homepage Welcome to WebmasterWorld Guest from
register, free tools, login, search, pro membership, help, library, announcements, recent posts, open posts,
Become a Pro Member
Visit PubCon.com
Home / Forums Index / Google / Google SEO News and Discussion
Forum Library, Charter, Moderators: Robert Charlton & aakk9999 & brotherhood of lan & goodroi

Google SEO News and Discussion Forum

My Google Disavow Story

 2:25 pm on Nov 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

We have an online comparison website and have been competing with affiliates in the same industry for many years.

I would describe this particular website as high quality in comparison to other affiliates in our market.

Our website is creative, interactive, social and engages the user. The website has had a five figure investment in the design aspect alone.

Back in 2010 we got our first penalty which we now understand to be a manual action (buying links). After sending several reconsideration requests we had no luck and each time got the same response from Google -
"Site violates Google's quality guidelines"

But not to worry! five months later our website automatically pops out and regains it's rankings.
As Matt Cutts states himself in this video "When are penalties lifted?"

"Most manual penalties are timed-out"

But the 2012 comes around and we get a double hit - Not only do we receive another Manual penalty in January 2012, later on April 24th we are hit by the infamous algorithmic penguin penalty.

We send in a few more reconsideration requests and get the standard -
"Site violates Google's quality guidelines - We've reviewed your site and we still see links to your site that violate our quality guidelines. "

At this point around about May 2012 we start a massive link removal process. We had a total of 1,100 domains pointing to our domain. Mostly directories, blog-rolls and low quality sites.

Over a period of 3-months we manage to remove 70% over 750 domain's pointing to our site, spending many hours contacting websites.

We were unable to remove the remaining links due to them being on PHP script directories who have no contact information or simply do not respond to emails, letters, phone-calls we sent.

But wait.... rumor in the SEO world is that Google will follow Bing and create a tool for webmasters to Disavow links in order to fight off negative SEO. So we sit patiently twiddling our thumbs.

October 16th - It arrives! [googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.co.uk...]

We said to ourselves, we just want a clean slate. With have participated in "Spammy" SEO in the past and it's extremely difficult to identify every remaining link pointing to our website that Google may consider spam.

So we fire up our backlink tool and webmaster link data and fill up a simple text file with EVERY domain pointing to our website.

So to be clear, we removed 70% (750 domains) by contacting webmasters over a 3-month period and then on October 16th uploaded a text file with the remaining 30% (350 domains)to Google's new Disavow feature. We then sent in a reconsider request explaining every I've stated above.

October 16th: Create A Text File with %100 of domains pointing to our site.

October 18th: File A Reconsideration request:

November 12th: We get a response*

Dear site owner or webmaster of http://www.mysite.co.uk/,

We received a request from a site owner to reconsider http://www.mysite.co.uk for compliance with Google's Webmaster Guidelines.

We've reviewed your site and we still see links to your site that violate our quality guidelines.

You're kidding right?... How can we have a manual penalty for 11-months not have it revoked when 100% of our links have been removed or disavowed. I thought manual penalties were "timed-out" as Matt Cutts states in this video - [youtube.com...]

Well that's my story guys. Maybe Google are not being completely truthful with us.

[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 5:52 pm (utc) on Nov 13, 2012]
[edit reason] Disabled auto-link to make sample url display [/edit]



 9:25 pm on Nov 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

I have a site with very similar circumstances. It had been mass spammed seo and just like you say we removed maybe 70% of links and disavowed another 950 domains. As yet I haven't heard back but your story sounds very ominous indeed.

Could google be penalising for links not shown in WMT?


 10:34 pm on Nov 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

Could google be penalising for links not shown in WMT?

That's one possibility, and if so, that makes it nearly impossible for the webmaster to fix.

Another possibility is that disavow takes a while to work. I mean, you'd think the next time the bot drops by, it would pick up that list, but maybe that's followed by a manual review or something.

Totalodds, what are you seeing in the WMT account? Is it still showing links that you removed or disavowed?

The only other thing I can think of is if some of the webmasters put your links back up after removing them, but that would be a pretty weird thing to do.


 11:03 pm on Nov 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

Matt Cutts was less than definitive as to whether or not that "tool" would even be used. My conjecture is that they are looking at the data, to what extent is anyones guess and I also would not rule out the "me too" motive, it's important to keep up appearances ya know.


 11:59 pm on Nov 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

So it doesn't mean "I disavow these links." It means "If I could-- hypothetically speaking-- disavow links, these are the links I would disavow".

Have I got that right?


 12:53 am on Nov 15, 2012 (gmt 0)

The discrepancy may not lie with disavow, though:

We've reviewed your site and we still see links to your site that violate our quality guidelines.

...after Totalodds EITHER removed or disavowed every link. The problem COULD be that Google is still seeing links that were removed. My WMT shows inbound links to my sites that have been gone for years - literally years. WMT holds onto that info strangely.

Totalodds, it might possibly be worthwhile to disavow the links you had removed. But only if you can still see them in WMT.


 4:43 am on Nov 15, 2012 (gmt 0)

The disavow tool does take some time to work. The offending pages with the dodgy links need to be recrawled before they get disavowed.

Diptimayee Mohanty

 10:03 am on Nov 15, 2012 (gmt 0)

As per the interview with Matt Cutts by Danny Sullivan, disavow will take time to not consider the links submitted by user, so there's no specific time mentioned anywhere.

It's also important that which links should be put in disavow, chances are there that links which Google doesn't consider as low quality will be submitted as well.


 10:40 am on Nov 15, 2012 (gmt 0)

If you disavowed all the links, even the good ones, there is no way that Google can trust your disavow file. They'll take one look at it and say, "This user is trying to shoot themselves in the foot. they shouldn't remove ALL their links. Lets ignore their disavowal."

Try again with disavowing ONLY the spammy links and make sure you include this explanation in your reconsideration request.


 4:22 pm on Nov 15, 2012 (gmt 0)

Remember also that if you keep submitting too many reconsideration requests, after a while they are no longer looked at manually and they just start ignoring you. Matt Cutts said it in a video recently.

He also said the disavow tool could take weeks to kick in.

My question is though, if you are removing all of the links, why not just scrap that domain and start with a new one? It's much easier to get a new domain ranking these days than it used to be.


 3:28 pm on Nov 19, 2012 (gmt 0)


So after we received our original response on Nov 12th stating
"We've reviewed your site and we still see links to your site that violate our quality guidelines."

So we tried again using multiple tools, LRT, MajSEO & Google WMT to make a comprehensive list of all links pointing to use.

I've even uploaded to the text file both versions -


I wrote another detailed reconsideration request explaining in great detail that we should have almost zero links pointing to us.

Today Novemeber 19th we got another response to our reconsideration request.

Nov 19th Google Response*
"We've reviewed your site and we still see links to your site that violate our quality guidelines."

This is extremely frustrating for us. I even asked Google to be transparent and at least give me an example of links the can still see. But they give me nothing, just a standard response.

I'm also concerned that Google are now hand selecting which sites they want in their Serps.

Another Example: Example 2 Website with manual penalty:

We had previously done SEO on another website and went through the same process of completely removing all it's linking domains.

1. October 18th - Uploaded disavow file
2. October 20th - Filed reconsideration
3. November 15th - Google response

We've reviewed your site and we believe that some or all of your pages still violate our quality guidelines.

If you notice this is just a general NO!
There is not mention of links in this response even though the manual action penalty was for "unnatural links".

I'm going to start posting on the Google product forums and hope to get a response and review from an employee. In the mean time feel free to share your success stories?

As of yet, I've not seen one manual penalty revoked.

[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 7:22 pm (utc) on Nov 19, 2012]
[edit reason] Disabled auto-link to make sample url display [/edit]


 4:10 pm on Nov 19, 2012 (gmt 0)

I totally sympathize with your frustration. It's miserable when you're trying to give them what they want, no matter the cost to you, but they won't just spell it out for you.

That said, I think it's very possible Google can't name the sites that violate their guidelines for legal reasons. If it got back to the other site, it could be actionable.

I also think Deadsea may be onto something - disavowing everything might cause Google to ignore the disavow file altogether. You should consider the advice to just disavow the links you're sure Google would consider spammy (directories, paid links, etc.) and leave the rest out, and see what happens there.

And again, it may just take a few weeks for them to register the disavow, as several people suggested.


 4:21 pm on Nov 19, 2012 (gmt 0)

@diberry @Deadsea I very much doubt Google will ignore the file if you add 100% of links - It just doesn't work like that.

From an advanced SEO perspective it's more likely we are not actually at 100% and there may be several linking domains out there we can't find.

The point is how can your average webmaster get this tool to work if advanced webmasters and SEO professional can't?

We use multiple tool's to get a comprehensive list of domains not just WMT.

I'm calling John Mueller (Google Guy) out on this thread -


I also hope some SEO's on this forum can help us in getting a response from Google.

As webmasters all we want is transparency. Help us help you.


 4:24 pm on Nov 19, 2012 (gmt 0)

It's all very frustrating but thanks for sharing the story on here. Please keep us updated.


 6:45 pm on Nov 19, 2012 (gmt 0)


The question comes to mind whether enough time has passed by for the links to be disavowed. I read that it can take quite a few weeks for those links to be take into account. I guess if they are not updated within the 'system' at first glance it may look like they are still pointing to the site.

Also, did you specifically mention on the reconsideration request that you disavowed the links. Forgive me if I missed that point.


 8:08 pm on Nov 19, 2012 (gmt 0)


Yes we clearly stated we uploaded a Disavow file*
Also this is a manual penalty so the human reviewer should be able to check the disavow file and see what links should now be ignored.

Robert Charlton

 8:36 pm on Nov 19, 2012 (gmt 0)

What Deadsea and diberry said, plus several other possibilities....

In the Matt Cutts video on Google's October 16th blogspot announcement, Matt made it very clear that they won't honor disavow requests in extreme cases where you might shoot yourself in the foot, and disavowing all links is extreme. He also made it very clear that Google wants the site owner to do most of the work. Probably there are several reasons for this.

One is that they'd like the links physically out of the index. It makes life easier for them, as it will scale better going forward.

But also, IMO, Google wants to get some useful information out of this. They want good leads to bad sites and networks, and 100% disavows could cloud the picture enough that the data isn't useful. Choosing everything is revealing nothing.

As you described above, in the first 70% you went after "mostly directories, blog-rolls and low quality sites." In other words, the obvious suspects. Your post isn't quite clear how hard you tried on the remaining 300.

I'd bet that Google wants leads on the not-so-obvious suspects, and might feel that you're withholding information, that your blanket disavow of the remaining 300 domains is a cop-out. This is just a guess, but I assume these reasons have something to do with why Google wants the site owners to do a bunch of the work.

I'm curious, btw, whether Google has a separate message for "we don't think you've tried hard enough before you used the tool", or whether what you received is the blanket "no" for everything.


 8:37 pm on Nov 19, 2012 (gmt 0)

Penguin affected (manual and algorithm) we did fill in a reconsideration request as we didnít know what our marketers did and explained the story to google. Ofc only auto answers but we did it a couple of times and every time we did try to remove links, we had a success rate from 5%.

After the disavow tool launched we did send a a file with "only" the links included we want to removed.

"I think it should be clear that G said ONLY THE LINKS" and not contain your story. I think this is because the file will be processed by script and no human will read what you write in there." (My opinion tho)

I would recommend to explain your story in the reconsideration request and not in the link file!

Last week we did recover 50% (old keywords came back on top positions)

The hole process we did was starting with totally new layout, burst out new quality content, no marketing services used, gatherer a punch of natural links and did all a la google handbook.

Well 50% isnít 100% but there was definitely a recovery, but it was a long and hard way to go (3 month of 12 hour working days for our web team).

An important note would be, that we recovered with BRAND RELATED keywords only.


 3:20 am on Nov 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

you would probably do better just starting over with a new website.


 3:34 am on Nov 20, 2012 (gmt 0)


nice to hear that you recover...

you also used the Disavow Tool?


 6:23 am on Nov 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

We've reviewed your site and we believe that some or all of your pages still violate our quality guidelines.

That reads like it's an issue with your content, not your links.


 8:38 am on Nov 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

Should a person write a truth in the reconsideration request?

We bought some link farms links and now trying to remove them. How should we explain it in reconsideration? I assume it could lead us to even worse results..


 9:51 am on Nov 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

sbook, best to put your hand up, say sorry and cross your fingers. If you lie or try to hide anything then it's worse, they can see everything you've done.


 1:01 pm on Nov 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

Should a person write a truth in the reconsideration request?

Don't assume that G knows you bought those links. Don't tell the truth, that will only 100% confirm that your site is dodgy.

Just apply for reconsideration - mention the removed links and leave it at that. The truth is often worse than a lie!


 1:59 pm on Nov 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

@martinibuster That was for another website that had an unnatural links penalty. Had all pointing backlinks removed, then received that response.

@Bewenched It's a 6 figure exact match domain.


 2:17 pm on Nov 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

@totalodds - Did you try doing a Google search for your domain name - with quotes - like this:

That should show you all the pages that Google has on record as linking to you.


 3:40 pm on Nov 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

If it's not your site content then it's something you're overlooking and assuming is ok, something like, for example, links from sites you own or a preponderance of links from search engine friendly directories, something that ordinarily would seem innocent but under a hand check won't pass muster. Even something like having some link swaps/reciprocals of a certain number might do it, particularly if they are on pages with URLs like linkswapper01546, linkswapper01547.htm...

Good luck, it must be very frustrating for you. Hope something turns up.


 7:22 pm on Nov 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

We've reviewed your site and we still see links to your site that violate our quality guidelines.

Proof positive that a competitor can indeed sink your website by buying nasty links for you. This should NOT be possible, nothing else you can do really matters if the disavow tool is no protection.


 9:35 pm on Nov 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

I can't quite believe how unhelpful some of the contributors are on Google webmaster help product forums.

Look at some of the responses I'm getting


 10:38 pm on Nov 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

Yep, I stopped posting on those forums a while ago. It's full of idiots who think they know it all when in actual fact most of them know nothing.

I only read the threads where John has posted on to see what he says but that's it.

Global Options:
 top home search open messages active posts  

Home / Forums Index / Google / Google SEO News and Discussion
rss feed

All trademarks and copyrights held by respective owners. Member comments are owned by the poster.
Home ¦ Free Tools ¦ Terms of Service ¦ Privacy Policy ¦ Report Problem ¦ About ¦ Library ¦ Newsletter
WebmasterWorld is a Developer Shed Community owned by Jim Boykin.
© Webmaster World 1996-2014 all rights reserved