Update: We've built a tool through which you can easily check the credibility of the domains which you need to disavow. The tool automatically goes through your domain list and plot the result in a table .
The plotted domains will be sorted into different categories based on their authenticity. Have a look at our Free Domain Credibility Checker Tool.
Recently I disavowed 11825 spam links pointing to my website using Google Disavow tool. If you have have used disavow tool before, you will understand the time I had spent to filter these 11825 links as spam and non spam. If you are hearing about this tool for first time, read my article on Disavow Tool - Explained. Disavow tool is a new introduction in Google Webmaster Tools pack, which is used to reduce negative effects caused to a website through bad and spam external linking. There are many ways in which a website can get affected by bad external links; one possible way is links created by competitors to thrash a website, where another possibility is bad links created by content scraping websites etc. Bad external links will affect the ranking of a website negatively. So to get rid of negative effects by bad external links you can rely on Disavow tool. All you need to do is download the full list of external links pointing to your website from Google webmaster tools and then filter them as spam and non spam (Webmaster tools provides you a list of all links to your websites which is mix of quality links and bad links). You have to be very careful while you filter links because you should only disavow bad links. If you disavow a quality backlink to your website, you will drop in rankings further .
How my website got 11825 spammy backlinks?
My website(niche: Php coding tips) was attacked using spam comments, the spammers used to bombard my website with tons of spam comments.
That was the count of my spam comments at a time. Anyhow I did stop these spam comment flow. Read my previous article about blocking spam comments in wordpress via htaccess.
What were the after effects of these incoming spam comments?
- Drop of search engine traffic - These spam bots were sending tons of requests to my server( I was receiving more than 100000 spam comments per day). And obviously, the load on the server increased and the website started to load slowly. This not only affected this particular website but also on the other ones hosted in the server and as a result the traffic of these websites began to drop dramatically .
- New Spam backlinks to my website - After placing the spam comment , spam bot linked to my website along with the comment ID from poor low quality websites(hacked ones,spammy forums, websites etc) . For instance if the comment id was 1401133, the bot linked to my website as http://www.mywebsite.com/#comment-1401133 linking to the spam comment.
Discovering the 11,940 external links
I was not closely monitoring this particular website until I saw this traffic drop. I logged into the webmaster tools and found 11,940 external links to my websites which was very much unnatural. Downloaded the sample links and found that more than 1000 domains were linking to my website in which one particular post was linked the most. Have a look at the screenshot.
You can also see that the very first domain (fugar) linked 710 times to my website . Over a glance I was sure that this was some kind of spam/robots activity.
Why should you disavow spam links
Google never supports black hat seo. Now things have changed little more . From the recent restrictions on the guest blogging( video by Matt Cutts), it is clear that Google doesn't encourage any kind of link building . Many websites have got penalized for building back links(reciprocating links, or bad neighborhood links, linking from article directories etc). I will come with such a story in my upcoming post.
That is the screenshot of Google's manual penalty action blocking a website from participating in link schemes. Here is were disavowing links gets really important. In my case disavowing was more like a precaution based on the old saying.
[blockquote source=""]Prevention is better than cure[/blockquote]
How I disavowed 11825 spam links?.
As the spam backlinks were much more than my genuine backlinks; I used a strategy to find the genuine backlinks ,remove them from the spreadsheet and disavow the remaining links.>/p>
#1.1: Checking the anchor texts of the backlinks
The hard part was to pick those genuine links to my website from the sea of spam backlinks. I used backlinkwatch and ahrefs to check the backlinks to my website. It showed the links to my website with the OBL(of the linking website) and the anchor text. By checking the anchor texts I was able to differentiate the good and spam links. Being more specific, my website was about PHP and Coding tips and I am not supposed to get a backlink with anchor text (Nike Shoes). I considered such irrelevant anchor text as a spam link and links with anchor text related to my niche as genuine links.
#1.2 : Searching the link sheet with possible keywords
I made a list of the entire possible keywords in my website like (php, jquery,html,css etc). Opened the spreadsheet containing entire links to my website and starting searching with these keywords. BTW, you can export all the external backlinks to CSV(Thanks to google webmaster tools). Have a look at the screenshot given below with some of the sample links.
Well, most of the websites use seo friendly urls now, this made my job easier. My website is about php coding tips and how am I supposed to get a backlink from a url like jimmy-howard-usa-jersey-damage-through-climate-problems ?
Likewise I searched the entire list with these possible keywords and I found many urls with keywords of my website (many of these urls contained php,html,css,jquery,wordpress etc) . Manually verified these urls, checked the source and found genuine backlinks to my website FYI, the success percent was around 99 percent! 48 out the 50 links found by keywords matching my website(php,jquery etc ) was genuine backlinks. I removed all these genuine backlinks from the spreadsheet.
#1.3 : Searching for links from common websites
There were some websites from which I was sure I would be linked .
- Stackoverflow - Being a coding community website(basically Q & A), I was very much likely to be linked from stackoverflow . Searched for links from stackoverflow and found a bunch of links. Removed them from the link list.
- Yahoo Answers
- Google domains (google plus, etc) - Found some links from google plus and other google related communities.
Likewise you might have linked from popular community websites in your niche.
# 2.1 : Identification through unnatural link counts from one single domain
How much times would a genuine domain link to your website? 4? 5? ok lets say 10 . What do you feel if some one links 710 times to your website? As you saw in the screenshot above, that fugar website linked 710 times to me . I took 1-2 sample link page from fugar , went on to that page and checked for the link. I literally found the links as spammy ones pointing to those spam comments (http://www.mywebsite.com/#comment-1401133 ). Initially I thought of disavowing the entire domain like,
later I changed my mind. What if that domain gets renovated and someone gives me a valid backlink from the very same domain?. According to the latest google strategies it is real hard to build backlinks(After the guestblog penalization updates) . I don't want to loose any kind of link juice my website is gonna get, so I dropped that plan and decided to disavow the links pointing to my website.
# 2.1 : Many of Spam domains didn't have SEO Friendly urls
This was another common factor I observed with spammy websites. Most of these websites were either hacked ones or low quality forums. Many of these spam websites didnt have seo friendly urls or even domain names! They were just using the ip address .
# 2.2: Checked the alexa traffic rank and page rank of the domain
Not with every domains , but checked the alexa rank and page rank of some domains and if both were NA(or very much low) I could easily assume that it would be spam link.
# 3.1 - One final round look up.
That's how I was able to sort the genuine links and spam links pointing to my website, as a final round I went over all the 11k +links in the spreadsheet(just a quick glance, took 1 hour in total) checked for genuine urls following the above criteria. Removed the genuine backlinks found.
# 3.2 Disavowing links through google webmaster tools
[blockquote source="Google Disavow Format"]
# example.com removed most links, but missed these
# Contacted owner of shadyseo.com on 7/1/2012 to
# ask for link removal but got no response
Putting a # in the beginning of a line makes the line a comment (Google doesn't consider that line, it is your notes about the disavowed links).
Putting a direct link would disavow the particular link.
giving "domain:" prefix and putting the domain after the prefix will disavow entire domain . You need not pick the entire links from the domain and disavow. Also keep in mind that you wont be getting any link juice from this domain in future .
Create a text (.txt) file and put all the links/domains to be disavowed in the above format , upload the txt file and you are done.
Final Notes( Something really important)
Disavowing links is an advanced feature. Google itself says,
[blockquote source="Google"]This is an advanced feature and should only be used with caution. If used incorrectly, this feature can potentially harm your site’s performance in Google’s search results. We recommend that you disavow backlinks only if you believe you have a considerable number of spammy, artificial, or low-quality links pointing to your site, and if you are confident that the links are causing issues for you. In most cases, Google can assess which links to trust without additional guidance, so most normal or typical sites will not need to use this tool.[/blockquote]
If not used properly this will do harm to you than good. After the panda, penguin updates as well the recent barriers on guest blogging, it is pretty sure that Google's plan is to rely much stronger on the old backlink algorithm itself . What Google focusing currently is in the betterment of their algorithm to identify manually built link (through trades,guest blogging, black-white hat techniques) so that the natural backlinks would become very much countable. So its really risky to loose one single genuine backlink you already have. As Google says, their algorithms are smart enough to identify these spam backlinks(and may not penalize you) or you may not have to disavow these unnatural links all the time. Well in my case I didn't want to take any chance(I did not want any kind of troubles caused because of these 11000+ links ), also I am pretty confident that I was able to disavow all spam links without loosing any genuine backlinks. If you have any troubles or questions regarding disavowal of links feel free to ask me in comments 🙂