Should You Disavow Links From Spammy Yet High Authority Sites?

Today’s Ask an SEO question comes from David in Crawgwell, Ireland, who asks:

When checking backlink profiles of myself and my competitors, I came across many links from the and domains.

These domains have high DA but the pages are often spammy and low quality. My instinct is to disavow these links but given the high DA I’m not sure how to proceed.

Do you have any advice, please, for when SEOs encounter terrible links from high DA domains? “

hi david,

Great question! The first thing to think about is that Domain Authority (DA) does not come from Google and is not a reliable metric.

How does domain authority work into your link disavow strategy?

DA is an algorithm devised by a popular SEO tool that only that tool (not Google) uses to rate a website.

If you trust this tool, you can use the metric as a way to start researching a specific domain or web page and whether the backlink has some value.

But personally, I wouldn’t allow my high DA to influence me in one direction or the other. There are a lot of higher authority domains that you likely won’t want a backlink from.

Porn sites and gambling sites may have a lot of domain authority and content that gets a lot of buzz, but that doesn’t mean that a backlink can be useful to you (unless you’re in those domains).

I found links to a costume site I’m working on from high DA porn sites in their cosplay section and we disavowed them because we didn’t want the link, even though the link was natural and benefited the end user.

So what should we be looking at?

The most important thing to look at is how Google will see that link.

Ask yourself why this site is relevant to you – does your company sell something related to the website theme, category topic, or in-page content?

If you sell something unrelated like plumbing supplies or service alarm systems, Google will probably wonder why you have links from this site.

They will ignore the link or potentially devalue your site because it may appear that you are generating spam links.

If this high DA site or series of sites has a large number of external links, there is a reasonable chance that Google will know it is part of a farm and will likely ignore the link on its own.

If you’re concerned about these links, you can always add them to your disclaimer sheet if that makes you feel more comfortable. Disavow only takes 1 second and peace of mind can last for a long time.

That’s why I still do it for my clients.

As for your app-specific questions: If you see this as an attack on your website, or if a developer likes your brand and decides to link to you from all of their apps or sites, you can leave it alone.

They are likely to be related to all of your competitors as well, or your website is contextually relevant to the topic of the website.

If you decide to trust the tool’s metric (they each have their own metric), I’d pull a report on the specific URL linking to you (not the primary domain) and look to see the score for that page.

If the result is fine and the content makes sense, I’ll keep the link. If it’s clearly spam and not relevant, I’d consider disavowing the entire page or domain to save time.

You can go ahead and pull similar reports for your top three competitors into Google search to see if they have similar backlinks. If they do, you might be in the clear because everyone in your space has the same issues.

In this case, focus on things that are under your control such as on-page SEO with your content, page structure, layout, internal links, speed, and user experience.

Do you really need to worry about disavowing links?

Google has gotten a lot better at spotting good and quality backlinks while ignoring spam backlinks, including high DA sites.

If it’s clear that the links aren’t natural and only point to your site, go to the disavow and do it at the domain level.

Again, peace of mind is something that can have a positive impact on your work and personal life, so taking a few seconds to add the URL to your disavow file and upload is totally worth it – but only if you’re sure it’s link spam and from a site/page / unrelated source.

I hope this answers your question and thank you for asking.

It’s always more fun dealing with these self questions – they made my day! = 0)

More resources:

  • The Truth About Domain Authority: What Every SEO Needs to Understand
  • Comparison of domain authority checker for link building
  • Link Building for SEO: The Complete Guide

Editor’s note: Ask an SEO is a weekly SEO advice column written by some of the industry’s top SEO experts, hand-selected by Search Engine Journal. Do you have a question about search engine optimization? Fill out our form. You may see your answer in the next #AskanSEO post!

Featured image: fatmawati achmad zaenuri / Shutterstock

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