Penguin Recovery: Is Uploading A Disavow File Enough?

I hope you enjoy this post!  To get expert ideas into how to grow your business faster online, click here.

Craig Smith  |  Founder & CEO

Been penalized for inbound links? Read below for steps and insights to get your ranks back.

During a recent Whiteboard Friday video, Moz writer Josh Bachynski tackled the question of disavow files and Penguin penalties. In it, Josh made the controversial conclusion that disavow files alone were not enough to help websites recover from a Penguin link penalty.

Backlinks And Reputation

Google uses hundreds of variables to determine the authority of a website and it’s relevance to search terms customers enter into their search engine. When another highly-ranked site links to your own, Google will often give your website more weight based on that recommendation.

During early versions of search algorithm, this weighting system was easy to exploit. Webmasters could pay to have links back to their site posted on dozens of directories and in the comments of blogs, even if those other websites were from unrelated industries.

As the the search giant improved, however, their algorithm became better at discerning relevant links from “spammy” ones, and the company warned webmasters that trying to artificially bolster their rankings through this form of link building was against their best practices.

With the release of their Penguin update, Google started penalizing websites that it felt built links artificially, either through purchasing them or by spamming them in the comments on other websites. To remove the penalty, head of webspam Matt Cutts told webmasters that they would have to attempt to manually get these unnatural links removed or un-followed.

If a webmaster refuses to remove the link, or if you cannot find a way to contact them, these “bad” links can be uploaded through Google Webmaster tools in a disavow file.

Can You Remove A Penalty With Just A Disavow File?

This is where the conversation becomes controversial, with several established SEO websites, such as Moz, stating that a disavow file is not enough, on its own, to remove a penalty while others insist that it is. One problem with trying to interpret how one of Google’s changes affects rankings is because most tools that webmaster’s rely on utilize third party tools such as ahrefs or open site explorer.

Websites will often remove links on their own, and many frequent targets of spammy links (such as personal blogs) will go inactive as their domains expire. This natural link turnover is one factor that can help sites recover from a penalty but it is isn’t the only factor.

At Trinity Insight, we’ve had a lot of success in helping clients recover from a penguin penalty primarily using the Disavow tool to identify bad links that we told Google to avoid. In fact, for some of our clients, a disavow file was the only tool used that helped them recover from Penguin.

Remove What You Can, Disavow The Rest

There’s still a lot that we don’t know about the Penguin update and Google is constantly updating it, so if you have an easy way to remove bad links, you should do so. Additional social media accounts, paid backlinks and directories are typically easy links to get removed or no-followed.

While disavowing these links could have the same effect, there’s no guarantee that this will be the case as the search giant continues to improve their algorithm.

Once you’ve taken care of these easy-to-remove links, however, don’t waste your time trying to chase down the webmaster of every blog and article a comment appears in. Add these remaining bad links to a Disavow file, and spend your time improving your own site instead.

At Trinity Insight, we work with our clients to help them create authoritative, engaging content for their customers, since this is the best way to make your services more relevant in Google’s eyes. Links, while a useful tool, will only result in conversion if the content on the referred page is what customer’s were looking for in the first place.

As Google get’s better at interpreting the intent of web searches, artificial link building will become easier for them to identify. The best way to recover from a Penguin penalty is to avoid getting one in the first place.

Use Disavow to recover, and then focus on making the best website for your products that you possibly can. In the end, that’s all that your customers, and Google, are really searching for.

Looking for help? Contact us for a preliminary audit of your algorithmic or manual penalty.

Table of Contents

The First Step to Fast SEO Growth

Outline the core pillars to your technical and content SEO strategies, and take your SEO to the next level with our free SEO Playbook (PDF).

About Trinity

Helping online brands grow since 2006. How can we help you? Find out today!

Get a FREE website diagnostic consultation and report for your site.


How to Scale SEO Work NOBODY Wants to Do to Grow Traffic