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Disavow file uploaded, traffic down 20% immediately

     
9:19 am on Nov 19, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I used SEMRush to generate a disavow file to upload to Googe Search Console. I've only selected the most toxic links (64 domains in total) and checked each one manually. These are super spammy directory sites like this one:

< snip >

I manually uploaded the disavow file at 09:30 yesterday and today I see in the stats that there was a 20% traffic loss immediately between 09:30 - 10:00, and it's still down 20%.

Why? And what can I do? Remove the file again?

Thanks,
Eddie

[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 1:29 pm (utc) on Nov 19, 2017]
[edit reason] removed specifics per forum Charter - no need to post the specifc to make the point [/edit]

2:30 pm on Nov 19, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Well either a Google tweak to the algorithm caused your site ranking to decrease or one or more urls in your disavow file caused the drop. The drop happening so fast makes it suspect in my opinion that it may not be the disavow file. The easiest way to check obviously is to delete the disavow file (I thought there is a delete option right beside the file when it is listed). If you can't find it I guess you could upload an empty disavow file to remove the other one.
9:59 pm on Nov 19, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Did you read this? Disavow tool being played down by Google [webmasterworld.com]
10:29 pm on Nov 19, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@Dantes100 - why did you add a disavow file? Did you have a penalty?
11:11 am on Nov 20, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I deleted the disavow file yesterday, traffic is still down 20%.

@keyplyr No, I didn't have a penalty, traffic was just going down slowly since the beginning of the year -80% in total). I tried everything to fix it, all to no avail. This was a last desperate attempt.
11:47 am on Nov 20, 2017 (gmt 0)

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It may not be connected, and the traffic declines might be unrelated to the disavow file. It all seems too close in time to be directly related.

In any case, if they are toxic links it's probably traffic you don't want, or are of little use: It may be bots and scrapers. Those links still exist, it's just that you've now told Google they are bad.

Definitely, do not use a disavow unless you absolutely know of a problem.
Best practices for using the Google disavow tool, confirmed [webmasterworld.com]
12:33 pm on Nov 20, 2017 (gmt 0)

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So, you have lost 75% of traffic over 11 months, then a further 5% (of original traffic) overnight.

I would strongly suggest the disavow file is not to blame.

Also, you need to think a bit more critically when considering how to implement a recovery. A 75% traffic loss (now 80%) was never going to be reversed by submitting a disavow file.
6:18 pm on Nov 20, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@Dantes100 Although I could be wrong, I highly doubt that the traffic drop would take place so quickly after uploading, even though it theoretically could, just not so quick. I would guess it would take AT the very minimum a week or two. Also, maybe you had some domains that were giving you ranking juice (that doesn't mean they the links weren't toxic and that Google wouldn't have caught up to them eventually), but a disavow of those domains could have caused a traffic drop. Although, I will say, Google is constantly tweaking their algos and penguins, and maybe it can update so fast, no one really knows.

Besides the traffic drop, did you notice any major KW drops in the SERPs?
12:22 am on Nov 21, 2017 (gmt 0)

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OK, you may be happy to know that lately I had lots of experiences with disavow file. I've seen a website getting to rank 5 overnight (from 100 users a day to 5000) and I've seen my sites dropping in ranks because of disavowing links.

Before I continue, there are some things you should know:
1. Google has update penguin a lot through these years and right now, it devalues bad links. It means that google just doesn't count them (no longer regarding them as bad links) unless there's too many of them.
2. Google is fallible.

The first point tells us that deleting links isn't supposed to help us anymore. Since google is doing it itself. It keeps the good links only, automatically (it seems). We did the same thing as you; deleted some pbn we had created over the past in hope that we'd increase in our rankings. But the ranking decreased... why? Because google at that time didn't know that it was a pbn. But it could be anyday for google to discover this and penalize us.

The other point is making links. Sometimes we get so involved in deleting links that we forget we should try to build quality links in the internet. I'm sure your backlink profile right now isn't that strong. You can even check it with others to make sure about this. Start building quality links through building relationships and you shall see good results over time.
12:27 am on Nov 21, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Disavow file uploaded, traffic down 20% immediately
traffic was just going down slowly since the beginning of the year -80% in total
These 2 statements conflict.

There have been a couple index updates so far this year. Loss of traffic could be due to many issues. However, if you have not had a penalty evoked toward your site's pages, using a disavow file will not remedy the loss of traffic and may in fact significantly hurt it.
2:28 am on Nov 21, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@s_rahbari: excellent points and solid advice!
2:49 am on Nov 21, 2017 (gmt 0)

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If you uploaded a disavow-links.txt for your HTTP property at GSC, then switched to HTTPS, there is no need to remove the old disavow-links.txt. Your HTTPS site is considered a site move and a separate property.

But as mentioned above, unless your site has a penalty, there's no need for a disavow-links.txt. Google treats spammy links differently now.
6:21 am on Nov 21, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@keyplyr Just to add to your statement: If you switched over to HTTPS recently and created a new GSC property for it, you MUST upload your most recent disavow txt file to the new https property.
7:09 am on Nov 21, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Disavow lists is yet one more failed g offering. Didn't work the way G thought, also didn't work for the sites/publishers. So Much Thrashing About To No Purpose. Keep it simple. Take care of YOUR side. G can figure out the bad actors without your help.

(Pretty sure I'm in the minority here)
10:05 am on Nov 21, 2017 (gmt 0)

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G can figure out the bad actors without your help.

I imagine disavow lists were conceived as a temporary solution, and wouldn't be surprised if all the data Google gained from them (thousands of webmasters categorizing millions of links) has been fed back into the algorithm one way or another.
10:20 am on Nov 21, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Agreed, I had always thought we were doing the work for them (Google) by identifying spammy sites.

Still, at that time in 2014, adding that file pulled my site from page 9 back to page 1.
3:16 pm on Nov 21, 2017 (gmt 0)

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...traffic was just going down slowly since the beginning of the year -80% in total...


Sounds like what's really going on is a continuation of what's been happening to you all year.

The issue, as you no doubt know, is understanding what is going on.

There are many factors that can be working together against you. You have eliminated spammy inbound links as the reason. Now you can move on to figure out what the real culprit is. You're not done yet. ;)

What's hampering your site can be grouped into three categories:

  1. On-page factors
  2. Off-page factors
  3. Competitors


Now that you've eliminated that one factor, you can move on to diagnosing your site against the other factors.

Good luck,
;)

Roger Montti
4:12 pm on Nov 21, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Thank you everyone.

As I've written before, I deleted the disavow file 24h later, but traffic is still down (now 25%) since I uploaded the file. And there's no doubt that the upload caused the drop, you can see the drop clearly in the hourly stats 15 min after the upload. It would be a hell of a coincidence if this was an algorithm hit instead.

Since the traffic decline started beginning this year I've done a lot of things. I've even consulted two well known "SEO Experts", one gave a lot of good tips that unfortunately changed nothing, the other said that he can't see anything wrong except a very weak backlink profile (considering that my site online since 2007).

I'm at my wit's end and have now to concentrate fully on paid traffic in order to survive. No idea what to do to get the lost SE traffic back, it feels like I'm on a black-list or something... (just like back in 2011 when Panda hit and nobody had a clue).

Thanks again,
Eddie
5:10 pm on Nov 21, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I've never seen a change impacting a site (negatively) like that in 15 mins. Even the server going down for a few days wouldn't have that impact.

However, I have seen a forced crawl of a URL causing the page to instantly rank and appear in the answer box for that particular query. So, quick action + reflection in live results are possible.

Reading the thread, I'd still be betting on a combination of coincidence & continuing of existing problems though.

When you said the traffic loss hit 15 mins or so after uploading the file, did you note which rankings were lost? Was there any connection between the disavowed links and the pages that dropped (e.g. did they link to them)? Were you doing anything else at the time (or in the days/weeks before)?
5:41 pm on Nov 21, 2017 (gmt 0)

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No, unfortunately, I can't say which rankings were lost, the traffic loss appears to be site-wide. All the spammy links are pointing to the domain root.

The last big change I've made was switching to https on October 7th (and no, there was no previous disavow file, this one was the first).
6:16 pm on Nov 21, 2017 (gmt 0)

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OK, it's worth checking that you're actually getting correctly indexed with HTTPS as the HTTP gets dropped from the index. Can you check that?
6:23 pm on Nov 21, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I just checked in Google Search Console:

https: 11/19/17 - total indexed 457
http: 11/19/17 - total indexed 275

Shouldn't the http version be at zero by now?
6:37 pm on Nov 21, 2017 (gmt 0)

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>Shouldn't the http version be at zero by now?
Not necessarily, it'll take time to decline, depending upon the crawl schedule for your site.

Keep an eye on the console for the changes, one should go up and the other down in roughly equal number, assuming it's all configured correctly.
7:42 pm on Nov 21, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Check the redirect is actually implemented.

Check canonical tags.

I disagree with @engine. After 6 weeks, I would expect full transfer, or there's a problem
8:43 pm on Nov 21, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@shaddows you may disagree, of course, but it really does depend upon the crawl rate. I've seen 10s of thousands a day and others hundreds a week.
8:56 pm on Nov 21, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Hey, not saying you're wrong, just I disagree.

My expectation would be for sub-1000 results to take less than 6 weeks. That could be unreasonable, but it would certainly make me check implementation.
9:59 am on Nov 22, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I have updated disavow file three months before traffic is increasing but the problem is links are still existing in website and search engines. Thank You..!
7:17 am on Nov 24, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I think you uploaded new disavow file and forgot to add an old file in that. Or your uploading disavow file for the 1st time?
10:31 pm on Nov 27, 2017 (gmt 0)

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It's still difficult for me to interpret the different views of the disavow file.

I have a information site. I used the disavow file, had to wait the two years for Google to run the Penguin algo, then for the first time in 6 years, I saw all my keywords move

So, correlation does not mean causation, but the penguin also was run and folded into main algo, my keywords moved up in the SERPS for the first time in six years...you be the judge.