Questions about Disavow & Spammy Links

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Background
  • My website has a low DR (3.8) in aHrefs despite being over 4 years old (I've only just realised there were 2 websites on this domain before me).
  • According to aHrefs, I have 251 linking websites (57% do follow) with 924 backlinks (72% do follow) - the website has 58 pages.
  • A lot of the links look like they are linking to images on my site or of general low quality.
  • I have built 38 high quality, high DR backlinks about 6 months ago and my DR went from 2.7 to 3.8, costing me $3200.

Questions
  1. Is this ratio of linking websites to backlinks bad/ok/good?
  2. Should I disavow the spammy / low quality backlinks or is Google clever enough to ignore them?
  3. Could these low quality backlinks be harming my site therefore preventing authority growth?
  4. Should I consider a migration to a new URL? (Website has about 6k sessions a month, earning around $300 from ads and affiliates combined).
  5. Help - what should I do?!

Thanks in advance :smile:
 

ToffeeLa

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1. Seems fairly normal to me. Any site gets those image scrapers, web tools and content crawlers once it has a bit of visibility.
2. I never bother but there are plenty of people who are obsessive about their backlinks
3. I wouldn't think so - are you not ranking for stuff you think you should be?
4. Why would you do that?
5. What do you want to do? What effect does DR have on your site (it is a private relatively inaccurate metric just like PageRank was)? Are you aiming to sell guest posts or swap links and your low DR is stopping you?

Re link buying. There are links and there are links. Just because a link comes from a 'high DR' site does not automatically mean it is valuable and will move any needles.

There are a few link salespeople here so I will be a little bit precise about what I say: if you have a link coming from a page on a DR 70 site with 100 links on the page it will be worth less that a link from the same site with 10 links on the page (all other things being equal, which they never are). If there are 20 internal links to that same page, it will be more valuable than if there is only one link. Other variables: how often the site posts; is it Wordpress or static; how many pages does the site have cached in Google; etc.
 

Ryuzaki

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I agree with the sentiments of @ToffeeLa above entirely, and in my effort to answer your questions I may repeat some of what he says, too.

I've seen some anomalous DR numbers in Ahrefs since they recently changed their DR metric to exclude some spam links that were able to inflate that metric. Sounds like a lot of your links could have been those kind of links. People were using it to sell worthless links and domains at inflated prices.

You can check your metrics in SEMRush and Moz and Majestic to see if they're really low there. If not, you're in the anomaly zone that Ahrefs created that I'm sure will get cleaned up eventually.

Let me say upfront that I've personally seen and fixed an algorithmic penalty caused by web 2.0 scraper sites linking to image files. Yes, a penalty for links to image files. I disavowed them all and popped out of the penalty pretty quickly, and still get 50% of the earnings of that site for that quick bit of work (though it's not much).

To deal with your numbered questions:

1) 99% of people don't need to worry about ratios of dofollow to nofollow, contextual to non-contextual, and other stuff like that. The 1% that do worry are trying not to trigger red flags as they spam massive amounts of links directly to their sites. You do want to worry about anchor text ratios, though.

2) You can. I disavow anything obviously bad that's not something I'd expect Google to auto-ignore. I'm assuming they ignore the fake Alexa sites, the fake Wikipedias, the "keyword research" sites, the Google Image scrapers, etc. What I don't think they ignore is stuff like I mentioned above, like bulk, automated web 2.0 networks. Anything that doesn't have a simple footprint can possibly hurt you before you have enough authority to dance past it.

I used to disavow once monthly across my sites, then it got so bad I had to do it twice monthly, and ultimately I had to give up and trust Google. I'm not having problems yet and it's been maybe a year and a half. Having a big established disavow file that was added to over time and properly documented with dates in it... I'm assuming that'll look good for me if I ever do get in trouble. It'll support my case.w

3) See answer #2 above.

4) No. There's nothing to gain from doing that, only losses to incur.

5) Publish more content and get more links. You don't have to buy them. There are tons of links you can build for free and with elbow grease. Even ones that'll bring traffic and income. Use social media profiles and anything else that can create brand signals that build trust. It's not just authority but also trust. That comes with age, regular growth or updating of content (a maintained website with freshness), brand signals, and more and better links.
 
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Thank you both @ToffeeLa & @Ryuzaki for taking your time to reply.

My Moz score is 14 and my SEMRush score is 27, so not quite as bad as I expected.

I think I'm going to disavow some of the really spammy/ low quality links just for peace of mind but interestingly, some of the image links are from pretty high DR sites (58 from one of them), so potentially will keep these just in case.

Ryuzaki - when you talk about no need to buy links in point 5 - are highly relevant and quality blog comments, Quora answers, forum comments with a signature link etc still worthwhile? I have stayed away from anything like this before as the general feeling I get from the online community is that these are worthless now.
 

Ryuzaki

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are highly relevant and quality blog comments, Quora answers, forum comments with a signature link etc still worthwhile?
They will likely be nofollow, which traditionally means they're worthless. But nofollow is being treated as a suggestion now. And forget about dofollow vs. nofollow for a second... a great blog comment, Quora answer, forum reply... these can bring you long-term, regular traffic. That traffic will eventually create more links to you.

But let's assume they're nofollow and nofollow is worthless. Even under that scenario, I still believe getting relevant links from as many referring domains as possible (even if nofollow) is a positive ranking signal.

This was over 10 years ago but I once pumped a site full of nofollow links with the perfect anchor text profile. We're talking like 5,000+ referring domains of nofollow links. Nothing happened, as suspected. But as soon as I added one or two higher quality dofollow links into the mix, the site exploded in rankings, traffic, and revenue. So obviously there's more to nofollow links than are being let on. Perhaps they just need to be validated by building up trust and authority along the way too.