An informal and unscientific Twitter survey indicates that, by a remarkably large margin, most SEOs ignore spam links rather than spend time disavowing them. Subsequent comments align with the survey results, but some SEOs have shared how their approach was more nuanced and why disavowing makes sense for them under certain circumstances.
Link disavow tool
Google provides a tool through the search console that allows publishers and SEOs to tell Google to ignore certain links.
The disavow tool was created in 2012 by Google at the request of the SEO community after the release of the Penguin algorithm to deal with the huge amount of paid links and other link schemes that SEOs were involved with.
The Penguin algorithm penalized websites for paid links and other low-quality links created by publishers themselves.
In order to restore the rankings of sanctioned sites, SEOs and publishers had to request that all spam links that they had created be removed.
But requests to remove links are ignored or sometimes a website may demand money to remove them, which can become unreasonably expensive.
The SEO community asked for an easy way to disavow links that can’t be removed and Google provided it.
The disavow tool’s ad states that the tool is intended for use with links created by publishers and SEOs themselves for use in the context of getting out of the “unnatural links” penalty.
2012 Google Ad Disavow advertiser:
The primary purpose of this tool is to help clean up if you’ve hired a bad SEO or made mistakes with your link building.
… If, despite your best efforts, you still can’t remove some of your backlinks, now is the time to use the Disavow Links tool. “
The ad later states that Google discards links normally associated with “negative SEO” and that publishers need not use the spam link disavow tool for which they are not responsible.
However, many publishers and SEOs are worried about negative SEO and random weird links and disavow them anyway.
Most SEOs ignore spam links
The poll was conducted by Sarah McDowell (@employee)
It is important to note that only 182 people answered the survey and it cannot be said to be a representative cross-section of SEO practitioners in general.
Nevertheless, it is an interesting survey because the results are heavily skewed towards ignoring spam links.
Spam links ignored: 65.5%
Disavow spam links: 33.5%
With Google saying they ignore “spammy” links pointing to your website, in general, do you ignore them as well or go the disavow route to be on the safe side?
– Sarah McDowell (he/she) (SarahMcDUK) February 17, 2022
What SEO does may be more accurate
Judging by the discussion comments in the survey thread, it appears that how SEOs use the disavow tool is more accurate than binary options to ignore or disavow.
Several commenters cited specific criteria or thresholds that would motivate them to submit a disclaimer.
One person was interested in the hyper commercial anchoring script:
I disavow anything spam/commercial unnatural and ignore the rest. Imagine how many teams of people large enterprise sites would need who did nothing but scrape links all day long! That’s why I don’t think it really matters, but it’s best to disavow the obvious.
– LeeFoot 🐍📈 (@LeeFootSEO) February 17, 2022
Others were concerned about the threshold for total links:
I disavow if there are more than 30% spam links. If it’s only between 5 and 10%, I don’t think it makes sense. Anyway, disclaimer is not a waste of time versus actually evaluating links. So if I had already done link checking I would probably add the disavow file.
– Irina_Serdyukovskaya (@irina_kudres) February 18, 2022
Google will most likely ignore them anyway, but if I see that they make up a large portion of my backlink profile (>60-70%), I’d still disavow them just to be on the safe side…
– Despina Fronimaki (@fronimaki) February 18, 2022
Others feel that Google’s technology is sufficiently capable of identifying weak links:
I couldn’t care less. Their job is to sort out spam. While the tool was helping them before that at the moment, I think it’s completely naive to think that an SEO with a spreadsheet can judge a link better than Google ML and not overwrite it anyway.
– Fabrizio Ballarini – Hiring wise.jobs (Pechnet) February 18, 2022
We must repeat that the survey may not be completely accurate. However, the wide margin of SEOs who responded that they ignored link spam was surprisingly high and may be Represents a change in how the SEO community treats the disavow tool and increases confidence in how Google handles spam links.