Why We Would Never EVER Disavow a Link (Probably)

The dynamics of search engine algorithms are ever evolving, and our stance on the disavowal of links has changed over the years: it’s now generally unnecessary and potentially harmful. This position stems from several key observations about the current state of SEO and the capabilities of Google’s algorithm. Here are the reasons why disavowing links is a tactic we would (probably) never employ.

The Evolution of Google’s Algorithm

Google’s algorithm has come a long way since the days when manual actions were frequently necessary to correct for the ranking impacts of poor-quality links. With the release of Google Penguin in 2012, the game changed significantly. This update started penalizing spammy links automatically and in real time, greatly diminishing the need for site owners to manually intervene. Over time, Penguin was incorporated into Google’s core algorithm and began to operate in real time, further refining its ability to detect and devalue bad links rather than penalizing the linked sites.

Several studies and expert commentaries have echoed this sentiment. Search Engine Land reported that with these advancements, Google no longer penalizes sites for bad links but instead devalues the spammy links themselves, without necessarily having input from the disavowal tool [Search Engine Land]. Gary Illyes from Google also confirmed that their algorithms are now designed to prevent negative SEO attacks by automatically ignoring detrimental links, making the disavow tool redundant in many cases [Search Engine Journal].

Google’s Intended Use of the Disavow Tool

Google explicitly designed the disavow tool for extreme cases, particularly when a website might receive a manual penalty due to an overwhelming number of spammy or low-quality backlinks. SEOQuake’s blog emphasizes that the disavow tool is not a regular maintenance tool but is intended for specific penalty situations [SEOQuake Blog]. If your site has not received a manual penalty, using the disavow tool can be unnecessary and might lead to accidentally disavowing beneficial links. This could potentially harm your site’s performance in search results rather than help it.

The Risks of Disavowing

The process of disavowing links is fraught with risk. It is alarmingly easy to misjudge which links are actually harming your site versus those that are neutral or even beneficial. A case discussed on SERoundtable highlights how some webmasters, relying on flawed third-party tools, ended up disavowing links that were positively affecting their rankings [SERoundtable]. This misstep underscores the danger of losing valuable link equity by indiscriminately disavowing links based on incomplete or incorrect data.

Google’s Advice Against Overusing the Disavow Tool

In recent years, Google’s spokespeople, including John Mueller, have repeatedly advised against overusing the disavow tool. Mueller has stated that most sites don’t need to disavow links and that if a tool can flag a link as bad, Google’s algorithms are probably already ignoring it [Tweet from John Mueller]. Additionally, negative commentary on the disavow tool has been frequent from Google, suggesting that its use is more likely to cause harm than benefit [Search Engine Journal].

In light of these insights from Google and the evolution of its algorithms, it’s clear why we’re am generally skeptical about the need to disavow links. Unless facing a direct manual penalty from Google, the risks and potential downsides of disavowing can outweigh the supposed benefits. As SEO practices continue to adapt to changes in search engine algorithms, it becomes increasingly important to rely on robust, organic strategies and steer clear of outdated tactics that might do more harm than good.

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