If your rankings drop after submitting Disavow file, remove less shady links

By Jonathan Griffin. Editor, SEO Consultant, & Developer.

· 3 min read

A recent Twitter post by Gary Illyes has revealed that you may wish to adjust the links in your disavow file if your rankings drop after submitting it.

If you engaged in some shady link building practices, have been hit by negative SEO, or decide to review your backlink profile, you should carry out a link audit. You may find many low-quality backlinks flagged by link audit tools such as CognitiveSEO, SEMrush, or Ahrefs.

While these tools are a great place to start when carrying out a link audit, sometimes there may be some links that you are unsure about, and when disavowed cause your rankings to drop.

A few weeks ago, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst, Gary Illyes, clarified what you should do in these circumstances:

In essence, Gary Illyes explains that you have total control over what backlinks appear in your disavow file and that you can add or remove them at any time.

One of the things to consider is that if the backlinks are new, they may not have been categorized or flagged by Google as bad backlinks, but that does not mean they won’t be in the future. Therefore, you probably don’t want to be spending a considerable amount of time chasing that one or two links that look bad, but that you wish to remove from your disavow file.

Your time is probably better spent creating more high-quality content.

But, the warning is there.

It should come as no surprise that there is a time delay from when you remove a link from your disavow before it starts to count again. This is to prevent blackhat spammers from gaming the system.

However, if you thought that, you might be wrong. Google’s John Mueller clarified in a recent Twitter post that there is NO artificial delay or time-penalty and that it is just a matter of Google recrawling, reindexing, and reprocessing the pages.

Exactly how long the “reprocessing” element takes, we don’t know, but we suspect it is not something that happens overnight, even if on first reading that what it seems.

In fact, just a few days ago, John Mueller provided some more clarification:

It would appear that the process does take a small amount of time, so if you were expecting a recovery, then you should think again.

We always tend to let things settle for three months after making any significant changes, and indeed, when making changes to your disavow file, this is what we would recommend. Of course, some links may be updated faster than others (due to recrawling times, etc.), but overall we think this is a safe bet when trying to analyze the effect of any changes you make.