Disavowing Links, Is It Worth The Risk?

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Is Disavowing Backlinks Worth It?

Hello and welcome back to the Search Engine Optimization Podcast with Tim Jennings, your go-to source for all things SEO! As the Head of SEO at Soulheart for almost a decade, Tim has been the driving force behind countless businesses and nonprofits achieving their goals using organic traffic from search engines like Google. 

In the podcast episode “Disavowing Links, Is It Worth The Risk?” we talk about a widely debated topic in the SEO community. Let’s dive in!

What to Listen For

Episode Transcript

Podcast episode on disavowing links

Hello and welcome to the Search Engine Optimization Tips and Tricks podcast with Tim Jennings. I’m your host, Tim and I’ve been the head of SEO at Soulheart for going on 10 years now. Today, I want to talk about a subject that is HIGHLY debated in the SEO community. And to be completely honest, over my time in SEO, I have done a 180  degree change and have completely changed how I think about it. I want to talk to you about disavowing links that may come across as “toxic” or spammy. 

Understanding the Disavow Tool

To understand disavowing links, you must first understand why the disavow tool exists. One of Google’s downfalls in their algorithm is its inability to truly recognize trust and authority. And without knowing that, they run the danger of ranking websites with bad content. One way to combat that is to put value in the links that a website gets from another website, also known as Backlinks. The thinking is the more backlinks a website has, the more trustworthy and authoritative it must be. After all, why would one site link to another if it wasn’t good?

The flaw in that plan is it became very easy to manipulate the algorithm by paying for a bunch of links and/or creating private blog networks also known as PBNs which are a bunch of blog websites linking to the website. 

Google’s way of combating that was to introduce the Penguin update to their algorithm. The Penguin update first started on April 24, 2012, and focused on backlinks, reducing the number of sites with lots of low-quality backlinks and keyword-stuffed pages from ranking well. The standards introduced by these two updates are responsible for the majority of penalties issued today. 

Why the Disavow Tool Exists

After Penguin, if Google thought you were trying to game the system by purchasing or getting links for the sole purpose of ranking higher in searches then they will issue a manual penalty and your website will fall out of the search results. Unfortunately, this also leads to many SEOs creating bad links and using them to link to a competitor’s website. 

So 6 months later, on October 16, 2012, Google offered website owners a way to fix their problems and recover their websites. That’s where the disavow tool comes in. Website owners could inspect their backlinks and if any looked spammy or toxic, they could disavow them- essentially telling Google to ignore the link. 

Here’s the problem: the disavow tool is now almost 12 years old. In that time, Google’s algorithm has grown exponentially. It’s much more advanced than it was in 2012. Google can, and will, ignore spammy links even without the tool. Therefore, by disavowing a link, you might actually be doing more harm than good. Disavowing a link that Google finds valuable can be detrimental to your website’s ranking. 

What is the Latest With the Tool?

And now for the latest on the Disavowing Links Topic. In a recent post on Reddit, Google’s John Mueller said that disavowing toxic links won’t get your results back. But here’s the problem, Google is known for putting out conflicting information. John is especially known for his double-talk. It’s so bad that many SEOs will say to do the opposite of what Mr. Mueller says!

Here’s the thing, Google isn’t shy about discontinuing or changing its service/products. However, the disavow tool still exists. If it were completely useless then I personally believe it would have been discontinued a while ago. 

Should You Disavow Spammy Links?

To disavow links or not to disavow links, that is the question. Here’s how I handle all spammy and toxic links for Soulheart and our clients: I always suggest ignoring all warnings from your third party tools like SEMRUSH unless you get a manual penalty. Because Google’s algorithm is more advanced, I really believe they do ignore suspicious links automatically. And because using the disavow tool is much more likely to harm your site than help it out, I wouldn’t risk it. The only time I suggest disavowing a link is when it is obviously spam. The most common links that I disavow come from websites with pornography. None of the websites Soulheart works with would ever find a link from a pornography website relevant or valuable so they can automatically be disavowed. 

Questions about Disavowing Backlinks?

If you have questions about whether or not to disavow your backlinks or to get even more content that I don’t share anywhere else, then you have to check out Soulheart Circle! Soulheart Circle is our version of a marketing university. Take my course on SEO and use my exact techniques to dominate the search results. Come to my monthly live Q&A webinars and ask your specific SEO questions. And the best part is it’s not all about SEO! You can also take our course on digital ads from our Meta and Google certified ad experts, get innovative marketing ideas from our founder, Joshua Brown, daily marketing tips, and so much more! 

If you want to interact with our team and learn EXAY how we get results, sign up for Soulheart Circle today! And as a podcast listener, you get 50% off for a limited time! If you want my podcast listener discount then email me at tim@soulheart.co and use the subject line SC50 and I’ll send over the link. Until then, check out soulheartcircle.co and don’t disavow links unless you have a penalty or they are obviously spam. Have a great day everyone

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Picture of Timothy Jennings

Timothy Jennings

Tim is Soulheart's resident SEO expert as well as our Chief Happiness Officer. He has been doing Search Engine Optimization for almost a decade. He loves the competition aspect of SEO and is always staying on top of the latest trends. He's passionate about helping organizations grow by improving their chances of being found by their target audience.
Picture of Timothy Jennings
Post by

Timothy Jennings

Tim is Soulheart's resident SEO expert as well as our Chief Happiness Officer. He has been doing Search Engine Optimization for almost a decade. He loves the competition aspect of SEO and is always staying on top of the latest trends. He's passionate about helping organizations grow by improving their chances of being found by their target audience.

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