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What Backlinks Should You Disavow

After the release of the Google Disavow Tool, a lot of people started asking “what are the backlinks that should be disavowed?” or “What are the backlinks that penalized my website?”. I am going to show you a few examples of backlinks that can be a potential threat to your website, and how you can identify the backlinks that you should disavow using Google Webmaster Tools.

Before I start, let me point out that you should use the Google Disavow Tool, only if you know what you are doing.

How to find the bad links that must be disavowed

If you have been penalized already, keep in mind that in order to identify the bad backlinks, you will have to verify them one by one. Tools that promise to automatically identify the backlinks that have caused your penalty, are overpriced and most of the time useless. Even worse, some of the tools will tell you to disavow  your best backlinks.

1. The first thing to do is to head to Google Webmaster Tools and download all the backlinks of your website. Click on ‘Search traffic’ and on ‘Links to your site’, then under the module ‘who links the most’, click on ‘more’.

links-to-website

From the next page, click on ‘download this table’ and choose to download your links in CSV format.

2. Import the list of backlinks from GWT to Monitor Backlinks. It will help you filter your links by their value and importance. If you don’t have an account yet, you can register one now. We recommend you to connect your account with Google Analytics, to get better insights and alerts for your links.

Click on ‘Add new backlinks’ and select to import your links from a file. Monitor Backlinks automatically detects your GWT links report and will import all the links into the tool.

import links from GWT

Please note that it may take a few minutes or hours to gather all the metrics for your data. To view all your websites links, click on ‘backlinks’ from the top menu.

backlinks page

3. By browsing through your backlinks you will have to check if you have links that are not related to your website. For instance, if you have a cooking blog, backlinks coming from gambling or adult websites, can be a serious threat to your rankings. This is the perfect example of backlinks that you should disavow immediately.

4. Next, you can use the top filters of Monitor Backlinks. From the upper top right side, click on backlinks that Google considers. These are the links that are dofollow, and are passing PageRank to Google.

links google considers

You can ignore the nofollow backlinks, as Google has clearly said that they do not count those.

Look for the backlinks with high external links. Most of the time, these are crappy links that you should disavow. However, manually check each one before taking your decision.

To sort your dofollow backlinks by their number of external links, click on “External” on the top right. Monitor Backlinks will display all the backlinks that have more than 100 external links.

click external

On the “Ext” column, you can view the number of external backlinks, for each of your links. Verify each link one by one, and find those that don’t have any value. Let me show you a few examples.

As you can see in the screenshot we even have a backlink with 5k external links. You can view the link here.

This is a page with an endless number of backlinks. The page provides no value whatsoever and should be disavowed.

Do you want more examples? The link from the screenshot below caught my attention because it had 4k external backlinks.

 

The page looks like this:

What’s even worse than the first example, is that, on this link, everything is hidden from the users eyes, using CSS. You can, however, right click on the page, and select “view page source”. This will help you identify all the backlinks, and view the page as Google’s bots do. Want to check this example yourself? Check the link here.

Remember that it’s not always the case that links with high external backlinks are bad, and must be disavowed. Here’s an example of a link with 101 external links, that should not be removed.

The link is inside the content, it was added by the website editor, and it provides value. Therefore, this backlink is good and has SEO value.

4. Once you have reviewed all the links with high external backlinks, you can now check the ones coming from low quality domains. To do this, you can sort to view all the links with 0 domain PageRank. Once again, let me point out, that it’s not always the case that these are bad links.  Google updates the PR toolbar very slow, and even if you see a domain with PR 0, in reality it can now have PR 3.

5. Another way to check for low quality backlinks is to verify if the domain is indexed in Google or not. Websites not indexed in Google are either new and haven’t been crawled yet, or have been penalized and de-indexed.

To view all your backlinks coming from domains that are not indexed in Google, click on “Index” and select “D+P”.

6. Next, you’ll have to check the backlinks that have a 404 or 410 status. These pages have been removed, and you can let Google know, by using the outdated content removal tool.

To view these backlinks, go to filters and from “Status”, select “404 Not Found” and “410 Gone”.

7. Another very important factor to verify, is the domain TLD or hosting IP address. If you have a website in english, with an online business in the US, it’s obvious that most of your backlinks should come from pages written in english.

You can check all the backlinks coming from foreign domains, by filtering your list. From the top menu, click on ccTLD and select the domain extensions you want to view.

For example, I’ll choose to view all the backlinks coming from domains with .IN extension. These are the links from India.

As you can see from the screenshot, even if the domains have a .IN extension, their hosting IP is from US. You can manually verify all the links that don’t come from generic domains, and if you found any that you don’t want to be related with them, include them into your disavow list.

From the column “IP”, you can also verify how many backlinks your website has from the same hosting IP. If you found any with more than 10, this can be a potential threat, and it’s recommended to disavow.

8.  Last but not least, you will have to disavow all the low quality backlinks from platforms such as free directories, social bookmarking websites, forum profiles, article directories, blog networks and all the links coming from pages that don’t provide any value.

It’s very important not to have links from malware websites pointing to you.

9. Look for over optimized anchor texts. If you’ve been penalized by Google Penguin, have a closer look to your anchor text distribution. From Monitor Backlinks, scroll to the bottom of your backlinks page and click on ‘show anchor text report. This will generate a report with the most common keywords used to link to your website. I recommend you to create this report only for the dofollow backlinks, as those are the ones that matter the most. You can do so by clicking on the thumbs up icon from the top of the page, just as you did on step 4.

anchor_text_report

Only disavow the links that are coming from very low quality websites. For the other ones, if over optimized, try to contact the webmaster and ask if it’s possible to change your anchor text.

How to generate and export your disavow report

Once identified, you should create a list with all of them, so you can later submit them to Google Disavow Tools.

You can add tags to your backlinks by using the settings button from the right or each row.

On the window that pops, you will have to add a tag for the link that you plan to disavow. You can choose any tag, but to easily identify them, use “SPAM”.

Repeat the process for all the backlinks that you want to disavow. Once completed the analyses, you can view all the links by filtering your backlinks by tags. From the filters menu, click on “Tags” and select the one you have used for these backlinks.

To download a list with all the backlinks you categorized as SPAM, you will have to click on “With all” and select “ Export Disavow Format”. Double check that you have selected only the backlinks with the tag “SPAM”.

Monitor Backlinks will now generate and download your “ready to submit” disavow report.

disavow report

Once downloaded your report, you will have to go to the Google Disavow Tool and upload your file.

Conclusion

Google Disavow Tool must be used with caution. No matter if you have received a penalty or not, you can use it to disavow the backlinks you do not want to be related with. First try to remove all the low quality backlinks, then disavow them. Recovering from any Google penalty is possible, if done right.

Have you used the Google Disavow Tool? Share your experience in the comments section.

Comments

2 Comments

joshmalan

Thank you Felix, this was a very helpful, well written article. I’m CEO at zavgo.com and we are seeing more and more people getting penalized for “unnatural” backlinks. I will be sending several clients to view your steps.

Roberto Neigenfind

Great Article.
I Did some change and got results in few weeks.


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