Disavow Tool is no silver bullet for the majority of SEOs, says survey

It’s the moment that every SEO dreads, and that all sane SEOs will do their utmost to avoid... Yup. That little message from Google that contains these words: We’ve detected that some of the links pointing to your site are using techniques outside Google’s Webmaster Guidelines

It’s the moment that every SEO dreads, and that all sane SEOs will do their utmost to avoid...

Yup. That little message from Google that contains these words:

"We’ve detected that some of the links pointing to your site are using techniques outside Google’s Webmaster Guidelines"

Definitely not what you want to be faced with when you log in to Webmaster Tools! But (try as hard as we might) many of us are far from immune to this scenario happening. For one thing, the links that Google’s objecting to may have been built before you and your client ever even met, and for another, the person or persons unknown who built those links may have believed they were operating within the rules. Then of course there has even been the odd occasion where there have been errors, and a natural link has been mistaken for an unnatural one.

In the main, though, the situation is pretty clear. If Google sees unnatural, footprinty patterns, then you’ll be advised to have the links removed.

Which, of course, is just fine when the site’s in use and the contact addresses remain extant. In cases where they’re not, then it’s time to deploy the Disavow Tool.

Disavow – on the surface – seems like a simple, easy answer to your problems. Suss links zapped, end of story, right? Well – as Search Engine Roundtable reported this week, maybe not.

According to a survey carried out by the SEO news site at the tail-end of 2013, Disavow Tool may not be the sharpest implement in the box:

  • Only 15% of SEOs reported Disavow as positively affecting their rankings
  • 50% of SEOs reported no difference to their rankings

In light of these results, the question that springs to mind is: to disavow or not to disavow? The answer is (of course) still a resounding YES – with yes on top. The trick is to know what to disavow, and when – since overusing it could end up removing benign links, and hurt your rankings.

But what using Disavow won’t do is make your rankings spring right back to where they were before.

Why not?

Well, in the absence of access to the algorithm, observing the SERPs suggests that what’s happening is...

  • Disavowal of links deemed unnatural means removing any risk associated with them. If half of the SEOs surveyed saw ‘no difference’ to their rankings after using Disavow, this doesn’t take into account any adverse ranking movement that may have taken place had they not disavowed.
  • The tool isn’t a rankings fixer, rather it operates as a safeguard for the future – allowing you to work from a stronger foundation. Aiming for high rankings is no bad thing. But producing new, relevant, Google-friendly content is the way to climb higher.
  • Disavowing the old and the unnatural is a necessary step, but on its own is unlikely to boost your positions. Attracting new, high quality links from people who love your site – that’s what will give you the edge.