Negative SEO Disavow Lists

Through work I’ve done for a number of clients, I’ve run across negative SEO attacks many times. Note that most negative SEO links are NOT going to be spotted by external tools, as they’re cloaked so that only Googlebot can see them. So, you need to download the backlinks from Google Search Console, and work off of those. But…if you feed those into most backlink analysis tools, they’ll most fly under the radar, as they’ll come back as either a 404, 500, or the site will be dead entirely (in any case, the link analysis tool will think that the link is gone).

Now, while Google claims that they’re able to spot and ignore most spammy links, the reality is that there ARE still algorithmic penalties out there, and that a whole bunch of this negative SEO person’s stuff is missed by Google, and is actually counting against the victims’ websites. And if there’s any doubt in your mind that Google isn’t quite on top of their game in spotting spammy links, check out the #1 winner AND the #1 loser from SEMrush’s chart on the November 2021 Google Update, in this Search Engine Land article.

Feel free to use the disavow lists below for your own website. If you see a pattern in your own backlinks that matches one of those below, it might make sense to copy my disavow file onto the end of yours, and pre-emptively block the rest of that link farm before links to your site appear on the other sites in the link farm, and Google discovers those. Keep in mind, it doesn’t hurt anything to disavow a site that doesn’t link to you.

Buyer beware: while I’ve been reasonably careful to NOT disavow legit sites, the way I’ve come up with these lists of thousands and thousands of domains is via a link analysis tool I wrote myself (to replace the recently-shut-down Kerboo LinkRisk tool). So there’s a chance that some innocent sites could be in my lists–if you spot any, please let me know via email.

UPDATE: all these disavow files are now updated in real time. As soon as I flag a domain for disavowal while analyzing a client’s backlinks, it’s added to the disavow file.

Negative SEO: Computer-Generated Gibberish

These are sites which have been designed to get penalized by Google due to obvious computer-generated text. This is a technique I started seeing early in 2022, and has grown to be the biggest source of negative SEO links out there.

Negative SEO: Sneaky Redirects

These are sites which have been designed to get penalized by Google. Most of these redirect to malware, but some simply have toxic profiles, but do a quick redirect to a legit site like Agoda or even a Google TLD–probably so link analysts think it’s actually ok, and ignore it. These have exploded over the past couple of months, and a whole bunch of my clients’ sites have been hit by these.

Blackhat Link Building: Artificially inflated Moz DA

These are sites that have built nearly their entire backlink profile on links from Google search results pages. Somewhere, there are a bunch of pages with links to Google SERPs URLs, generally the search was for the name of the website or the domain name itself. These are mostly spammy paid-link sites meant to boost rankings of the sites they link to; however, Google clearly is NOT counting these links.

The domains in this list are ones you should disavow, as they have virtually no real backlinks being counted by Google; but if you’re using paid link building, check out the domains linking to some of your more recent link acquisitions using Moz Link Explorer. If you’re seeing a ton of Google TLDs at the top, you’re paying DA50-DA70 money for DA20 links.

Negative SEO: General Bad Stuff

These are sites that didn’t fit in any other bucket. Some are just ultra weak spam sites, but most are negative SEO…designed to get penalized, and enough links from these and their hope is that you either get a penalty, or (more likely) Google’s trust in your site and your other backlinks decreases–hurting your rankings across the board.

This list is nearly 5000 domains strong, and a HUGE percentage of these are domains that appeared on my radar just in the past couple of months, with a couple of clients under heavy attack. The pattern in those is that the link URL itself MOSTLY looks legit…maybe it’ll look like a forum page, or a tag archive page, or a WordPress plugin URL or upload. But…in the middle of the URL there’ll be a slug, usually 4 to 8 characters, of jumbled characters. The page itself is a solid mass of computer-generated text (done badly, to make sure Google catches it and penalizes it).

.best, .pics Scraper Sites

This is a massive farm of scraper sites with domains with .best and .pics TLDs, and all redirect to subdomains of Appears that those pages are trying to make money with AdSense.

Login Losers

This is a relatively small link farm of scraper sites that purport to have information on how to log in at a ton of legit websites.

Giant coupon site link farm

These have been around for quite some time, and lately they’ve branched out beyond coupons into healthcare-looking scraper sites.

Asian cheapo link directories

This group has been around for a long time–I’m guessing it was originally built to try and sell good links. What you’ll notice is that they mostly have Asian-sounding domain names, are all super simple and ugly, slapped together quickly following just a few different templates (lots have a brick background, or a lake with a mountain), the rightmost side of the URL will have multiple words, first letter capitalized, separated by a hyphen. A huge percentage have /listing/ as the middle of the URL, but not all do. Most likely, this is one of those types that Google spots and ignores.

Fake photo galleries

These started a couple of years ago. Most of them (when live) start with something like “If you’re looking for images of [whatever], you’ve come to the right place.” They’ve all got a folder name of /photos/, /references/, /galleries/, /collections/, or something similar. These ones seem to go live for a few days, then get shut down completely.

Michael Cottam - Freelance technical SEO consultant - 20915 Royal Oak Circle, Bend, OR 97701

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