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If You Disavow Links Are They Gone Forever? Experiment Update

by Cyrus Shepard · SEO


Did Your Traffic Recover?

If you’ve been following the crazy antics of my disavow experiment, then you know that last spring I disavowed every link to this website found in Google Webmaster Tools. 35,000 links in all.

Nothing happened for several weeks, then both my traffic and rankings dropped exactly on the day when Penguin 2.0 hit in May.

Immediately after, I removed the disavow file from Google Webmaster Tools, then waited weeks to see if my rankings would return. Because the initial drop happened during a Penguin update, many SEOs theorized that rankings wouldn’t return until the next Penguin update

So I waited. And I waited.

No Disavow Recovery

After months of waiting (Google only updates it’s Penguin algorithm a few times a year it seems) we finally saw an update on October 4, 2013.

Since then, SEOs around the industry have been asking me if the site has recovered. Here’s the answer in the chart below…

Penguin 2.1 No Recovery

Aside from a slight bump from publishing a new post, organic search traffic never recovered after the latest Penguin update.

Some folks have asked if it’s possible if I wasn’t just hit by a Penguin update. While it is entirely possible, I consider it unlikely for the following reasons:

  • The link profile to this site was high quality
  • No known negative SEO
  • No unnatural link notices in Google Webmaster Tools
  • Other agencies have reported similar drops after preemptively using the Disavow Tool

If the site was simply hit by Penguin, it doesn’t answer the question of what the hell happened to all those disavowed links? Why didn’t my rankings drop until Penguin 2.0 when I disavowed all 35,000 links found in Google Webmaster Tools?

I’ve spoken with several other SEOs who submitted then removed disavow files (without ever filing a reconsideration request) only to see their traffic drop and never recover.

Now I don’t want to jump to conclusions. At the end of the day I have no idea what happens when you submit a disavow file. The evidence seems to suggest that once you disavow a link, it stays disavowed forever.

Heed Google’s warning. The Disavow Tool is not a toy.

Proceed with caution.

Disavow Caution

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