Webmaster Disavows 100% Of Links & Still Has Google Link Penalty

Nov 15, 2012 • 8:32 am | comments (24) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

Google Disavow Link ToolSo after waiting and waiting, Webmasters who have struggled to remove all their bad links have been granted the Google Disavow link tool.

Hooray! Well, maybe not!

One webmaster claimed in a WebmasterWorld thread that he disavowed 100% of the links he found reported in Google Webmaster Tools. Waited about three weeks and then submitted a reconsideration request. The response Google sent him after that reconsideration request was submitted? It said the webmaster was still in violation because of bad links.

Here is the timeline according to the webmaster:

  • October 16th: Create A Text File with %100 of domains pointing to our site.
  • October 18th: File A Reconsideration request
  • November 12th: We get a response

Why did he disavow all his links? Wouldn't that destroy the site anyway? Well, he wanted to start fresh from a link perspective. In my opinion, a horrible idea.

Why didn't it work? Maybe because Google needs more time to process the disavow - although 3 weeks should be enough time. Or maybe Google Webmaster Tools didn't report all the spammy links he has to remove, but that wouldn't be fair - would it. Or maybe Google thinks the guy is crazy for submitting 100% of the URLs.

I am not sure but this is what this webmaster reported.

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

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11/15/2012 02:07 pm

Because Google said you need to remove links as well, to show some faith. They don't want people disavowing in increments to see what works and what doesn't, so you do have to stick your neck on the line and remove *some* links before disavow.


11/15/2012 02:40 pm

That's all fine and good, except how will Google know someone has done this? A webmaster can simply SAY they emailed take-down requests, and note it in the disavow tool - how is Google going know if they did this or not? Keeping in mind that getting links ACTUALLY taken down is incredibly hard - we've done it for a few clients and our success rate is around 5%. The answer is, they can't - so that "put effort in" statement by Cutts is like a parent smacking a naughty child.

Oleg Korneitchouk

11/15/2012 02:48 pm

They take a "link snapshot" of when you got sent a letter and when you file reconsideration request. If you had a very low % of links removed, you probably didn't try well enough. We've had some pretty good success rates in removing links and the disavow's led to penalties being revoked. See: http://searchengineland.com/matt-cutts-qa-how-to-use-google-link-disavow-tool-137664 " In particular, Google can look at the snapshot of links we saw when we took manual action. If we don’t see any links actually taken down off the web, then we can see that sites have been disavowing without trying to get the links taken down."

Joe Laratro

11/15/2012 03:24 pm

I think there is a very important fact listed above: "he disavowed 100% of the links he found reported in Google Webmaster Tools". That does not mean that 100% of all links and especially BAD links were disavowed because GWT does not report ALL links. A third party tool should be used and the lists compared.

Eric Scism

11/15/2012 03:33 pm

I agree Joe. I use 3 tools, ahrefs, majestic, and moz and they all show huge differences compared to GWT! So yeah, have to take that with a grain of salt!


11/15/2012 04:02 pm

So has anyone been able to remove a manual action penalty using the disavow and sending reconsideration? I can't seem to find anyone that has successfully removed manual action thus far since the release of the tool....


11/15/2012 04:32 pm

or, the lesson is 'never trust Google' - Honestly, whats the point of the disavow if you cant fully use it. Its like you want to empty the money from your account and the bank says, well actually, we can't let you have it all.

Nick Ker

11/15/2012 05:30 pm

When doing a reconsideration request, I include a lot of details about what was done to attempt to remove links. The reconsider form only allows so much space, so I will include links to google docs showing what sites were contacted and when, the results (if any), and if possible an explanation of why those links were there in the first place (shady previous SEO provider, ill-advised new webmaster, competitor shenanigans ...). It is like a plea bargain in a criminal court. You have to show a good faith effort to change your ways, not just show up ask for a get out of jail free card without any demonstration of remorse or understanding of what you did wrong. The judge/google may not believe you anyway, so you need to make a good case for amnesty.

David Sottimano

11/15/2012 05:30 pm

It sound logical, but I doubt they'd be able to scale that process. I'd like to believe that the disavow tool should work on it's own, without messy reconsideration requests or manual Googler probes.

josh bachynski

11/15/2012 05:38 pm

Maybe because the disavow tool doesn't actually do anything. It is just a mechanism that admits guilt on the webmaster's part and will tell google which links to ignore after you have deleted some (shown that "good faith") because in reality they have no idea what other links to ignore (automatically nofollow) if you don't tell them which to disavow.

Nick Ker

11/15/2012 06:19 pm

That makes no sense. Google knows which links are bad and the manual penatlies and Penguin demonstrate that very clearly. That is also why they say No to a lot of reconsideration requests even after links are removed - because they know which ones are "bad" and they want you to try to get them removed rather than having to deal with it on their end. Sure, they could filter out bad stuff on the web, but why not try to get webmasters to police themselves a little better and actually clean up the spam rather than just pretending it isn't there? They know that ultimately you can't get them all taken down. That is why they offer the disavow tool as a last resort. I do think the Disavow Tool does something. It is really too early to say for sure, especially since Google has said to allow "several weeks" to process. In the spammier parts of the SEO world "several weeks" is often interpreted as "48 hours" causing webmasters to panic when expected results don't arrive ahead of schedule. In this case, people who probably have much larger issues than the incomplete list of bad links they disavowed without any attempt to remove them are already proclaiming the disavow tool as a fraud. I have used it a few times with mixed results - one site with a Penguin problem that wasn't going away after getting some links removed has already recovered pretty well so far. This site had a large percentage of same keyword anchor text links from junk directories, but also had a sensible number of real local biz links. If I were Judge Google, I would have seen that as "good faith" efforts by the webmaster being the reason for the link removals. About two weeks after disavowing, the site started to recover for some of those overdone keywords. Another site with a ridiculous amount of spamblog network links, and the same few keyword phrases used in all of those AND a bunch of comment spam and junk directories - only about 1% of which have been removed, an unnatural links warning and a pretty obvious penguin problem has not seen any improvement. Probably shouldn't expect amnesty for that site.

Peter Watson

11/15/2012 09:49 pm

I would like to hear of some recovery stories too. Does Google email you to tell you that your manual penalty has been removed? I was smashed by a manual penalty and Penguin. For 6 months now I have been removing inorganic links and have been able to remove a large percentage, but obviously there were many links I was unable to remove. I submitted a reconsideration request on the 8th Oct and a disavow list on the 17th Oct. I have had no recoveries and I have not had a response from Google at all! To be honest, this feels like a complete waste of time!

Nick Ker

11/15/2012 10:07 pm

Google usually does reply in some way to reconsideration requests (unless you keep sending them without actually fixing things or explaining what you fixed). Penguin, since it isn't a manual penalty, is somewhat different. If there is no manual penalty, G will send you a canned response saying something about "no manual action taken" but that doesn't mean you don't still have a penguin problem. Being an algorithm update and not a manual penalty, you may not see any change related to removing/disavowing bad links until the next update. However, I have done a few Disavows and so far have had one that seems to have eliminated a Penguin problem without a Penguin update, if that makes sense. That site was not in very bad shape compared to the others. I have not heard back from G about the other sites yet. If there were lots of bad links, it may be a little longer until Google responds. They do reserve the right to not reply at all, but I think they recently claimed to reply to most of them. Google also says the processing submissions from disavow tool could take several weeks. Hang in there! ... and maybe use that time to make other improvements, expand on content, work on getting more good links to replace all those you removed. I keep finding myself comparing this to criminal defense - stay out of trouble and become an upstanding member of the community while waiting for trial.

Peter Watson

11/15/2012 10:52 pm

6 months ago (aprox) Google emailed me to inform me of my manual penalty. They even gave me 5 examples of links I needed to remove. They said: 'until they see a bigger effort in the removal of links, my penalty will remain'. Over the next 6 months I worked my backside off removing inorganic links. I submitted a reconsideration request the following month with no reply. I waited another month, submitted again and still no reply. On the 8th Oct I submitted my 6th or 7th reconsideration request and still have not had a reply. I am getting the auto confirmation email, but that's it! My disavow list had approx 500-600 urls, and it has only been 4 weeks, so hopefully I might see something happen within the next 4 weeks. I am hanging in there and I am definitely not giving up, even though some people suggest moving to new url. After 8 years, killing this domain name is not an option for me. At this point, I am hoping for a miracle!

Dave Fowler

11/16/2012 09:44 am

Agreed. When you first click into the 'Links To Your Site' option in GWT you see a figure displayed for 'Total Links'. In my experience, the 'Download Latest Links' export lists around 10% of these links. If that is common to other users then this guy disavowed around 10% of his links.

Chris Beasley

11/16/2012 12:53 pm

Penalizing websites for their incoming links has always been a bad idea, and will always remain a bad idea. The proper logical action is to ignore the links in your algorithm, not penalize the site, but Google has been doing illogical things lately. They seem to be building a rube goldberg device, not an algorithm. They're overthinking it and overdoing it.


11/16/2012 01:03 pm

I used the disavow tool as well as manually requesting link removals. I was able to manually get slightly over 50% of them removed and then the rest were disavowed. I submitted my reconsideration request and received a letter back from Google, stating the manual penalty has been removed. I have yet to see any appreciable improvement but I'm not all too sure I should, at least yet. Isn't there some sort of "penalty period" even after you have had a manual penalty lifted? I seem to recall JC Penny's was around 60 days. Additionally, maybe those were "good links turned bad" - in other words, they may have been major contributors to my positive SERP results until the algorithm (and manual action) recognized them to be the crap links that they really were. At least now I feel better about building good links to the website and not feeling as though I may be pissing in the wind.


11/16/2012 03:02 pm

How long does it take for 'removed' links to actually be removed from Googles crawling? My issue was (is) Penguin and essentially a lot of cross linking between my sites (hundreds of them) resulting in 100's of 1000's of non-organic links. Fortunately because they were all mine I have been able to remove all the links BUT the links still show in WMT and AHREFS after a week from removal - should it take that long for the crawlers to see that the links that were once there are now not there??

Nick Ker

11/16/2012 03:50 pm

WMT is terrible in that regard. I still see links in WMT from sites that ceased to exist at least a year ago. Ahrefs and MajesticSEO will usually catch up within a few weeks.

Nick Ker

11/16/2012 03:57 pm

That does suck. The really spamlinked site I mentioned above follows almost the same timeline, except very few links could be removed. A lot of the spamblogs died on their own since the crack down on those, but most of the others are still there. May be time to throw in the towel on that one. I don't think monthly reconsideration requests are too excessive, but someone at Google (Mueller I think?) did say that manual reviewers do sometimes ignore repeated reconsideration requests. I guess the key is to make sure you make it very clear what has changed since the last one and hope for the best. Prior to the release of the disavow links tool, the common belief was that Penguin, like Panda, required a refresh to get your problem cleared. It may be a matter of time if you removed so many and disavowed others. The tricky part is that if you don't have enough good links to make up for the removed and disavowed, or if the only reason you ranked for those keywords was the anchor texts (and not on page signals) it can be really hard to tell if you still have the problem.

Prem Prakash

11/16/2012 06:41 pm

It has been 25 days I've added almost all backlinking domains in disavov list but found no change in SERP. Still waiting to see ...


11/18/2012 10:48 am

Scott if you have received a nicegram from Google you should start to see positions return within 10-14 days of receiving the message :)


11/19/2012 06:44 pm

Would love to see a case study or blog entry on this!

Winson Yeung

12/13/2012 04:45 pm

terrible mistake that he make to disvow 100% of the link... Starting a new website will be much better

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