An informal and non-scientific poll on Twitter indicates that most SEOs, by a significantly large margin, ignore spammy links rather than spend time disavowing them. The subsequent comments aligned with the poll results, but some SEOs shared how their approach was more nuanced and why disavowing makes sense to them under specific circumstances.

Link Disavow Tool

Google provides a tool through search console that allows publishers and SEOs to tell Google to ignore specific links.

The disavow tool was created in 2012 by Google by request of the SEO community after the Penguin Algorithm was released to deal with the extreme amount of paid links and other links schemes that SEOs were engaging in.

The Penguin algorithm penalized websites for paid links and other low quality links that the publishers themselves had built.

In order to regain rankings for the penalized websites, SEOs and publishers had to request all of the spammy links that they created be removed.

But those requests to remove links were ignored or sometimes a website would ask for money to take them down, which could become unreasonably expensive.

The SEO community asked for an easy way to disavow the links that couldn’t be removed and Google provided it.

The disavow tool announcement makes it clear that the tool is for use for links that publishers and SEOs themselves created and to be used in the context of getting out from an “unnatural links” penalty.

The 2012 disavow tool announcement by Google stated:

“The primary purpose of this tool is to help clean up if you’ve hired a bad SEO or made mistakes in your own link-building.

…If, despite your best efforts, you’re unable to get a few backlinks taken down, that’s a good time to use the Disavow Links tool.”

The announcement later states that Google ignores links typically associated with “negative SEO” and that publishers didn’t need to use the disavow tool for random links that they are not responsible for.

Nevertheless, many publishers and SEOs worry about negative SEO and random weird links and disavow them anyway.

Most SEOs Ignore Spammy Links

The poll was conducted by Sarah McDowell (@SarahMcDUK)

It’s important to note that only 182 people answered the poll and it cannot be said to be a representative cross-section of SEO practitioners in general.

Nevertheless, it’s an interesting poll because the results skew heavily toward ignoring spammy links.

Poll Results

Ignore spammy links: 65.5%

Disavow spammy links: 33.5%

What SEOs Actually Do May Be More Nuanced

Judging by the discussion comments in the poll thread, it appears that how SEOs use the disavow tool is more nuanced than the binary choices of Ignore or Disavow.

Several commenters cited specific criteria or thresholds that would spur them to file a disavow.

One person was concerned with overly commercial anchor text:

Others were concerned by threshold of total links:

Others feel that Google’s technology is capable enough to identify poor links:

It should be repeated that the poll might not be exactly accurate. Nevertheless, the wide margin of SEOs who answered that they ignored spammy links was surprisingly high and might represent a change in how the SEO community approaches the disavow tool and increased confidence in how Google handles spammy links.





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By Rose Milev

I always want to learn something new. SEO is my passion.

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