Even if you don’t know Google’s exact algorithm (and really, who does?), you know that there are many variables that comprise it.
And you know that, after an update, those variables are adjusted, and/or new ones are added (or old ones subtracted).
So, if, after an update, you see your site’s rankings change, you may want to know what may have contributed to it. Knowing that there are many variables that could’ve contributed to the change, it’s hard to know for sure.
But, if you saw something that could’ve influenced one variable--in this case, the number of spammy backlinks--it’s reasonable to wonder if that could’ve influenced the change in rankings, especially if your rankings decreased.
Such is the case for one of the participants of the English Google SEO Office-Hours From November 5, 2021.
At roughly 46 seconds into the video (queued below), a participant asks Google’s John Mueller about this (and gave some more details about his site).
I’ll briefly paraphrase his question (but do watch the video to get all the details):
“During the summer, we got a lot of spammy backlinks. After Google’s core updates in July, we got really hurt in our visibility for one of our sites.
“I tried a lot to disavow them in Google Search Console and I would like to get your recommendation on that what should I do.”
John’s response--briefly, and edited for clarity--was:
“Okay, it's hard for me to say without digging into the detail, but in general, with the core updates, if you're seeing changes there, usually that's more related to trying to figure out what the relevance of a site is overall and less related to things like spammy links.
“So that's something where I wouldn't expect any reaction from in a core update based on random spammy links that go to your website. Also, with core updates, if you can make incremental changes to improve your site over time with regards to the overall quality, that will incrementally help there, but if it was a really strong adjustment with a core update, then you probably need to wait until the next core update to see those changes…
“...I don't think disavowing those backlinks would change anything there, as it's really a matter of us trying to figure out what the relevance of the site is overall, and that's something that almost relies on the overall site's quality…”
My Thoughts on Disavowing Links
A few years ago, I think right around when Google introduced the ability to disavow links, I heard one SEO say that they were Google’s way of letting people tell Google where the “bad” links were (such as what the Private Blog Networks were), which would, in turn, help Google.
Although John says that disavowing links doesn’t help (in this specific context), I still think it’s something worth considering, especially if someone’s doing a negative SEO campaign on your site.