Only 15% Say The Disavow Tool Benefits Their Rankings

Jan 13, 2014 • 8:32 am | comments (41) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

Google Disavow Machete ManThe Google Disavow tool is a popular subject with all the link penalties floating around. But the big question is, does it actually help your site to rank better?

In November of last year, we ran a poll asking our audience and over 400 SEOs responded. The responses are not shocking at all.

Only 15% said it benefited their rankings by disavowing sites. 50% said it had no benefit at all. The rest were unsure.

Why is this not shocking? Well, we said this before, disavowing links won't always improve rankings because the links you are disavowing once benefited you in the rankings. When you remove those links, those links no longer count - and probably didn't count when you used the disavow tool because Google penalized them. Either way, you need new links to make up for the links that no longer count. Yes, it might remove the penalty but it won't necessarily improve your rankings.

The disavow tool is not the answer to rankings - it is a solution for fixing a penalty but not necessarily for improving your rankings.

So when the WebmasterWorld thread picked up some steam again, one person said:

Case 1) Had a site that was penalized. Disavowed a bunch of domains, opened reconsideration request. Manual penalty removed. Two months on, the domain gets even less traffic than before.

Case 2) Domain is penalized. Sent in a huge disavow file. Site falls further in rankings and is still penalized.

If I was a webmaster I would just ignore the disavow tool completely. It's useless.

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

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Marie Haynes

01/13/2014 01:50 pm

If your site was affected by Penguin, then disavowing *can* cause an improvement in rankings, but in most cases, only after Penguin refreshes. What I have seen though is that most sites do not see an improvement and this is because there are not enough good links there to make a difference. But, if you have a site that has a base of good links along with unnatural links then disavowing the unnaturals can make a big difference. When Penguin refreshes, then the algorithm will start trusting your site again and your good links will be helpful once again. Unfortunately many of the sites that suffered the most with Penguin would not have been ranking if it weren't for the power of self made links. So, you can't expect to take away all of those self made links and then see an increase in rankings.

Alexander Hemedinger

01/13/2014 02:04 pm

It's true. But unfortunately that's only about maybe the 15% that saw the difference. I am sure with the practices before probably weren't the best. I mean can you blame them? If you saw it working why change it?


01/13/2014 02:10 pm

The problem has always been an arms race. If you were not getting backlinks you were not in the game. To get in the game you had to have backlinks. Google allowed this to happen for so many years and led people into a false sense of security. But that´s OK. Google is good ...RIGHT?

Fede Einhorn

01/13/2014 02:39 pm

And once again, this quote fits perfectly: "The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist."


01/13/2014 03:10 pm

Of course they didn't improve. Think about it. The reason the site ranked in the first place was because of the spam links. Google caught them and the rankings dropped. Why would they go up after removing the links? The original cause of ranking is gone - and you didn't do anything to replace it. Disavowing links will remove the penalty, but if the only reason you ranked in the first place was because of the spam, and that spam was de-valued, you won't continue to rank.


01/13/2014 04:36 pm

Not really true, Google always said not to do this and they were taking steps against this. Most people kept any link-building relatively small scale because of this. Now the people who were exploiting the weakness in the system have a turn to suffer ;) Its been a long time since links were the be-all and end all for SE ranking.


01/13/2014 04:58 pm

While that might be true in some circles, the circles that small businesses hang out isn´t the same circles that you hang out in. Even though you might think they should, why would they? Different story now of course! Because of googles inability to act early, years or what people thought was ok has now come back to bite them. It´s still on the statute books in the UK that you can be hanged for damaging Her Majesty's dockyards. Can you imagine someone getting hanged for it though? NO! Because if you leave something unchecked and unregulated it becomes obsolete. For years and years and years, top SEO´s positively encouraged link exchanging with like minded similar businesses. In fact like yourself there are hypocrites hanging out as main contributors on the google forum spouting the law unto google when not so long ago they were happily link swapping. Google have decided to play a game with peoples lives as opposed to just either ignoring crap or allowing just a disavow of crap. There is a big difference between real spammers who play this game of churn and burn and small businesses who did a bit of link exchange with like minded websites. The real issue here is that either google can´t tell the difference between these 2 types of linker or they could care less. I think they could care less. It´s their ball after all. Just makes them a rather nasty corporate though!


01/13/2014 05:02 pm

Almost all of our clients are small business. We are a small company. Want to try again? You thought you could get away with breaking the rules and are now crying cos you got caught. And yes, Google can tell the difference between these links very nicely.

Harold Compton

01/13/2014 05:05 pm

I have to agree with Ryan that disavow won't raise your ranking, it only removes what can serve to keep it down longer or possible invoke a manual penalty. The spam links that gave you a boost no longer count and to move back up they need to be replaced with quality links.


01/13/2014 05:07 pm

IMHO, removing poor links without supplementing them with more 'natural' or trust worthy links would result into continuous failure of rankings.

Sami Mezhoud

01/13/2014 05:19 pm

A friend wished to use this tool unsuccessfully


01/13/2014 05:25 pm

You are an SEO. You hang out with SEO´s. I see you are trying to save your small business clients. I wonder how they would see you calling them a dirty spammer. You are a hypocrite Steven. I know that must hurt you to hear that but I have seen enough of you to know you don´t know an awful lot apart from the 3 things they always spout at the Google forum: 1. Your link profile is really bad or not great. 2. Your site needs some work. User experience is poor. 3. Google makes over 600 changes a year and your rankings can go up or down. Now, call me old fashioned, but if you think that is helping out people who are in serious financial difficulty then you are a bigger jerk than I already think you are. The Google forum is designed to make small stumpy people who were bullied at school feel big. That´s about it. Nothing else.

Mark A Warner

01/13/2014 07:08 pm

The number of people who would have been hit by Penguin... but were not hit because they disavowed links properly, would be very hard to quantify. The # of webmasters who have escaped manual penalties with the aide of the disavow tool is also pretty significant. If anyone wants to make the case that Google should get rid of the disavow tool, good luck.

PM Fiorini

01/13/2014 08:13 pm

I agree


01/13/2014 11:26 pm

Disavow works! Unfortunately we do not know which links to remove. I disavowed a ton of spammy links and I saw some keywords surge in rankings while others dropped. Some spammy links do help and others have no value at all. If only we could determine what penguin is really looking for.


01/13/2014 11:52 pm

The disavow tool is garbage. What about all the "real" sites that were sabotaged by negative SEO? These sites were ranking with "real" links before, not spammy ones, and after disavowing links all these sites are still left in the toilet.

Soni Sharma

01/14/2014 02:51 am

I have checked this tool with few client's websites which have bad links. I haven't seen any improvement yet but I hope it will work after some time.

Gaurav Srivastava

01/14/2014 04:59 am

I think it only worked for Rap Genius. lol..


01/14/2014 05:20 am

doesn't work


01/14/2014 06:05 am

Talking shit again Marie. What is your job description at Google?

The Captain

01/14/2014 06:27 am

Here is my top SEO tip for 2014. When you are building links, quit using link research tools to spy on your competitors. Just do a Google on them, look at the branded links that are returned in the search results. Those are the only links that Google cares about. You guys are over thinking this stuff.

Deepak Pandey

01/14/2014 06:37 am

Yes this is absolutely right!

Deepak Pandey

01/14/2014 06:37 am

Yes Gaurav Srivastava...:)

Deepak Pandey

01/14/2014 06:38 am

I never seen that It'll work after some time...:)

Deepak Pandey

01/14/2014 06:39 am

Exactly this is right.

Muhammad Noman Khalid

01/14/2014 07:11 am

I've upload disavow file that includes up to 184 domains. I recover 4K traffic in about 1 month period. So this tool has helping my site to get the organic traffic back.

osman musa

01/14/2014 07:33 am

At this point I can't be certain if the 20 links I disavowed benefited my site or if new links of my site on social networks and other sites increased my rank and traffic. I hope things stay the way they are for me. I would stick with what I have than risk getting more.


01/14/2014 11:42 am

I don't call them dirty spammers because they weren't stupid enough to spam for short term gains when they wanted a long term business. Also, I don't think you know what the word hypocrite means, either that or you are making massive assumptions with no clue. Either way you are just making yourself look dumb. Guess what, 90%+ of the problems ARE one or a combination of these issues. No surprise they are the most common response, since they are the solutions to the most common problems. Perhaps the people on the webmaster forums should just not both helping at all then? Would you prefer that? I think that makes you the jerk not me. The forum is to help people, if you come there and start treating volunteers like wankers, lying or with a 'its all someone else's fault' attitude, well expect what you get. If you come to the forum actually wanting help, generally you get help. Thousands of webmasters have had their problems sorted there. If you didn't perhaps it might be a problem with you rather than with the forum.


01/14/2014 11:50 am

Well, depends if they took the warning seriously or not. If not, well Google has been warning them for years, so either they didn't do any research at all or choose to ignore the warnings and take the risk for the improved rankings. They choose to take the risk and no it has caught up with them.

Richard Merry

01/14/2014 12:42 pm

I second that Josh, hit the nail on the head.

Dave Fogel

01/14/2014 12:44 pm

I disavowed 587 root domains on a site, made no difference even 4 months later.

Deepak Joshi

01/14/2014 12:51 pm

Disavow tool benefited a lot, I hav disavowed 224 root domains and I got back the increase in traffic.

Richard Merry

01/14/2014 12:56 pm

Marie's just made the most sense on this page...what Maria says is the way it works!!


01/14/2014 01:16 pm

There are a couple of really helpful guys on there. Black Belt being one of them. Ashley has her moments too but you Steven just repeat what others more knowledgeable than you say. You are looking to curry some kind of favor by using the google forums to make yourself look knowledgeable when the truth is that you are riding off the back of others more knowledgeable than yourself. Anyone can go on the google forum and just copy what others say and build up their forum level. That might make you look helpful to a noob but to a regular observer like me, it makes you look like you are after something. Sound about right Stevie boy? That in my book makes you the wanker. Not me!


01/14/2014 01:53 pm

And exactly how do you learn? Perhaps by learning what people who are good at it do? I doubt you've read all my posts either given I've been helping people since 2008ish. Do I claim to be the best SEO in the world? No. Do I claim to have a decent amount of knowledge on the subject? Yes and I think most of the people who have worked with me and our clients agree given the success of their websites. And then you resort to personal attacks. Ad hominem The fact you are insulting me for trying to help people on a forum says it all about you really. Sounds like you aren't actually capable of holding an adult discussion and don't actually have an argument to support your case.


01/14/2014 03:02 pm

Au contraire Steven. You need to remember that the internet is for life. Words you use in a public forum are there for the future to judge you by. You are highly unprofessional using your name in a professional way and spouting words like wanker. This makes you look so stupid. You think you are cool because you copy what others say on the google forum (which is not a beacon of professionalism) and you think because others are acting so cool with bad words, it´s OK for you to do it too. Anyone reading this Steven will see you are a dick head. You rise far too easily to bait and then fail to respond in a professional way without having to resort to naughty potty mouth schoolboy swear words. Now, go get your little NERF gun and go play.


01/14/2014 03:19 pm

Hate to mention it, but I don't help out in the Google forums in a professional capacity. Its something I do in my own time. If anyone there was operating in a professional capacity, they would be paid, aka John Muller and the other Googlers. So yet another of your assumptions down the drain. And yet again more insults and abuse due to the lack of an actual valid point on the topic that was actually been discussed. The only one throwing insults and abuse around here is you. Perhaps you should take a look in a mirror because you seem to be projecting your personal issues on to me. But hey, if throwing insults floats your boat, thats fine. I hope it makes you happy. But you don't even have the guts to show who you actually are so... just another anonymous troll on the net with zero actual value to contribute.


01/16/2014 07:13 pm

I second Richard. Marie - I am getting that sense from many sources but still not 100% on this. Is there not something to think about here - to the extent a site ranks well on the strength of its good links, why will the un-natural bad ones harm it. I would expect google to be on top of this, dont you think?

Jacques Bouchard

01/16/2014 08:31 pm

The disavow tool has brought several sites up about 15% on my side. Sometimes more. Sometimes not at all.

Gail Gardner

02/05/2014 08:23 pm

And what does any of that have to do with ranking the best quality sites and providing the best search results to their users? NOTHING. Google is just a big bully using their monopoly powers to destroy real businesses. It is about time we collectively got behind a viable independent (read NOT Bing or Yahoo) alternative. Is there one? Is there ANY search engine that has their own crawler we could support in becoming the "go-to" alternative to Google?


02/06/2014 09:24 am

How are the factors used to determine ranking not relevant to ranking??? They are what it uses to determine which is the best quality site. Thats like saying flour has nothing to do with bread........ What you are actually saying is that Google isn't giving you FREE traffic anymore and you built your business around getting free advertising despite been warned that it wasn't stable and might disappear. Now like a spoilt child you cry 'its all their fault'. Google does not owe you traffic. The only thing Google owes anyone is to try and be the best search engine they can be. "Google allowed this to happen for so many years and led people into a false sense of security" No, Google have been warning people against building spam links for literally years, you choose to ignore them because you thought you could get away with it and now its bit you in the arse.

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