your website, it is known as a Backlink. You can also identify it as ‘authority’, ‘traffic juice’, or ‘vote of confidence’ to your content or website.
Backlinks are vital for any Website since Search Engines like Google uses them to decide the value of a site for its target audiences. So if your website has lots of Good Backlinks, Google will sure keep it on the results of their related topic searchers on the top or with a higher ranking on the SERPs. Notice the term ‘Good’ in the previous sentence. It indicates not all Backlinks are valuable for the benefit of the website.
Hence, Link building (regularly obtaining or earning backlinks) of a website is always good and helpful to improve its off-site SEO. However, you should be very careful in this process since any Bad link to your website might seem spam to Google, enough to demote it!
Best Backlink (manually built) – Any link that is coming from a high authority website pointing towards your website content. It is so powerful that even if it is No-follow, it will surely deliver some juice to your website and contribute to increasing its ranking.
Toxic Backlink (Mostly Bot made) – Any inbound link to your website present on a spammy or low authority website. If it is there, anytime your website will get a penalty from search engines, or your URL will lose the rank.
The Quality (as per the Guidelines) of a backlink can affect Google’s opinion of a website or its page.
How does a Backlink become Toxic?
If we consider the Search Engines point of view, then the toxicity of a backlink will increase due to the following factors;
a) Page Layout – The linking page URL is of poor quality if the amount of visible text than HTML is less.
b) Mirrored Pages – If search engine bots find the same anchor text is used on multiple platforms to link to your site using similar pages.
c) Low Domain Trust Score – It is a Domain authority score calculated as per the number of backlinks from trusted websites to the URL offering the backlink. If Google finds the domain score of the website is artificially inflated, it will sure de-rank it.
It’s time to come back to our main topic i.e. ‘how to disavow links’, but before that, let us know the Penalty that Search Engines like Google generally impose on websites.
A Brief Glimpse on Google Penalty
Back in 2012, Google release its Penguin Algorithm for trust and transparency of its Search Rankings. Penguin has made it essential for every site owner to check all kinds of backlinks related to it to ensure the success of their SEO efforts.
Penguin is a revolutionary approach of Google. It aims to check and de-rank the websites those are using link spam to boost their rankings artificially. Google straight hate sites that attempt to manipulate its SERPs.
So Google started giving penalties to websites having ‘unnatural links’ created manually or using bots. Generally, methods used to build Unnatural links are against Google’s quality guidelines.
a) If your website is having backlinks that you have sold or purchased, you need to use the ‘NoFollow’ attribute on them. It is to avoid the consequences of the unnatural link-building method by Google.
b) Similarly, if you are using any link-swapping schemes to gain traffic to your website, it also comes under an unnatural way of link building. The smart bots of Google can better understand whether a backlink is the result of an inorganic swapping or not with another site to enhance one other’s link profile.
c) Google also does not like ‘exact-match anchor text’. It applies if your backlinks are on a single phrase or keyword everywhere or the most platforms. There is no mix of either of your brand name or any other term related to the business purpose.
After Penguin 4.0 becomes part of the Google core algorithm, one or two bad links do not affect the SEO of a website. So if your domain consists few bad links pointing to it, you can balance it by building good inbound links on relevant and high-quality websites.
What should you know about Google Penalty?
A penalty can not only harm your website rankings but sometimes can deindex the site from its database.
A website usually gets a penalty in two ways:
- Penguin – When such an algorithm finds toxic links on the link profile of a website, it will penalize that site without any human intervention. In this case, you can’t do anything other than improve the overall link profile of your website.
- Manual – There is a dedicated Spam team of humans in Google whose job is to check for the toxic backlinks and manually penalize such a site. A manual link review or penalty happen either after;
a) Google’s spam team is actively monitoring a niche to which your website belongs.
b) Any algorithmic act from the Penguin bots.
c) Any competitor reports spam.
Google can reconsider Manual penalties if you have treated your penalized site using “Disavow”!
You can go to the ‘Google Search Console’ -> ‘Security and Manual actions’ -> ‘Manual actions’ to confirm the manual penalties on your website! If there are any, its description, link to know more, and a button for requesting to review will appear here.
What do you mean by the term Disavow?
Disavow is to filter out or disqualify any incoming link to your website and inform Google that such link is of no use to you. Hence, one can avoid penalties to a website due to any unknown bad, toxic, or spam link. In SEO terms, Disavow is to remove or discard harmful links aiming at your website.
If you want to know, how do you disavow a link in short, then
You might be observing a fall in your site ranking and consider it is due to the low-quality links that are not in your control. In this case, you can take the help of Google. You can ask Google not to consider bad backlinks while its bots are accessing your website for ranking purposes. Hence, you will direct Google using its Disavow Tool to reject such unwanted backlinks!
Disavow Tool: Why and when it is Necessary?
You should ask Google to discard harmful links of your site from its consideration because of the below three reasons;
To Discard Toxic Backlinks from the link profile of your Website
Toxic backlink is the name given to the high Spam Score links pointing to your website. Spam Score is a measure to determine the number of dead or low-quality links a site is hosting. So, you need to ask Google to disallow a backlink if its Spam Score goes above 2.
To recover a site from an Algorithmic Penalty
There might be occasions when you will see traffic drop on your website. It might be due to the toxic backlinks since an algorithmic change can take your domain down in SERPs. In this case, Disavow tool could help you recover from it and gain your previous website search engine rankings back.
To recover your website from a Manual Penalty
Google rankings matter the most for every website to gain organic traffic and lead ahead of the underlying competition. It might be possible that your site will get a manual penalty. So to deal with it your first step should be to take the help of Google’s Disavow tool.
In the next section, we will know the process to uncover Bad/Toxic backlinks to your website. Before that, you should also identify what all links are technically ‘Good’ for Search Engines for better SERPs rankings of a website!
How does Google decide about a Natural/Good Link?
When a Google bot checks a URL, it will look out all the linking domains/pages and the overall quality of the link profile (every link pointed to the page). A quality link profile is ‘Natural’ if it will possess the following;
i) Natural Link Velocity – The speed of a page link building is known as Link velocity. A web page generally builds backlinks evenly and slowly with time naturally. So refrain from creating too many links in less time. This rule does not apply to viral web pages or ones having high traffic. So, a balance between these two criteria is a must to maintain the link profile quality.
ii) Diverse Domains – A high amount of backlinks from lesser domains seem unnatural to Google. So, a natural link profile must be having only a few links from every domain. It does not include Web 2.0 websites like WordPress, Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook.
iii) Diverse Anchor Text – Your link profile will be unnatural if most or all of the backlinks include anchor text based on a single keyword. A good link profile contains many varieties of keywords, generic words (like this, here), and branded terms.
How to Find the Bad Backlinks of a Website?
If there are good links, then there are bad backlinks that can affect the traffic and rankings of a website! As per PageRank, Google is considering links in its algorithm. So the site managers need to force or throw out the detrimental links. Here is the stepwise procedure;
Step 1: Making your Site Eligible to Find its Toxic Links
Register and verify your website (both non-www and www versions) with Google Search Console if you have not done it earlier.
Note: GSC (Google Search Console) will notify you about the penalty. They will also give you the chance to recover your website if the penalty is issued manually.
Step 2: Discovering all the Backlinks to the Website
Use the GSC tool to search for the bad backlinks! On its page, tap on your website name. Next, tap on the ‘Search Traffic’ available on the dashboard, and click on ‘Links to your site’. You will see a list of ‘Who links the most’. Click on the ‘more link’ to show the full list. Further, you can tap on ‘Download more sample links’.
Note: After this step, you will get a file with a list of all the pages linking to your website. Your next step is to audit the URLs one by one to check their qualities.
Step 3: Evaluating the Quality of Links
There are three criteria using which you can audit a link from your downloaded backlinks list one by one to test its quality;
a) Anchor Text – Check if the anchor text used for the link is related to the topic of not only the linking site’s content but also your page as well. Google hates a backlink with random anchor text dropped into unrelated page content.
b) Linking Domain Quality – You need to figure out whether the domain of that backlink is a legitimate website. It should not seem to be a shady directory, nor a content farm serving affiliate and ads links. If you see the page with affiliate links and ads then there is a higher possibility that such domain is not legitimate. So judge about that linking URL to your website accordingly!
c) Linking Page Relevance – Do not forget to check whether the domain and page are related to the topic of your website page or not. You can check out the web pages that are hosting backlinks to other websites, this indicates reciprocal link schemes.
Step 4: How to Manually Analyze the Bad/Toxic Backlinks?
You can use the following tricks to check and decide whether and what type of backlinks you should disavow;
1) Check for the hidden backlinks. You can identify these links with their anchor text specified with “ “ much spaces or “white” text.
2) Pay attention to the links that are high in numbers having unrelated anchor texts. They might also be in Foreign languages or links from nonrelated firms. Their Domain authority scores are lower.
3) You must check if your website has backlinks from a site having a high spam score. 0/17 is the safest & lowest score and the highest is 17/17. You can ask Google to Disavow all the backlinks with the above 5/17 scores.
Step 5: Filtering out the Toxic Links
After going through the link profile of your website;
1) Backlinks that are made very quickly.
2) Backlinks having similar anchor-text or based on a single keyword.
3) Backlinks from low-quality or/and off-topic websites.
If you will find any one or more of the above conditions, this means you need to disavow these bad links!
Note: In this highly competitive scenario it might be possible that your website has got a penalty because of any negative SEO attack. Yes, it is possible! One can use the black hat SEO techniques to intentionally create bad backlinks to some other’s site. In this case, as well, you will need to find and remove the spammed web pages/URLs or disavow the offending backlinks.
How do I Disavow Links in Less Time?
If you do not have time to go through each of the above steps manually, you can use SEO audit tools like WooRank or SEMRush to Disavow Links in lesser time. They can crawl your website and evaluate each link. Further, they assign a score to the link profile of the website and its every link. By referring to these results, you can easily and quickly choose the backlinks that you need to disavow. This method is highly suitable for websites (many months or years older) having a huge number of backlinks.
Note: You might get some inbound toxic links to your site already using ‘NoFollow’ tags. In this case, you can ignore them since they are automatically ignored by the search engine bots when accessed. It applies to both, whole pages or links using ‘NoFollow’.
Most sponsored or advertised links are marked as ‘NoFollow’ to help search engine bots not read them as recommendations. So ‘NoFollow’ tags help you better control the backlinks pointing to your website and spammers can’t target you with ease. Google also does not like any site to have paid links to it. In this case, ‘NoFollow’ attributes are to inform search engines that you have trusty organic links.
How to Disavow Bad Links?
Other than Google, there are many Disavow tools available to find out and choose the domains or backlinks to Disavow. However, not all of them automatically Disavow links from Google as well. In this case, you can download the Disavow rules file from them. Next, upload it to the Disavow section available in the Search Engine Console of Google or any other search engine.
There might be the facility for you to add comments for your references on any link or domain in such a file that Google will not read/understand. You need to regularly monitor the backlinks related to your website, check their Spam Score, and take action to remove the Toxic ones.
Many factors are there to consider to select the right backlinks to disavow;
1) Remove Dodged websites (Pornographic, Offensive, etc.)
2) Never allow poor or bad quality directory links.
3) Choose the links having high spam scores to Disavow.
4) The anchor text should be diverse without over-optimization.
5) Do not Allow Backlinks that are irrelevant to your business.
How to Disavow Toxic Links?
You could follow these steps to remove bad inbound links to your website;
a) Request for Manual Removal
The best step to remove any bad or unwanted linking websites is to contact their owners to delete them manually. You need to do it, especially if you have got a manual Google penalty. After a manual attempt, whatever links treatments are left, you can submit their list as ‘Reconsideration request’ to Google.
Note: Google usually denies the reconsideration request of the submitted links to disavow if no manual attempt tried on it before. In case the website owner neglects or rejects your request to remove the offending links, the only option left is to disavow such backlinks.
b) Prepare a Disavow File
After having the list of unwanted links either manually or via an SEO audit Tool in a File, you need to upload that disavow file to Google. These are simply plain text (.txt) but are encoded in 7-bit ASCII or UTF-8. Only one URL per line should be there for disavowed requests in the file. You can put a # (hash) symbol to include notes or comments for your reference on such file and Google will ignore it. If you want Google to completely ignore all or any links from any Domain (For eg: www.abc.com), you need to give ‘domain:’ line instruction (Domain:abc.com.). Use this code only if you do not want any link juice from that domain.
c) Upload the Disavow File
Go to the Google Disavow tool and upload the completed disavow file to it. You can also submit it to another search engine of your choice if you want to ask them not to follow the bad links mentioned in your file.
What to Do Post Disavowing the Backlink?
After accepting the Disavowing request, search engines put an invisible tag of ‘NoFollow’ to all the submitted links. Hence, they will not consider any of these backlinks whenever their bots evaluate the website next time, to decide its search rankings. If you check the Google Search Console, you will see such links pointing to your website like before, but they can’t affect your site.
Finally, you are all set to submit a ‘Reconsideration Request’ to Google about your website if you have got a manual link penalty. In this, make sure you have considered all the manually removed and/or disavowed links for submission.
Next, you will need to wait for the answer to your reconsideration request from Google for a few weeks. The total time it takes for Google to recover the penalty depends on leftover quality backlinks and the kind of penalty imposed. At least, after Disavowing or removing bad/toxic backlinks can help your website gain its authority and SERP rankings.
The job is not over till now! After all, it is an ongoing task! You need to regularly check for harmful backlinks to your site if you do not want to lose your SEO and Search engine rankings in future.
You never want your website to be the victim of any penalty or degrade in SEO due to some external source. Disavow features of the Search Engines like Google and Binge can be of much help. You need to keep analyzing your website backlinks, collect the Bad/Toxic ones, and submit them to the search engines to Disavow/Disallow! It is a necessary approach if you want to make a good impression of your site every time in front of Google and get rewards for your website.
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Last Updated in March 2022 by Lukasz Zelezny