In an Office-hours Hangout recorded on 1 July, 2022 Google’s John Mueller discussed if there is any inherent risk in deleting a disavow file. Yes, answered John. But the action comes with its own set of terms and conditions. The discussion caught further find when one of the viewers claims to have disavowed tens of thousands of links wanted to know if there was any risk attached with deleting a disavowed file. Or if it was something that shouldn’t be done at all. The question was based on the widespread knowledge that Google has come a long way and fully equipped to not take your average junk links into account while evaluating a website for ranking purposes. Important thing to note here is that these are the kind of links a website gets through no fault of the publisher; any links that have paid for or come through link farms will sooner or later be reprimanded.
Before we move on to what advice John had to give on the issue, let’s first take a general look at the much talked about Disavow Tool and how it came to be so.
What is the Disavow Tool?
It was 2012’s Penguin Update—aimed at tackling webspam and black-hat tactics such as spammy or manipulative links—that brought the Disavow Tool to the forefront. The tool makes it easier for website publishers or SEOs to officially disassociate their website from the links they couldn’t remove. It was on 16 October, 2012 that Google announced Disavow Tool in their Google Search Central Blog, stating:
“Today we’re introducing a tool that enables you to disavow links to your site. If you’ve been notified of a manual spam action based on “unnatural links” pointing to your site, this tool can help you address the issue. If you haven’t gotten this notification, this tool generally isn’t something you need to worry about.
If you’ve ever been caught up in linkspam, you may have seen a message in Webmaster Tools about “unnatural links” pointing to your site. We send you this message when we see evidence of paid links, link exchanges, or other link schemes that violate our quality guidelines.
If you’ve done as much as you can to remove the problematic links, and there are still some links you just can’t seem to get down, that’s a good time to visit our new Disavow links page.”
Google knows which links are manipulative and which are random.
Here is what the viewer asked.
“Over the last 15 years, I’ve disavowed over 11,000 links in total. I never bought a link or did anything unallowed, like sharing. The links that I disavowed may have been from hacked sites or from nonsense, auto-generated content.
Since Google now claims that they have better tools to not factor these types of hacked or spammy links into their algorithms, should I just delete my disavow file? Is there any risk or upside or downside to just deleting it?”
To which John said, making the viewer understand that Google can very well tell apart manipulative links and links that point to the website without publisher’s knowledge.
“So this is a good question, it comes up every now and then. And disavowing links is always kind of one of those tricky topics because it feels like Google is probably not telling you the full information.
But from our point of view, it’s actually like; we do work really hard to avoid taking these kinds of links into account. And we do that because we know that the disavow links tool is somewhat a niche tool.
…SEOs know about it, but the average person who runs a website has no idea about it. And all of those links that you mentioned there are kind of links that any websites gets over the years. And our systems understand that these are not things that you’re trying to do to kind of like game our algorithms.”
John pointed out the difference between manipulative links that lead to penalty or random spammy links a website accidently happens to gain over the years.
So, it is advised to delete a disavow file without any repercussions?
“So from that point of view, if you’re really sure that there’s nothing around like a manual action that you had to resolve with regards to these links, I would just delete the disavow file and move on with life and kind of leave all of that aside.
One thing I would personally do is just download it and make a copy so that you have kind of a record of what you deleted. But otherwise, if you’re sure these are just kind of the normal crufty things from the Internet, I would just delete it and move on.
There’s much more to spend your time on when it comes to websites than just disavowing these random things that happen to any website on the web.”
Yes, as long as it is not an action one takes to hide or “deal” with manipulative links in order to avoid an incoming penalty or to get over a manual penalty. Watch John Mueller’s full response to question at the 10:20 minute mark and may be also stick around for the rest of the discussion for some other valuable insights.
Source: Search Engine Journal