Google’s Webmaster Trends guru Gary Illyes recently reiterated his stance that it’s not necessary to disavow links from suspicious or low-quality sites unless you’ve been hit with a manual penalty. Essentially, Google is smart enough to ignore “bad” links and keep them from dinging your rankings.
Read on to see what members of our SEO team think about this advice:
“As far as I know, this has been standard operating procedure for SEOs for at least a couple of years now since Penguin. Links are such delicate things that I would be wary of asking Google to remove them. The wisest course of action to me has seemed to be taking Google at their word every time they update their algo; namely, to produce better content to get your site ranking.”
—Ryan Boghosian, Manager (Earned Media)
“This is interesting, because it feels like Google is more leaning towards natural language processing and topic-subject tier models even in backlinks. If they’re not relevant (such as unnatural porn backlinks to a tech website), Google might not consider them to be of value.”
—Evangeline Alva, Associate Manager (Earned Media)
“On the one hand it makes a lot of sense that Google would flex its topic modelling muscles to evaluate the relevance of backlinks to targets. If their algorithm is as advanced as they claim, it should be easy to spot unnatural links. My question is whether there’s a sort of “grey” period between when Google sees these links and notifies you via a manual penalty. It would be concerning if seedy backlinks drained away some ranking power in the days before a notification appeared. Since we don’t know the answer to this question, I’m willing to take their conservative approach to disavowing links unless and until the data says otherwise.”
—Gregory Sidor, Associate Director (Earned Media)
“Overall, I’d say I trust the advice. In the past few years, I’ve rarely seen a case of low-quality backlinks noticeably hurting my clients – at least a case that couldn’t easily be explained otherwise. The disavow tool should be reserved for instances where a manual penalty has been applied, or when an SEO knows about purposefully-gained unnatural backlinks.”
—Daniel Dell-Cornejo, Manager (Earned Media)
SEOs often treat these sorts of insights from Google with a healthy dose of skepticism. However, it’s hard to see why they’d try to cloud our view here. It’s more likely that, as many studies have suggested, the impact of backlinks overall has been steadily declining and our time is better spent on content and architectural improvements.