What to do with your Disavow List when 301’ing an Old Domain

by David Naylor
Bronco - Digital Marketing Agency

This is the second time this has happened now and quiet frankly it’s causing a real issue not only for me but a few other SEO people that have confided in me:

So here is a real life scenario, while cleaning up years of Bad links, Directories, article sites and scrapers we finally get the all clear email from Google. Rankings slowly come back and we start getting coverage in mainstream media and industry magazines (a side note we don’t pay for coverage we work though more traditional PR channels these days). Everything looks good and we are keeping on top of “Negative links” that appear.

Then a Business decision forced us into a Rebrand and Rebuild, now in the days before the disavow file it was easy, we would build out the 301 redirect list and domain flip watching out for errors and waiting for the the old equity to flow into the new domain, which is exactly what happened this time, but I have a niggling question?

If a site with a bad link is pointing at site A and the bad linking site is in site A’s disavow file, what should you do? There are a few discussions around this.

Examples I have seen and other Seo’s have told me:

1. My feeling was leaving the the disavow file on site A that would tell Google not to pass equity to site A and therefore not pass that equity via the 301, I was wrong the links appeared in site B’s download links list in Webmaster Tools and the site picked up a Penalty.

2. Move the disavow file to site B, but my feeling was “surely Google can’t find the bad link on the bad site to disavow”. I mean if a site links to 20 websites from a page how can Google connect the dots and say which link is going to 301 and what if you have 301 chains (a side effect of removing the disavow list I recently saw was Site A got a Manual Penalty notice in Site A’s Webmastertools account even though it was 301’d to site B, site B got a rankings penalty but on notifications)

3. Have 2 disavow files, one on site A and the other on site B, but questions have been raised around how you update both Disavow files and should you add site B links into site A’s disavow file? Recently a friend updated his disavow with the wrong data and he picked up a ranking penalty.

4. And the last thing to add to the mix, I have noticed are the links and how they are been reported in Webmastertools :

In site A we had before the 301

Total links : 60,500

After the 301 Site A reports

Total links : 195

which leads me to believe that the disavow file on Site A must be invalid, but Site B is now reporting

Total links : 50,500

but many are :

Bad link Url

Via this intermediate link: Site A url

So do I disavow the Intermediate link ( move the Disavow File to Site B )  or just Disavow Site A in Site B’s Disavow file?

My gut feeling is Removing links is the only safe way to ensure that you safe guard your web properties if you’re going to 301 a domain in, which opens a whole new world of pain if someone is going to do Negative Seo on you.

Bronco - Digital Marketing Agency
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