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What do you think, or whether do you have some sources to read about: is it still needed and helpful to disavow spammy backlinks in 2023?

I mean, since some time Google measures backlink profile while automatically de-value bad links - or am I wrong with it?

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  • Has Google taken a manual action against your site for link spam? Aug 4, 2023 at 10:47
  • no. But I see in GSC, where Google displays links, some links of bad quality, links, which my Chrome Adblocker has on its blacklist as spammy. So is my question: to disavow, as in pre-Penguin times? Or just to forget, because of automatic de-valueing?
    – Evgeniy
    Aug 4, 2023 at 12:51

2 Answers 2

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You should only disavow bad links to your site if Google has taken manual action against your site in the form of a penalty for link building. See Google's disavow links help page which says:

You should disavow backlinks only if:

You have a considerable number of spammy, artificial, or low-quality links pointing to your site,
AND
The links have caused a manual action, or likely will cause a manual action, on your site.

Most sites get some spammy links pointing to them and don't need to take any action. Google routinely identifies spammy links and discounts them without penalizing the sites to which those links point.

Disavowing links when you don't have a manual link building penalty will likely hurt your SEO rather than help it. You would likely be disavowing some links that are helping your SEO because Google doesn't view them as overly spammy.

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  • or likely will cause a manual action, on your site. Explain me please this part. How can webmasters know, whether links to their sites will likely trigger manual action, if most sites will not need to use this tool? How to know, whether one belongs to this minority, which could get a manual penalty?
    – Evgeniy
    Aug 7, 2023 at 13:15
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    Maybe if you see that other sites with those links are getting penalized. I don't know how else you could know that a penalty from Google is likely. I wouldn't disavow without a manual action against my site because I have no way of knowing that one might be likely. Aug 7, 2023 at 17:12
  • Just to clarify my understand. By "manual action" we Google means they have have notified you of a problem with your links? Or does that mean they penalized you without your knowledge?
    – Trebor
    Oct 26, 2023 at 14:01
  • They contact you through Search Console for manual actions. If you don't have a search console account or if the email address you signed up for it with is no longer working, you might miss the notification. Oct 26, 2023 at 17:30
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Last month I tried out some SEO software that I haven't used in years for kicks. I won't name it so that this answer is not deemed promotion. There is a "Toxicity score" within the backlink audit feature that can be used to discover fishy links aimed at your site.

After the Helpful Content Update I was curious and decided to disavow only the URLs that the tool listed as "highly toxic". URLs that are listed as toxic are ones that demonstrate black hat behavior. For example, links from a confirmed PLN would be listed as highly toxic.

I did this just before Christmas. Below is a screenshot of depicting impressions and clicks afterward. Obviously, this correlation could be spurious, especially around Christmas.

So while Stephen gave the "correct" answer here - I wanted to point out that in my experience I have come across exceptions to the rule.

In the past I've bought links from PLNs and pointed them at test sites to observe the effect. The last time was in 2021. While link spam violates Google's webmaster guidelines, I have only received a manual action in the most extreme cases.

Remember just because you didn't do anything wrong doesn't mean someone else didn't. There are bad actors out there that know Google punishes link spam and direct link spam towards competitor sites to try and quash them.

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