Disavowing backlinks soon to be retired

On the 4th of May this year, Google’s John Mueller hinted that the Google backlink disavow tool would eventually be retired.

While this might be seen as a natural progression, what is then going to happen to sites that actually need to clean up their backlinks?

Mueller says that they ignore “Most spammy/paid/placed/swapped links are just ignored nowadays.”, but there is that little word – ‘most‘…

I have been helping companies disavow their backlinks for many years now and have seen some amazing successes. Some have been precautionary, others due to past poor linkbuilding practices and of course, manual actions. I have already had a few messages asking what this means for the future.

The simple answer is ‘we don’t yet know’. Do we trust Google to get this right every time and catch all spam as things stand right now? I would say, going on past work, no.

Based on the last dozen disavows that I have completed, over 70% have seen a marked improvement in their search rankings, which says to me that Google is not ignoring all poor links – at least not yet. So does this mean it will be 100% right when the disavow tool is finally retired? Time will tell.

I have always been outspoken about backlinks and disavowing over the years because I have seen so many sites benefit from it. Others are not so sure and remain sceptical that disavowing actually does anything.

How does disavowing backlinks work

It’s actually quite straightforward. You can follow Google’s disavow guidelines here, but by giving Google a list of domain names and pages, they will set ‘flags’ next to these that effectively break the link between their site and yours.

Disavowing backlinks and negative SEO

Yes, this is a thing and is still very much a negative SEO tactic. I have seen first-hand what this can do to a site and while at first you might shrug it off, after a while, it does start to have an effect – and not a good one.

So what is then going to happen if someone builds 200,000 spam backlinks to your site? Judging by what I have seen happen, it will indeed result in the site getting hit in terms of dropping search positions. At least that is what is happening right now.

I would say that Google is indeed catching some of the spam, but over a short number of weeks, this starts to take effect.

And what about other negative SEO backlink tactics? There are currently about half a dozen active techniques that work and if someone knows what they are doing, combining these can be both hugely time-consuming to figure out and correct, while all the time being hit by Google.

What to do if you need backlinks cleaning up?

While the disavow tool is there, make use of it because when this is inevitably retired, there will only really be one option if you need backlinks removed and that will be to contact the sites in question and ask for links to be removed.

If you have any questions, please get in touch.