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Mueller Discusses How Long It Takes For A Disavow File To Impact Rankings

how to maintain a high website seo ranking

In an Office-hours hangout, Google’s John Mueller was asked about the risks of using Google’s link disavow tool. The person who asked the question said their website SEO rankings plummeted a few days after uploading a disavow file. Mueller responded to various queries and told website SEOs how long it takes to see ranking changes after uploading a disavow file. He also revealed the time it takes Google to work a disavow into their algorithms.

The person had several queries that addressed a variety of hypotheses regarding what causes a disavow file to produce such dramatic changes in rankings.

Another concern was whether or not employing the disavow is a negative signal that triggers a soft penalty. The person also wondered how long it would take to remove a “black mark” caused by utilising the disavow tool.

Mueller answered by saying there was no punishment for employing the disavow tool. He explained that publishers use the disavow tool to indicate links that they do not want to be linked with their website in Google’s systems. He also assured them that the links in a disavow tool do not represent past poor behaviour since they are just links publishers are concerned about.

The Disavow Tool Is Not Necessary For Random Links

Mueller reassured that the disavow tool isn’t necessary for random discovered links. He did, however, recommend using the tool on links that imply that the publisher is responsible for something. For instance, if Google manually examines the website and assumes that the publisher did something wrong, then it makes sense to use the disavow tool to deny it.

Mueller once again stated that Google does not assume that someone is taking the blame by filing a disavow. It does not mean that the publisher is the reason for it, nor is it a sign that implies they are admitting their wrongdoing.

He went on to assure that there is no memory of past wrongdoings after a site has been cleaned up as a result of a manual action.

From Google’s standpoint, if a site owner resolves a problem, then they are done dealing with it. In some cases, Google has to reprocess everything associated with the website, and so it requires more time to solve the issue. However, there is no ill will in their algorithms that prevents a website from ranking.

SEOs Claim To Rank Higher With Disavow Tool

The disavow tool is quite interesting; many people claim that it works because, from their experience, they observed that their website SEO rankings improved after using it. But according to Mueller, any immediate drop in rankings or search visibility is not related to the use of the disavow tool.

So, for example, with the disavow file, when Google reprocesses the links pointing to a website, they take that file into account. And this is a procedure that takes place gradually over time. Mueller believes it starts to incrementally show its effects over the course of three to five months.

So, if a website owner says that they observed an impact in a couple of days and it was a really powerful effect, it is entirely unrelated to the disavow file. Mueller said that perhaps the site owner hasn’t discovered what might be causing this.

The website SEO community should not be quick to think that a particular factor is the sole cause of the changes in their rankings just because it seems obvious. The real cause might be something that is not easily seen. In this case, the person submitted a disavow file, and their rankings changed after a few days, but there was no actual correlation.

Meanwhile, Mueller confirmed that it takes months before the data in a disavow file works its way through the algorithm to the rankings, as the process happens in small batches.

Why SEOs Disavow Links

The process of removing links and disavowing them is one of the most challenging jobs in SEO. Removing links might seem counter-intuitive, and it’s made worse by the fact that it’s caused by one of two scenarios:

  • The site owner most likely used poor link building practices in the past, which cost energy or money. And now, all that labour needs to be undone with more energy or money.
  • Someone – most likely a competitor – builds bad links to the site, hoping that it will incur a penalty.

Distinguishing the real reason from these two is crucial as it helps SEOs respond faster to backlinks. Furthermore, the distinction between being proactive and reactive is significant.

When To Use The Disavow Tool

Situation 1: Spammy links

If a website owner hires a spammy link builder who provides them with a list of where those links can be found, then there is no investigation necessary for this situation. The site owner must simply disavow all links.

Situation 2: Negative SEO

A negative SEO attack detected early is easier to deal with, although it takes longer than the first situation. When one looks at a backlink growth graph for a negative SEO attack, they will see an unnatural spike. The advantage of this link analysis is that the SEO will know when it exactly occurred, which makes the work so much easier.

In the case of negative SEO, it is not necessary to review every single link the website acquired – just the links in that specific time frame.

Situation 3: Past spam

The worst-case scenario is when bad links are obviously present, but the SEO does not know when they were created. If there’s no noticeable increase in backlinks in their data graph and no reporting on link building, but there are poor forum and bookmark links, then one should carry out an in-depth backlink audit and carefully analyse all backlink data.

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