According to Google, content and backlinks are the top two factors that determine where a site ranks in organic search. Ultimately, the more relevant links you have pointing to your site, the higher you can expect to rank for your targeted keywords (if all other aspects of your site are per Google’s standards). As you may have heard, Google rolled out another Penguin update (Google’s link analysis algorithm) back in September, which heightened the importance of relevant links and how Google judges them. So, what happens when irrelevant sites link to your site without your permission or knowledge? For this reason, SEOs closely monitor all their site’s backlinks because irrelevant links can hurt your ranking, which is why Penguin can be dangerous.
The Benefits of Using Disavow Files
Quality and relevant backlinks are a requirement for improving or maintaining high organic search rankings. While it’s important for the health of your site to attract relevant links, it’s just as important to discover and remove any bad ones. If you’re hit with a Google penalty, you won’t be directly informed; instead, you may notice a sharp drop or decline in your organic traffic and keyword positions, which is why link monitoring is a critical task of SEO.
You can help protect your website from being hit with a penalty by keeping your backlinks profile clean with Google’s link disavow tool. Google’s disavow tool allows you to cut ties between your site and any suspicious links pointing to it that the search engines may deem as “bad” or irrelevant. Since the rollout of Penguin 4.0, it’s more important than ever to make a habit of monitor the quality of any new and lost backlinks.
How to Tell You Need to Update Your Disavow File
Depending on the status on your site, there are a few reasons why disavowing backlinks may be a good task to perform. The most common reason is that it’s nearly impossible for any site to have a perfect linking profile, so the disavow tools can help you clean up any potential harmful links.
You know you need to update your disavow link file if:
- You suspect you’re a victim of a Penguin link algorithm penalty
- You suspect you’re a victim of negative SEO
- You’re turning a new leaf in your SEO strategy
- If your site drops in traffic or rankings
- If you discover strange backlinks while performing a link audit
You wouldn’t want to upload a new disavow file daily or weekly, as it takes time for Google to read, analyze and apply your list. Also, when you upload a list of links, any old lists you had uploaded previously will be replaced. In addition, when you remove a link from your disavow file, that link is returned. For this reason, any and all links that you want to have removed need to stay on your disavow list if you want to continue to keep them hidden. So it’s critical to have a running list and add any new links to your already established disavow file.
How to Determine What a Good/Bad Link Is:
Google’s disavow tool is very powerful – the last thing you want to do is disavow links that were positively affecting your rankings. Before using the disavow tool, it’s important to know how to spot a good link and a bad link, which can be challenging since there’s no set method that we know of that Google uses to decide the value of a link. Unless your site was penalized, its best to be cautious and only disavow the links that you are confident are bad. For example:
- Directories with no niche, criteria or particular focus
- Link farms/sites that feature more links than text
- Sites that are completely irrelevant to your site
- Links from foreign language sites
- Sites coming from bad domain links like .xyz
- Ultimately, do you want your brand associated with the site linking to you?
Performing a disavow can be a time-consuming process, as you need to manually check every link and generate a list of those you want removed. While there are many tools that can provide you with scores or rankings to help determine whether the link is good or bad, most often the best tool is the human eye, as you know which site are the best and most relevant to your brand.
If you think your site may have been penalized by Penguin 4.0, we can help- contact us today!