If you've had a website for a while now, it's very likely that you have some toxic backlinks in your profile. You might wonder why: after all, you're not a spammer and you take good care of your website.
The issue is, no matter how careful you are, over time every website gets backlinks that are detrimental to your SEO efforts by affecting your backlink profile.
Don't worry: there is something you can do to prevent these toxic backlinks from damaging your reputation. That's where link disavow tools come into the picture.
Link disavowing means removing specific backlinks from your website so they won't affect your backlink profile in a negative way.
To disavow links, you need to use Google's Link Disavow Tool, but how do you know which links should be disavowed? In this article, we'll show you how to work this out using SERPed.net
What's a Link Disavow Tool?
Google's Link Disavow Tool was launched by Google in 2012, as part of the search engine's fight against spam. The goal of this tool is to prevent harmful links from affecting your ranking.
When you disavow a link, you are not exactly removing the link: you're rather signaling to Google that this link should not be crawled as part of your backlink profile. As an additional measure, you can ask the webmasters of the linking websites to remove those links, but that's not always possible.
These harmful links are sometimes called “unnatural links”. This description derives from the fact that a lot of websites purchase or exchange links, which is not the “natural” way in which you build your backlink profile.
We recommend making your content relevant to your website and your users so that other websites will want to link to you. That's the only way to ensure true, natural backlinks in your profile. If you take shortcuts, you'll probably end up penalized.
Now, we'll dive into the different types of links you should disavow.
Different Links That You Should Disavow
There are many reasons why you should disavow a certain link. Usually, that is associated with a high spam score. However, there are a few different types of links you should disavow. We'll go through a few.
You might have gotten into one of these schemes unwillingly. Perhaps someone asked you if you could add a link to your website in exchange for a backlink on another website, or promised you an increase in traffic if you published a blog post that is linked to their website.
There are many ways these link schemes go. To prevent penalties from Google – that can range from losing your ranking to being completely de-indexed – we recommend that you withdraw yourself from any possible link schemes.
It's tempting to pay for other websites to link to yours. After all, more backlinks are good for SEO, right?
Well, unfortunately, not always. When you get paid links, you may end up with links that are not relevant to your website. Paid links are a huge red flag for Google, and you might end up with a penalty.
It's better to not risk it. Even if someone contacts you saying you can get backlinks with a high domain authority if you just pay them, do not fall for this trap.
This is another common mistake. If you want to rank for a specific keyword, you need to make it natural. When you get an anchor text that has nothing to do with the content of your website and it's only placed there to add the link, Google will notice.
To avoid penalties, we recommend using anchor text that is relevant to the context of your website, and that fits in your niche and usual content. Spammy anchor texts can get you into a lot of trouble with Google.
Links In Comments
If you have a blog, you've probably noticed how often it happens that you get random comments with links towards websites that are not related at all to your blog posts.
This strategy is common among spammers and can get you into Google's bad books. You should never accept these comments when moderating; you shouldn't try to add links from other websites to yours either. Natural links are the only way to go.
If your website sells shoes, why do you have a link from a kitchen appliances website? This is called backlink spamming: the act of requesting, or selling links that are not related to your content at all, just for the sake of a link.
This tactic goes hand in hand with bad anchor text and should be avoided at all costs.
We recommend disavowing any links that are not related to your subject to prevent a penalty.
It used to be a common practice to add your website to directories in order to get easy links. However, just like with any other low-effort technique, it can be easily recognized by Google bots.
The reason behind this is that when you're adding thousands of links from the same website pointing towards very different websites, it's easy to tell that those links are not natural.
So, in short, we don't recommend having links from any directory unless it is highly related to your website subject. Most directories are bad for your website's reputation.
Negative SEO Attacks
In the very competitive world of SEO, there are some tactics that can only be described as “black hat”.
One of these tactics is to add unnatural links to competitor websites in the hopes that they'll be demoted from their hard-earned ranking.
It's easy to fall prey to this kind of scheme. After all, you don't know you have those links, so if you get penalized, you won't know why unless you check your link profile.
To avoid falling into this trap, check your backlinks regularly.
This is another old school tactic that can be easily dismantled by Google. A cloaked site pretends to be something that it's not, by showing content in the search results that does not match the content on the website itself.
Of course, this is a very shady practice, and if you get a link from one of these websites, a penalty is often on the horizon. You should disavow these links as soon as you discover them.
You can usually detect malware if you click a link and your browser shows a warning message. Websites with malware usually have a high spam score, which makes them easy to detect using SERPed.net
How to Disavow Links Using SERPed.net & Google Disavow Tool
Google's Link Disavow Tool is the only tool that allows you to disavow links. However, SERPed.net can help you figure out which links to disavow by showing you a list of the links according to their spam score.
How do you do this?!
First of all, open “Site Explorer” in the SEO Analysis tab in the “Tools” menu:
Click on the “+” sign to add a new website to your database.
Once the new screen shows, just enter your website URL. In this example, we're using Serped.com
Click on “Explore” and this new screen will give you your stats:
Scroll down to the bottom, and you'll see the option for “Backlinks W/ Flags”. Click on it.
Here you'll get the list of your backlinks with high spam score:
To export the list, click on the three-dot icon at the right and pick “Export to .TXT”.
There you go. Now, you just need to import the list on Google Link Disavow Tool. First, you need to open the Link Disavow Tool on Search Console:
Then, click on “Disavow Links” and the following pop up will appear:
In the pop up, select the file you exported from SERPed on “Choose File”. Once you have uploaded the file, just click “Submit”, and that's it!
We recommend performing this kind of clean-up often. This will prevent you from incurring penalties from Google.
Even though it's easy to collect links to disavow using SERPed.net, we don't recommend using link disavow tools unless you know what you're doing. Even though having spammy links might be harmful, it's even worse to disavow links you should keep.
As we mentioned above, Site Explorer helps you analyze your backlinks according to their spam score so you'll know which links you should disavow. Get SERPed.net today! Once you've tried it, your SEO work will never be the same.
We advise asking an SEO expert for guidance if you're not sure whether you should proceed with these changes on your own.
Once again, we have to reiterate the need to go through with this “clean up” often. Ensuring you are not harboring bad backlinks will help your SEO efforts, making your website rank higher naturally.
Remember, the only way to ensure your backlinks are natural is by offering good content that other users want to link to.