Google: Don't Disavow Links Based On Arbitrary Metrics

Mar 5, 2014 • 8:39 am | comments (20) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

Google Disavow Machete ManThe other day we covered that you do not need to and likely shouldn't disavow off topic links.

Today, Google's John Mueller is strongly suggesting you do not use the disavow tool to disavow links that "fall low on some arbitrary metric."

One SEO is suggesting to another webmaster to maybe disavow links that have low social media value, such as low Facebook shares or Twitter tweets or Google+ shares. Or even look at the number of promotions, forums discussions and maybe classifieds the links have. If they are low, then disavow them, this webmaster said.

John Mueller said "that's a really bad idea."

That's a really bad idea. Disavowing links just because they fall low on some arbitrary metric doesn't make sense.

Forum discussion at Google Webmaster Help.

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Marie Haynes

03/05/2014 02:00 pm

I think that you can certainly use metrics like this to help with your decision making, but I believe that what John is saying is not to make steadfast rules on these metrics. For example, if I am doing a backlink audit on a site that has used low quality link building techniques such as spammy article directories, if I come across a link that is in an article that has FB and G+ shares, then there is a better chance that this is a good link. But, I'm still going to weigh in other factors. On the other hand, if I have a site that has used more sophisticated/costly link building techniques such as advertorials or paying for placement in higher quality articles, then I can't call a link natural just because it has a certain number of social shares. John was replying to this statement, "If you want to remove the bad links from the following categories Low PR, Low Page Authority, Low Domain Authority, PHP Link Directories, Less traffic from the websites, etc., First collect all the backlinks from Webmeup and check the links below PR 3, Page Authority Less than 30, DA 30, PHP Link Directories, Directories." But, it's certainly possible for a natural link to come from a PR2 page or an unnatural link to come from a PR5 page. I would agree though that in almost every case, a link from a PHP link directory is going to be unnatural, but then there are other directory links that are totally ok. The take home message is to use common sense when auditing links. The idea is to remove any links that were self made with the intention of improving your SEO.

Josh Zehtabchi

03/05/2014 02:47 pm

You know what, I'm going to be the mean one to say it. If you cannot pick up patterns, cycles, relative information and some sort of creative thinking, you will never recover. This shoot in the dark stuff with SEO is doomed to fail.


03/05/2014 02:50 pm

Isn't Google's algorithm for ranking/penalising sites based upon a collection of arbitrary metrics? If we're not supposed to judge the value of a link based upon measurable metrics, then how is it possible for Google to do so?

Michael Martinez

03/05/2014 03:19 pm

"Isn't Google's algorithm for ranking/penalising sites based upon a collection of arbitrary metrics?" John's point is that people are just making up nonsense and using that for no good reason at all. In the case of the original poster in the forum, Google kept supplying examples of the kinds of links it wanted to remove but the OP didn't understand the process.

Michael Martinez

03/05/2014 03:20 pm

"I would agree though that in almost every case, a link from a PHP link directory is going to be unnatural..." Just out of curiosity, Marie, how many counter-examples would it take to convince you to retract that statement?

Marie Haynes

03/05/2014 03:24 pm

I can't recall seeing a natural link from a php link directory on any of the hundreds of audits I have done, but then I am probably biased as I am primarily working on sites with link related issues. I did say, "In *almost* every case." I'm sure there are some good php link directories out there, but the vast majority of them that I have seen are spam.


03/05/2014 04:44 pm

At the end of the day, directories are directories. I am fairly sure Google pretty much ignores all links out from them these days, pretty much like it does with whois/domain pages for example.

Adam Heaton

03/05/2014 04:53 pm

SEO's like to pretend they know something that others do not by passing on rubbish advice that they've made up on the spot, such as the example provided by Barry. These SEO's are idiots and don't realise what damage they can do to another persons website with their idiocy.


03/05/2014 07:47 pm

I thought Matt Cutts said to use the disavow tool like an axe? If disavowing links using an axe type process is wrong to John Mueller, what metrics/gauge would John have people look at? Matt and John's statements are at odds, which I'm sadly not surprised with.

Michael Martinez

03/05/2014 09:59 pm

"*almost* every case" is a pretty big claim. Web marketers don't rule the Web as much as they like to believe they do. There are a LOT of link directories out there.

Michael Martinez

03/05/2014 10:02 pm

If you know you have been naughty and Google has punished you for being naughty, use the axe. If you know you have been naughty and Google has NOT punished you for being naughty, don't wake the sleeping giant but keep glancing over your shoulder. If you know you have NOT been naughty and Google has punished you for someone else's handiwork, use the axe. If you know you have NOT been naughty and Google has NOT punished you, don't wake the sleeping giant and don't look back.


03/05/2014 10:32 pm

Sounds like good advice and a reminder to not take John's words out of context/apply it to all situations.

Jan Dunlop

03/05/2014 10:45 pm

Just because a link may have little or no value, is not a reason to disavow. I thinks its pretty obvious which links should be disavowed these days: either its a dodgy link that you placed and cannot get removed OR it's outright webspam which can be a common issue for authority sites (depending on the niche).

Soni Sharma

03/06/2014 04:37 am

That's bad idea.....don't follow this trick

Jitendra Vaswani

03/06/2014 04:55 am

Still confused what Google wants from us.

Jitendra Vaswani

03/06/2014 04:57 am

Michael sir can u explain arbitrary metrics please.

Michael Martinez

03/06/2014 06:42 am

Google's metrics don't appear to be arbitrary as they have plenty of data about how specific linking practices have been used to unduly influence their algorithms. They just aren't disclosing the details of the data or how they interpret it. When someone outside of Google -- with no prior knowledge of their algorithms and internal policies -- creates a list of criteria for ranking factors or attributes of "bad" links, he is simply making arbitrary choices with neither data nor science to support those choices. There are undoubtedly many anecdotes that lead people to make these arbitrary choices but anecdotal evidence is very difficult to use in proving cause-and-effect.


03/06/2014 08:48 am

I think most of the SEO's are creating links on keywords, excessive link building on targeted keywords is major cause of penalties, so in my opinion if you create back links with variations and if you links dose not create a nonsense behavior then you maybe on track and dont need to go with disavow the links.


03/06/2014 12:07 pm

Have a look at the backlink profile of a site you're considering disavowing. See what their techniques and practices are. A little bit of in-depth analysis never hurt anyone! There are loads of other signals. The formatting of the site may be suspect or the link may be from an undesirable category (directories, article-spam sites). There will always be some who argue that 0-value links shouldn't be disavowed; but if they have no value you won't lose anything? May as well take a shot at insulating yourself in my opinion. Some sites break their category mold and provide value despite being associated with a negative site-category; having said that Google disconnected themselves from DMOZ (they had a 'Google directory' mirror-site) so I think it's pretty evident that lists of links in their own right are not interesting or valuable to web-surfers. Maximum scrutiny is the way to go - but disavowing a site because of low social metrics? I've never heard that one before. Sometimes if a site has high PA/DA but a null entry for TBPR it can point to a penalty... but these are all just pointers, not actionable data

Aryan Singh

03/07/2014 08:12 am

Google have plenty of data about how specific linking in back links have been used and how they are influencing the googles algorithms. They don’t give the details of the data or any pattern to show how they works or interpret. So never choose to disavow links on just only one metric like social media presence only. This is really a bad idea. .

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