Someone asked me about using the disavow tool to combat negative SEO and regain lost rankings. The following is a detailed explanation of what is typically involved with finding a solution for a negative SEO attack.
Disavow Tool of Limited Usefulness
John Mueller posted in Reddit that many inside Google feel that the disavow tool is not necessary. The reason is because they feel that Google’s already discounting spammy or irrelevant links. The tool isn’t contributing to a solution since the links are already being ignored.
That’s also the reason why Google purposely makes the tool hard to find, because they feel it’s not necessary. John Mueller said that explicitly, that Google purposely makes the disavow tool difficult to find.
Google actively discourages the use of the disavow tool and the ONLY reason it exists is because the SEO community BEGGED Google for a disavow tool. Google resisted offering a disavow tool, but after several months relented and offered it.
The tool is not something Google forced on SEOs. The tool is something SEOs begged Google to provide.
As it stands, Googlers have repeatedly stated that the proper use of the disavow tool is when you know you have bad links, as in you’re responsible for them.
Googlers do not encourage publishers to use the disavow tool to fight negative SEO. Why would they? Googler’s don’t even believe in negative SEO.
Googler Gary Illyes Has Never Seen a Real Case of Negative SEO
I recently wrote this (citation below):
“Gary Illyes stated at PubCon Florida 2019 that out of hundreds of negative SEO reports he has examined, none of them were real. The reason the sites experienced ranking drops were due to other reasons.
Gary affirmed that they’re making real-time Penguin even better but that publishers should not worry about spam links or perceived negative SEO attacks. Gary specifically mentioned adult links as nothing to be worried about.”
Do Link Related Penalties Exist?
Yes, link related penalties still exist. But no, random low quality scraper links don’t cause penalties. Google is ignoring low quality links.
Link related manual actions are real and they are still happening. It “seems” like there have been a lot of link related manual actions handed out from March through April 2019.
There was quite a bit of chatter about those in Google Webmaster Forums, as well as publishers coming to me for help in removing those penalties.
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Link distance ranking algorithms are among the newest techniques for analyzing links in a search engine. Google and other researchers have published research papers and patents about it.
Reading about these algorithms may help publishers gain an understanding of why Google is so confident about being able to neutralize the influence of low quality links.
Is Negative SEO Real?
I believe that what some people regard as negative SEO is not really negative SEO. Many sites accumulate low quality links, including adult type links. It’s a normal pattern on the web.
Spammers (and white hat SEOs) believe that linking out to high quality sites will help their sites appear less spammy. But if you have just a little understanding of link analysis, then you’ll know that the search engines are not only two steps ahead of that practice, they’re actually about a thousand miles ahead.
Is it possible to negative SEO? I believe it is possible, but not in the way that people currently think it’s done. I don’t dare share any more details than that.
I believe that negative SEO is a convenient scapegoat to avoid acknowledging problems with site itself. Many have approached me about negative SEO that could not be resolved through the disavow tool. A review has often revealed that the problem was within the site and not due to negative SEO.
Scapegoats and Red Herrings
I’ve been approached by people who claim to be affected by Negative SEO and upload huge disavow lists every month. Yet they never, never find relief, their rankings never improve.
That’s like rubbing olive oil on your broken arm with the belief that if you keep on rubbing it just a little more the arm will heal. But it never heals because rubbing it does nothing.
Everybody’s baby is beautiful and well behaved to the parent. The baby is perceived differently by everybody else.
The real problem affecting the site tends to become more evident to someone looking at the site from the outside.
Negative SEO: The Takeaway
If your disavows aren’t working, if your rankings aren’t returning, then you should stop and consider that the real problem is something else.
If disavowing low quality links does not work, the solution is to acknowledge that the problem lies elsewhere.
The real problem is likely in the website itself, not outside of it. Acknowledging this reality is to take the first step toward correcting the real problem that’s affecting your rankings.