Google SEO & Search Engine Marketing Services

Google Disavow Tool: 10 Insights from 4 months of Testing

We have been testing the disavow tool for nearly 4 months, we have always been an advocate of it after achieving some quick wins immediately after it was launched. However, after months of testing we have found out a lot more about how the tool works, what kind of results are possible and what risks are involved.

In the last year we have worked with over 20 sites to diagnose and remedy link penalties, out of all the sites we have worked with there are only a couple we have not yet managed to lift a penalty for, and we expect these to recover very soon.

Working with these sites has given us some solid insight into the disavow tool and link penalties, I posted on some of these back in October last year, the post did pretty well generating over 100 comments, plus around 50 follow up emails! Because of the interest in link penalties and particularly the disavow tool, I thought it would be helpful to post a follow up, addressing some of the issues people are having with the process of recovery.

So below are my 10 insights, I’ve tried to address most of the questions I have been asked since my last post, however I’m sure there will be more so please leave them in the comments.

Being Honest About Your Links!

So many people have approached me over the past few months, unable to understand why their penalties have not been revoked. It only takes 2 mins in OSE to see links that haven’t been removed/disavowed, when I ask why the site owner will often use the following excuses:

“That’s a high PR site”

“I rank OK for that keyword”

“The site is very relevant”

The fact is if your link is not editorial then its advertising, and as much as we may love a link, if it’s advertising Google doesn’t want to count it. If you have had the unnatural links message, then it means Google knows about your bad links. There is no point making excuses for obvious bought or manipulated links, just get them down, the chances are they aren’t helping you anyway.

If you got the message and have since been hit, be absolutely brutal with your disavows/removals.

Refresh Your Data

If you have been doing ‘SEO’ type link building for the last few years then you have a lot of work to do, there will be a lot of links that you won’t find in WMT, OSE or Majestic (Despite what Google say). This means you will have to refresh your data each month, adding new links to the disavow tool and/or removing them. You may have to run through a refresh/disavow/recon request 5 or 6 times before you have cleaned up enough links, but you will get there.

Anchor Text

If you have been struggling to get a penalty revoked and there are obvious keywords you no longer rank for, remove or disavow every single link with that anchor text, it will not be helping you. Who links with commercial anchor text anyway?

Timescales

Typically you will get a response after a reconsideration within 2 weeks, if you are successful and have a penalty revoked you may have up to 4 weeks to wait before any rankings come back. However, I have noticed things are taking a little longer than they did last year, I am guessing this is due to an increase in reconsideration requests.

Link Profile Valuation

When you submit a reconsideration request after submitting a disavow file, Google will almost immediately crawl all your links according to any removals and disavows you have made, totally re-evaluating your link profile and making a decision as to whether you have done enough to recover. You can see this clearly if you check your crawl stats in WMT:

Recon Request Spikes

This follows suit with every reconsideration request we have ever worked on.

A Word of Warning

If you haven’t had an unnatural links message, you need to be very careful when using the disavow and reconsideration process. If you haven’t had the warning it likely means Google haven’t found your bad links and are still counting them, disavowing and sending in a reconsideration request will cause a full valuation of your profile and you may have added links that still count into the disavow tool.

Of course you will need to remove all bad links eventually, but maybe replace them first.

Negative Signals

There seems to be a genuine fear of using this tool around the SEO community, however if you have had the unnatural links message you really shouldn’t worry, I have yet to see even one negative consequence when using the tool to remedy an unnatural links message. Likewise, I have yet to see any negative results through the submission of multiple reconsideration requests. If you have had a manual penalty you simply need to go through with this process, don’t worry about another penalty hitting through being transparent.

Site wide Links

We have found consistently that the removal of site wide links along with a thorough disavow file works really well, especially if the site wide links have commercial anchor text.

Reconsideration Requests

Even though I would still recommend sending in a detailed reconsideration, I am 95% sure Google are not reading them, or delving into any Google docs sent. However, I would continue to write a good reconsideration request and send all data, just to show willing.

Start Again?

I know there have been various posts published over the last month or so suggesting there is a time to just give up and start again, and even though I understand the frustration in dealing with these penalties, I’ve yet to come across a hopeless case. We have had sites where we have had to remove over 5000 linking domains and still managed to secure a positive result.

I really believe recovering from this penalty is a numbers game, and unless you have enough links removed or disavowed you’re not going to recover. It’s almost like Google have a blacklist of domains, you’re profile is run against this list and unless you tip the threshold, you simply fail the reconsideration request.

Keep refreshing your link data, keep your disavow file updated and don’t be afraid to submit multiple reconsideration requests, you will get there.

We really have learnt a lot over the past 4 months, and I really can’t take any credit, we have a fantastic team at Branded3, collecting data and optimising the recovery process. In my opinion they are the best in the business when it comes to penalty diagnosis and recovery. Hopefully they will get involved in any questions in the comments.

I’ll be down at Brighton SEO running the penalty recovery workshop, hopefully I will see some of you there.

Line Break

Author: Tim (296 Articles)

is the owner and editor of SEO wizz and has been involved in the search engine marketing industry for over 9 years. He has worked with multiple businesses across many verticals, creating and implementing search marketing strategies for companies in the UK, US and across Europe. Tim is also the Director of Search at Branded3, a Digital Marketing & SEO Agency based in the UK.

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{ 64 comments… read them below or add one }

Matt Morgan January 14, 2013 at 8:54 pm

Tim, very timely. I have a client begging me to help with their penalty. The other SEO company has been unsuccessful after 3 reconsideration requests. My question, before I analyze the damage, is in regards to the crawl status of the pages that the links have been removed from. Lets say our team removes hundreds of links, do we have to wait until Google recrawls each and every one of those pages before they will acknowledge that the links have been removed? Or is that what the Disavow tool is used for?

Thanks in advance

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Rank Watch January 15, 2013 at 5:26 am

Basically yes. If that has been, as i too had seen a few cases in recent times, removing all the bad links, starting from scratch again (as illustrated above in the last tag) is the most viable action, as far as i have seen the Disavow tool working until now.

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Ricky Shah January 14, 2013 at 9:46 pm

Even, I did manage to recover few of my client’s website through this. One of the client has worst ever possible backlink profile. Most of the backlinks were from directory, low quality article directories and web 2.0 sites. They followed the same tactic for almost 3.0 years. They didn’t get unnatural link warning, but submitting for diasvow helped them a bit (20% increase). It is an on-going process, and probably will take a longer time for them to recover since getting link removed from directory is next to impossible task.

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Brandon Hassler January 14, 2013 at 10:26 pm

Great article Tim. There is so little research about the Disavow tool out there right now. This article is a step in the right direction. I’m still convinced the Disavow Tool does nothing for your site, however. I’ve yet to see any concrete evidence on it.

Having said that, this article provided some awesome insight! What makes you think that 95% of reconsideration’s aren’t reviewed by a real person? (Not that I disagree with you on that)

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Phil January 15, 2013 at 2:11 am

If you use a tracked link to a GoogleDoc (with all the links in) on the actual reconsideration email then you can see if someone actually opens the link.
This being said if the outcome comes back that no one has it may be a case that Google has looked as they will probably have access to the data without clicking the link, right?

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Tim January 15, 2013 at 2:30 am

thanks for getting involved guys.

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Emma January 15, 2013 at 2:25 am

Brandon, I’ve worked alongside Tim when doing some of these recon requests – there are 2 kinds of messages you can get back from Google. 95% of the time we’ve gotten the same automated message which is something along the lines of “You still have bad links, try harder!” or “Well done you win” and the other 5% is a real message written by a person that says “OK, your link profile is getting better, but here are some examples of bad links” – if you can’t get past the automated message, you’ll probably fail your recon.

Hope that helps!

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Jonny Platt January 15, 2013 at 1:39 am

Good post – thanks for keeping us up with whats happening at the coalface. Its easy not to be honest about your links when you disagree with Google’s stance :) I’m interested that you say not to bother if you haven’t had a links message – what if you never got an unnatural links message but still got caught by Penguin? This seems to be a common occurence.

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Fergus Clawson January 15, 2013 at 2:34 am

Hi Tim, great post, out of the 20 sites, how many of them recovered their rankings (or back to their pre-penalty traffic levels)? If you remove link juice then this will have an effect on rankings. I suppose a way to counteract this is to build links whilst you remove the bad links – the gamble re this approach is if the penalty stays then you’re building links for no reason, a waste of time and resource – A few client sites we inherited had truly wretched backlinks profiles, after months of removing countless links and submitting numerous reconsideration requests we had no luck, we’re talking 1000s of links on the worst domains imaginable, eventually had to admit defeat and go for a new domain, to be fair this has worked well. We have had some success removing penalties within less competitive SERPS, within tougher verticals such as igaming it’s a different ball game.

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Tim January 15, 2013 at 2:48 am

Hi Fergus,

Most of the sites saw ranking improvements, however, they all had good links amongst the bad ones, so it was a case of being held back rather than a devaluation of the link profile. I think if all your links are bad or the vast majority, then you can’t expect your pre penalty positions and we have had the odd site where rankings were lower after the action was revoked.

If you feel your link profile is devastated and you won’t get the rankings back, you could simply start again with a new domain and dodge the ongoing disavow/removal recon process, however that would have to be a business decision, you may have to consider your current brand position etc…

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Dev Basu January 15, 2013 at 10:37 pm

It’s always tough when you have to scrap a site and start over. It’s a hard decision but sometimes a client has gone through multiple SEO’s and have just built up a history of bad Karma with Google. Typically if there’s no improvement after 3-4 rounds of reconsideration or disavow requests this might be a good option.

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Florian February 6, 2013 at 8:38 pm

There is no bad Karma with Google, everyone has an equal chance to recover, even the worst spammer. If they see significant effort to remove the majority of bad links or at least disavow them where deletion is tough to impossible, you will get this “manual action revoked” message sooner or later. We have had quite a few successful reconsiderations for new clients in the last months and for one of them it took 8 rounds.

If 3-4 rounds show no improvements, try the following:

- Try to get more data sources. Ask your client for any kind of submission reports, link lists, receipts, etc. again. One time we thought all bad links were gone until the client suddenly handed us another list of 120 already de-indexed blogs from some formerly popular network. Only half of them were on our disavow list.

- No mercy for links your client maybe paid a lot of money for. Often you see a link, the site looks great, metrics look great, but it takes you three seconds to identify it as paid. Don’t stick with expensive paid links just because it was a powerful link before the penalty, now it’s just a bad apple.

- Try to evaluate the links like a manual reviewer from Google would. No “this will hopefully slip though undetected”. I’d even delete definitely natural links if they look paid, because Google can only judge what they see. Like Tim said, purely commercial anchor in a blog post for example looks almost always fishy to some extend.

Starting over is can be a smart decision if you have a small affiliate site with super spammy link profile that can be easily switched to a new domain, but for most businesses it’s not an option to abandon their domain/brand.

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Fergus Clawson January 15, 2013 at 5:51 am

Hi Tim, agreed re brand, some businesses can’t or won’t change their URL, also if they have deep pockets they can afford the clean up process, also Google will most likely lift the penalty if it’s a ‘big brand’ – we’ll discuss this more at ionSearch :-)

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Sha Menz January 16, 2013 at 8:03 pm

We certainly will Fergus!
See you in April :)

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Alan Ng January 15, 2013 at 6:44 am

Hi Fergus,

We have seen a fair number of ‘Big Brands’ that have been penalised and I i don’t think it’s an easy case that Google will just lift penalties for them. I think Google is sending a clear message. But Big brands are at a distinct advantage as they have the link equity to loose, and a significant Brand weight advantage.

Small sites are much more difficult to recover, due to the lower authority and in general the tactics used to gain rankings on a smaller budget.

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Fergus Clawson January 30, 2013 at 3:13 pm

Hi Alan

Thanks for your reply, agreed there is an advantage for ‘big brands’ due to their brand weight, influence and link equity. We have managed to lift a manual penalty for a ‘big brand’ which was for their own brand name and a few money terms, a bit of a strange one. We cleaned up the link footprint (a 5-6 month voyage), removed all legacy 301s (spammy domains redirected to the site) and sent a grovelling apology to the Web Spam Team. A few weeks later the brand keyword was back on page 1. In my view you have to gauge whether the fight is worth it (various factors at play here), on a per site basis, do you remove the links (is it possible to remove them?) or start again? That is the question…

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Per January 16, 2013 at 4:04 am

If you got hit by Penguin will this work? I have one site that didn’t receive the message, but when I sent a reconsideration request I got back the “site still violates…” message. It was hit on exact penguin date back in april (I think it was).

Read on another blog that this actually should work on penguin hit sites too.

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Tim January 16, 2013 at 6:36 am

If a site was hit by penguin I am guessing this tool will be just as effective, however you won’t recover until the next roll out of the algo.

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Zoe January 16, 2013 at 6:12 am

Hi Tim,

Really good post and it’s good to see so much honesty about RR process and disavow tool. I’ve been (un)fortunate enough to have quite a bit of first hand experience of it and I couldn’t work out if Google were using the disavow list to re-evaluate backlinks immediately or not. Your point about crawl rate suggests they are so that’s interesting.

For what it’s worth, I’m pretty sure most RR’s don’t get read by an actual person. I’ve done really in-depth supporting documents and got completely unhelpful automated responses, which is frustrating to say the least. It seems rare that a person replies. Maybe your link profile has to pass some sort of filter before someone will look at it manually? Anyway, plugging away at these things is definitely key and (apart from some pretty rare cases) I think sites are generally salvageable. Fair point about being honest and actually removing the links – the whole point is that your site has to pass a *manual* review, so if a link looks dodgy to you it has to go!

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Tim January 16, 2013 at 6:33 am

Hi Zoe,

I’m am pretty sure none are read (why don’t you try tracking the link to the google doc ;) ), I honestly believe the recon instigates an immediate re-evaluation, and judges where your profile currently stands against a blacklist of links. After checking the server logs after a recent reconsideration, it seemed as though I was being hit with a DDOS, requests for pages coming from everywhere. I’m convinced this is something Google are doing.

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Zoe January 17, 2013 at 6:57 am

Heheh, we did try and track the link – the only person who visited the supporting documents was me :(

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Fergus Clawson January 16, 2013 at 7:28 am

I forgot to mention if you do switch domains then my advice is repoint the good quality links (links you know are natural) from the old domain to the new one (I agree with Tim, go easy on the money term anchors), a much quicker and easier process, ‘good’ links tend to have friendly webmasters that run them. They will change the link for you. If you pay them for their time then the response rate is very high!

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Sha Menz January 16, 2013 at 8:18 pm

Hi Tim,
Glad to say I’ll be making it to Brighton SEO as well as ionSearch and would love to catch up with you. (It’s a long flight from Australia, but totally worth it)

Just one thing I would note on assuming there is no need to lodge a reconsideration request if no unnatural links warning has been received – this could be a dangerous mistake to make. Despite assurances from all the important people at Google that ~100% of people with penalties have been notified, it seems the ~ qualifier is key :(
I have personally spoken to almost 30 site owners who have never had any communication from Google regarding compliance, but had rankings and traffic decimated. In every case, when they decided on advice to lodge a reconsideration, the response was that a manual spam action had been applied to their site!

I worry how many others are out there completely unaware of their situation?

Sha

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Tim January 17, 2013 at 2:56 am

Hi Sha,

I don’t necessarily think you only disavow/submit if you’ve had the notification, I would just recommend being a little more cautious if you haven’t. Of course if your site is completely wiped out, then what have you got to lose. We have seen people use it without a notification, just because they’ve seen a few keywords drop. They submit the disavow, and see all there rankings die.

Sometimes it is a matter of penguin and link devaluation, in which you can still disavow, but focus on anchor text relating directly to the drops. Still lots of findings to come I think, just wish Google would be a little more helpful and at least clarify the key issues.

Yeah, will be at ionsearch and Brighton, drop me message on twitter, should both be great events.

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Per January 17, 2013 at 2:56 am

That’s my exact situation with one site. The question is what happends if that manual action gets revoked. It looks like panda, but can be manually revoked? Seems strange…

Anyway, I’m working on it now according to Tims suggestions.

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Per January 17, 2013 at 3:08 am

*looks like Penguin I mean.

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Alan Ng January 18, 2013 at 9:47 am

Hi Per,

I work with Tim, so hopefully can be of help. In general a manual penalty removal notice is no guarantee that there may not be algorithmic issues with the site. A manual penalty can be any number of things and is an indication that Google has singled out the site and there are definite issues that are counting negatively towards the site. In the cases of manual penalties you need to make a substantial effort to tell Google that whatever you have been doing bad in the past you have stopped.

If you get a manual spam action removed from a reconsideration request, that’s great but it would still be wise to keep the disavow updated for any bad links you see crop up as the site could very well be hit with an algorithmic penalty. Either way with Google now giving negative weight to links it would probably be a precaution for most webmasters to keep a much closer eye on who links to the site.

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Alan Ng January 18, 2013 at 2:48 am

Hey Per, a site in general can have multiple issues. Even if a site gets a manual penalty revokes message from Google does not mean that it can’t suffer from algorithmic penalties, a manual penalty from Google can be for numerous things.

Algorithmic penalties (if they are link related) can most definitely be helped by using the disavow. But if you get a message stating that you have unnatural links, just using the disavow file without any work on actually removing links will probably fail.

Google is not consistent with their messages, sometimes there are no messages, if you are noticing noticeable loss of traffic or keyword rankings then it’s time to dig in and try to find out why, using the SEOMoz algorithm timeline is a good way to try to point issues.

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Per January 21, 2013 at 6:18 am

Thanks for the answer Alan. I will continue to work with the site, removing links. In the last batch we disavowed like 90% of the links.

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Leon Caddick January 18, 2013 at 3:17 am

In April 2012 our website acotis.co.uk was delisted with the message ‘unnatural links’, on 15 January 2013 our new site acotisjewelleryco.uk (new domain name) received the same message.

Some history…

With regard to our original website we thought we had been saved by an SEO company, they were so confident it was un-true; I actually started to sleep again. They said they would be able to rectify the problems caused by our original SEO company.

Anyway, acotis never recovered after spending many thousands. So there next approach was to construct a new website with a new domain. Spending more thousands.

I’d like to know what to do next and who’s fault is it?

I was categorically blamed last time on the GWM forum, with people saying I should have known what they are doing being I was paying them.

Well let me ask you a question?

When you take your car to the garage to be fixed do you know exactly what they have done ? Part by part, and did they use any of those cheap Chinese parts (Chinese web farms), that’s what you paid for right ?

All I want to do is get in my car fixed and go to work, google you are killing me!

Where do I go from here?

Regards

Leon Caddick

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Alan Ng January 18, 2013 at 4:32 am

Hi Leon,

Sorry to hear about your site, I work with Tim and just out of interest, I had a really quick look at your profile and see a load of directory links which we know Google are having issues with e.g. http://podun.com/shopping/jewelry/?p=4 , http://askmomo.com/index.php?c=351&p=4 you need to focus on trying to remove these and at the very least getting these type of cheap easy links into the disavow.

Any links from cheap directories/article sites are a definite no no.

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Alan Ng January 18, 2013 at 9:48 am

Hi Leon,

An unnatural links warning is definitely something that should not be ignored. You are redirecting http://www.acotis.co.uk to the new site, as such the negative link equity has passed through to the new site.

I took a quick look at the profile and am not surprised that the site is suffering, there are loads of low quality links in the profile e.g http://directoryvault.com/Shopping/Jewelry/?p=18, http://www.freewebsitedirectory.org/Shopping/,http://plainstone.com/index.php?c=14&p=6

These are links that Google has explicitly stated as negative links and need to be removed and/or placed in the disavow.

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Branko January 18, 2013 at 5:16 am

Quick question, if Google will recrawl the backlinks you submitted in the disavow file, how can you see an uptick in crawling of your own site in WMT? Surely you did not submit your own site in disavow file, did you?

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Alan Ng January 22, 2013 at 2:24 am

Hi Branko,

I think what Tim is suggesting is that it is triggering a re-evaluation of the whole site, hence the site crawl, as Google is gathering the latest information.

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Dan January 20, 2013 at 9:09 am

Hi Alan,

A couple of months ago, I discovered Google Webmaster tools reported 828,000 links pointing to my site. Of this number, 794,000 were from a spam site. Also, there were about 30,000 other links from two other bad sites. I never received warnings of any kind from Google about these bad links.

I contacted these sites and asked them to remove their links to my site. Nothing happened, so I submitted these three sites to Google using the disavow tool. Now I see the number of bad links has fallen to below 250,000. I don’t know if this is a result of my direct requests to the offending sites or action following submission of the disavow tool.

Do you have any advice for me? Thank you.

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Alan Ng January 22, 2013 at 2:32 am

Hi Dan,

It would be hard to say without knowing the site, but from what you have said it definitely sounds suspicious, that is a huge number of links and the disavow tool is your best bet for this as well as contacting the site as you have done.

Google should be smart enough to not count these links anyway if they are made by a suspicious source. Suggest that you also add a comment in the disavow file using the # to document what you have seen. Then at least you can tell Google exactly what you have seen if anything bad should happen.

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Brian Smiley January 21, 2013 at 1:46 pm

I got hit with the Google Penguin on April 24th of 2012. All my keywords went from page 1 to page 20+. But I never got a message from google saying that I had unnatural links or anything.

But I know the reason is because I submitted my site to tons of blog networks which are now blacklisted by Google. I used the disavow tool for the first time yesterday. Do I also need to submit a recon request or is that unnecessary? Also, now that I used the disavow tool, would I only see a change in ranking after the next penguin/panda update?

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Alan Ng January 22, 2013 at 3:39 am

In general, suggest, do the work and show Google you’ve made amends to the site and tell Google EXACTLY what you think you’ve done wrong and what you’ve done to correct it, then submit a recon request detailing such.

Essentially Google wants to know why they can trust your site. Much better to document how you intend to improve and grow your site moving forward in the recon than a huge document on numbers of how many links you’ve removed etc. (although it still important to document).

It’s not easy, it’s a logistical nightmare and a lot of hard work, but it WILL be worth it!

If it’s Penguin then yes most likely you won’t see change until a refresh.

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Jon Snow June 21, 2013 at 10:15 am

Hi Alan, curious to know why you’re recommending him submit a RR when he was hit with an algorithmic penalty? It’s been explicit that submitting a RR is unnecessary unless manual action was taken against your site.

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Reuben January 24, 2013 at 8:56 am

Hi Tim

Part of your post says, “It only takes 2 mins in OSE to see links that haven’t been removed/disavowed”.

Does OSE show links that have been disavowed? Is there anyway of finding out if links have been or is it just a case of upload your list of links to be disavowed and hope/trust/cross your fingers that Google will disavow them for you?

I’m looking forward to your workshop in Brighton, I’ve got a lot of questions! Also is it an all day workshop? The website isn’t clear on the timings!

Thanks!

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Tim January 28, 2013 at 4:24 am

Hi Reuben,

No it doesn’t show the links you would need to cross reference them with the clients disavow file.

I think the workshop runs from 9.30 until 3pm, with an hour lunch.

See you there!

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Ken Berkley January 30, 2013 at 4:37 am

Really insightful post this thanks for sharing with very little research about the Disavow tool out there right now this has been helpful.

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Mark Jackson February 5, 2013 at 10:07 am

I’m a little confused though.

Wasn’t Panda and Penguin algorithmic updates rather than penalties ?

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Tim February 9, 2013 at 6:25 am

Yeah, panda and penguin will only recover once the algo re runs. If its penguin, you still need to remove, disavow the links.

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Jane MacArthur February 6, 2013 at 4:12 am

Yesterday I received the “unnatural links” warning in Google Webmaster Tools, and straight away my site dropped down to around page 5/6/7 for all keywords. This has really depressed me, as this is my main site which earns good money :( I didn’t sleep a wink last night. I would normally get between 200 – 300 unique visitors per day, now it’s nothing.

I’d appreciate any advice on what I can do. I noticed in the links section on GWT that it only had 61 links, where it used to be about 400. Could this mean that I haven’t been given a penalty, but just that Google has automatically removed about 350 links, and so I’ve lost all that “link juice”? Or would I have also been given a penalty as well?

I used an SEO company last year, who’s main strategy seemed to be getting backlinks from “high PR sites”. I’m still not sure if all these sites were their own network, or others, but it does look like most of these links have disappeared from GWT when I cross reference the reports they sent me.

When I look in Majestic SEO and OSE, there are a lot of dodgy looking ultra-spammy links as well – definitely not me, I would hope it wasn’t my SEO company, it could very well be a competitor spamming my site (very competitive niche, up against many sites based in Asia).

Can anyone offer advice on what I can try?
Thank you :)
Jane

Any advice really appreciated.

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alan ng February 9, 2013 at 8:15 am

Hi Jane, it’s never a good message to receive, but if you have received the message, it is a definite links issue. there is a bug in GWMT at the moment which means it is showing a substantially reduced link count… let’s just hope they sort it out soon or it will become very difficult to recover a site without as much info about the links as possible.

if you kept a report about where links where placed, does it also show anchor text, if so are they all exact match money keywords? these reports would probably be where you should start your clean up efforts.

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chris February 9, 2013 at 11:50 am

Hi Jane you are not the only one loosing sleep! i am two weeks into my own “bad links” situation. if its any help the information above looks really helpful to me. I have also looked a lot at Josh Bachynski on youtube. hope this helps. i do not pretend to have the answers as it is all new to me. Also two weeks in i am also sleeping again! good luck.

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harminder February 12, 2013 at 4:23 am

Hi Tim
We spoke a few weeks ago. We have disavowed almost all domains that ink to us, filed for reconsideration, saying just that and it’s been rejected – now twice. We do not see the pattern n WMT that your graph shows. What now, just refile again?

regards

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qlwik February 14, 2013 at 3:28 am

I’m also testing this tool in bed link profile page, until this time reconsideration didn’t help, we will see if using this tool will make any differences.

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Jill February 18, 2013 at 9:47 am

Interesting reading!
We have been running a successful website for eight years now and then suffered a Penguin issue last May – our traffic halved. All search terms dropped a little and our high ranking ones slipped several pages and we still haven’t recovered. We received no warning and some terms are still on page one, unfortunately these are fairly low traffic.
We had already contracted to update our website as it was tired and needed an overhaul. We launched the new site in Oct 2012. Same URL, did 301 redirects and we have a great deal more functionality than before. We were hoping that the old website structure may have been the cause of some of the problem as it was difficult to navigate in some places.
We have always concentrated on great content and literally had a handful of links from sites in the same industry. These tend to be on a list of suppliers with our company name as the anchor text. We also found that one or two sites had linked without our permission and these were site wide with hundreds of pages – we have Disavowed these recently. Could these have been the problem?
We asked a ‘reputable’ SEO company for advice and they advised us on our on page optimisation which was good advice but then set about building links which we did not agree to, felt were against the Google guidelines and we parted company after a few weeks.
I am now contacting the webmasters of all the link farm listings created last autumn and disavowing them if I get no response. I am guessing that this is the right thing to do although these links were obviously unrelated to Penguin as they didn’t exist then.
I have just attempted to contact Google asking about the apparent Penguin penalty just to get some advice as I am surprised that our few links which existed last May were seen as so toxic but I guess that as a % of the total they were high.

Should I also ask for all the links with our name as anchor text on these related industry website links to be removed? These were the only links in place last May which were in any way un-natural apart from the few unauthorised links with sitewide links which show as hundreds of links on the Webmaster tools report. After this I really don’t know what to do.
Sorry about the long post, any advice gratefully received.

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Tim February 19, 2013 at 2:24 pm

Hi Jill,

Sounds strange.

I would recommend a very detailed audit of your links profile. Anything that falls under:

- comment spam
- forum spam
- article syndication
- site wide anchor text
- aggressive anchor text
- blog network
- low quality content

Have these removed and disavowed, as many as you can find. Then I would recommend sending in a reconsideration, depending on the response will determine your next steps:

No manual spam action – you just need to disavow the bad and start building the good links

Spam action revoked – your site will recover to a degree but will need more links, good ones

Unnatural links – Means you have more clean up to do

Hope this has been of help.

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Chris Clarkson February 19, 2013 at 2:19 am

Hi Tim,

I have a main website for my business and had paid for SEO in the past. My site was obviously hit as it disappeared for ages, but wasn’t deindexed.
I never got a message from Google about bad links. It looks like the site is moving slowly back up through the rankings for a few keywords. Should I just leave it or should I disavow some links?
I know my anchor text distribution was a bit one sided. Or should I continue to build good links using a variety of anchors?
Any help would be greatly received.
Best regards
Chris

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Tim February 19, 2013 at 2:17 pm

Hi Chris,

If the links are really poor quality, or if you think you have over optimised for a particular anchor text, then I would look to disavow those specific URL’s. If you have never received an unnatural links notice then it is unlikely to be a manual penalty and there is no need for a reconsideration request. Just disavow the worst links, or any that are aggressively optimised.

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Jon February 25, 2013 at 5:01 am

If the SEO company were taking client money for paid links recently, should they be paying for removal if it’s the same links?

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chris February 20, 2013 at 2:31 am

Hi Tim
we have had two notices of unnatural links one in march 2012 and one in jan 2013. we missed the early one as it was not sent to the associated email address for some reason. Organic traffic is down about 50% year on year. On search terms that are a close match it is down 36% and on more gereric terms down 80%. Organic traffic is about 18% of total traffic. we previously engaged in a link building campaign and have a list of sites that need to be disavowed.

we need to disavow but is there any risk that this might lead to delisting or further punishment?? this is a seasonal business and the next four months are crucial.

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Chris Clarkson February 21, 2013 at 6:41 am

Thanks Tim,

I think I am now in that area where I fear everything I may try. I don’t ever want to try link building, but I am also afraid of using the disavow tool as I don’t really know what are the poor links based on the SEO company that did the work.
Is there a tool that will tell me what are the rubbish ones?
Many thanks
Chris

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Jerry Kastler February 22, 2013 at 1:30 pm

Tim,

How long does it take Google to process a link disavow request and will they notify you in GMT after completion? Thank you.

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Jan March 4, 2013 at 4:16 am

If you have a links penalty/filter, will the site recover without a reconsideration request?

I’m a small web designer with a new client website with unique content, not overly-optimised, but the home page dropped out of the Google serps after the first few weeks.

I suspect that forum signatures are to blame – to get the site indexed, I created signature links on 2 forums (seoers and webproworld) with the company name as one anchor text and the url as the other anchor text. (The company name and url are, unfortunately, keyword based – I thought I was being legit and non-spammy just using the company name but Google, with hindsight, probably interpreted this as spam.) Unfortunately, I then went away for Christmas, got involved with other work and did not go back to the forums to change the signature links – Google backindexed all of my previous forum entries with the backlinks to the new site (about 500 in total from 2 forums).

I’ve obviously removed the forum signature links and the links have now fallen from about 500 links to about 140 links from the 2 forums. The only other backlinks are 9 from Pinterest, 1 from my Twitter, 1 from my Facebook, 1 from my web design portfolio page and 1 from whichwebdesigncompany (again company name anchor text or url).

Should I file a reconsideration request now OR wait for all the links to disappear and then file a reconsideration request OR just wait it out without a reconsideration request?

Would very much appreciate any advice you can give as I’ve never had to deal with this before.

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Dun March 29, 2013 at 6:47 am

Do you know if you add a link to the disavow tool and then in hindsight feel it is a good link, remove it from the list and upload a new list, do you think google then accept that link again? Or do you think once you add a link that google will then always disavow it?

Google results are terrible, pity they have a 90% share of the UK market or we could all laugh them off as a joke search engine. They are the least relevant I can ever remember them. Wish Bing and Yahoo would try to atleast advertise in the UK.

Thanks

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Danilo Petrozzi April 2, 2013 at 1:23 pm

Nice article. Luckily Disavow Tool always worked for me very quickly

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Alex April 20, 2013 at 1:43 pm

I have a few sites that has gotten the unnatural link warnings so just about to start the recovery now, gonna try the disallow links tool, thanks.

Rgds,
Alex

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Murdo Guy April 21, 2013 at 12:38 pm

Good post. I’ve reading about this disavow tool for quite sometime and I’d say this article is most helpful. Thanks a bunch!

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Martin May 13, 2013 at 7:48 pm

This article is very helpful, Tim. Great job! I have been wanting to know about the disavow tool and this article has explained it thoroughly. Thanks so much!

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Justin June 1, 2013 at 7:48 pm

Great article Tim, I found this and your other disavow article extremely helpful.

Our rankings dropped by 80% when the new penguin update hit in late May.

The site is only 12 months old and I found about 70% of our links were articles and directory listings. We received no warning message of any kind from google webmaster tools.

I managed to have the webmasters remove half and the other half I have disavowed.

Seeing as we did not receive a warning do you think it is better to just keep removing links, delete the disavow submission and wait it out?

I figure the disavow tool might help us speed up the process by which Google re-evaluates all our incoming links

Thanks again

Reply

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