Ask Yoast: Disavow backlinks from shady sites?

As much as we advocate holistic SEO here at Yoast, there will always be people turning to the dark side, employing less than savory techniques for their own gain. When someone targets a website with actions intended to lower its ranking in the SERPs, it’s called ‘negative SEO’.

One way people can try to damage a site’s rankings is by getting loads of unnatural, shady links to point to a website. Now, you shouldn’t worry about being the target of a negative SEO attack like that the moment you notice a drop in your rankings! In most cases, the cause is something else. But, if you ascertained that there’s suddenly a great many shady backlinks to your site, it may be time to take action. Google’s disavow links tool allows you to ask Google not to take certain links into account when assessing your site. But is it OK to use this tool, and is it always necessary? Let’s discuss in today’s Ask Yoast!

Shant emailed us about this predicament:

I noticed about 18,000 links to my domain in Google Search Console from a few unethical websites. I suspect someone is targeting me with negative SEO, but my rankings are currently not affected. Should I still disavow these 18,000 links to my domain or could this harm my ranking? Or will Google’s algorithm realize this is a negative SEO effort and ignore them?

Watch the video or read the transcript below for my answer!

Dealing with bad backlinks

“Well, if you don’t want those links, then disavowing them doesn’t really hurt you. If you know how to disavow them, by all means, do it. And you can disavow at a domain level, so if they only come from a few domains then just disavow those entire domains. If they’re not links you’re proud of, then they’re probably not helping you rank either.

But, if it’s not really hurting your rankings at the moment, then you can also just do nothing because, yes, Google will usually figure out a lot of this by itself and say, “Hey, these domains are really, really shady and we should not allow these links to do anything. Good luck.”

Read more: Clean up your bad backlinks »

Ask Yoast series

14 Responses to Ask Yoast: Disavow backlinks from shady sites?

  1. newton
    newton  • 2 months ago

    glad it was really helpful my site has been hacked and done with a lots of spammy backlinks thanks i have got a clear view now thanks for sharing the article

  2. Globex Outreach
    Globex Outreach  • 2 months ago

    No doubt that the bad links will get your site banned by the google but in my point of view google will let you know whats going wrong with your site and why? and it will defiantly tell us how to get rid of that penalty.

  3. Fazal Aasar
    Fazal Aasar  • 3 months ago

    I wonder how would Google let other competitors hurt rankings of some other competing website this seems to be impossible to be. I heard the game that competitors also click on the PPC ads of their competitors for raising their costs but this links game is out of my logic I personally believe that does not work anymore.

  4. Moon Marketing
    Moon Marketing  • 3 months ago

    Great post.
    The negative seo is often difficult to identify and resolve.
    Until last year the number of domains for the disavow was limited (numerically). Has it been updated recently?
    thank you.

  5. Win2888
    Win2888  • 3 months ago

    It’s very useful for me because Nowadays I am also getting some spammy backlinks.

  6. IrishWonder
    IrishWonder  • 3 months ago

    It is probably worth noting though that negative SEO via links is only one, most obvious (and more often than not, not very successful) kind of negative SEO

  7. Donald Piccione
    Donald Piccione  • 3 months ago

    Hi Joost,
    It is very long time I follow your website and I have your plugin in all the websites. Probably more than 5 years. I went to Amsterdam and I thought to pay a visit to you, but then I didn’t want to bother as you probably were busy. I hope to meet you some day in Dublin during some conference.
    Do you think now the use of Google Disavow tool can be ignored in case of spammy or negative seo once for all? I know for example while I am using SemRush, I gets notifications of “toxic backlinks” which I always put into the disavow list.
    What do you think on backlinks who are not created for negative SEO but for adding ranking, but they are still considered kind of spammy, unnatural to get, blatantly with SEO in mind. Would those still ignored by Google or maybe could be potentially be triggered for a penalty?

  8. skills Cources
    skills Cources  • 3 months ago

    Being a blogger its necessary to create back link which is very help full for website marketing and in this thing role of SEO is very important.

  9. Pradeep Singh
    Pradeep Singh  • 3 months ago

    It’s very useful for me because Nowadays I am also getting some spammy backlinks.

  10. Xameer
    Xameer  • 3 months ago

    It happened to me recently when someone tried to spam me with low quality spammy sites. And with recent google update it really effected my ranking too.
    I already disavowed them, but i think i was bit late, waiting for next update hope that will do good to me.

  11. MeiKe
    MeiKe  • 3 months ago

    Facing same kind of situation these days with thousands of links from some domains looking shady and clone sites of one another. In confusion whether disavow or not because one site with DA 38 and other is 28 but others are less. These sites are search engine type like fetching results from Google. Can i proceed to disavow them?

    • MeiKe
      MeiKe  • 3 months ago

      Anyone clear this doubt?

  12. Gabriel
    Gabriel  • 3 months ago

    I found google’s disavow tool to be really helpful at this.. I gotta admit it was a rocket science to me at first..

    But i later figure out how to use the tool and I got those shaddy links off my site’s tail.

    then about 20days later or thereabout.. All those shady links were completely off my site and my rankings went back up..

    Thanks YoasT!! Thanks Google

  13. Brent
    Brent  • 3 months ago

    Seriously I never felt if that feature exists in Yoast. Previously my site has attacked with negative SEO. It took me days to identify, list and disavow those shady links.

    Joost this blog post helped me discover this new feature. I will surely check it out.

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