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What Is Google’s “Disavow Links” Tool?

Posted by Jeriann Watkins on Oct 17, 2012 6:46:05 PM

An in-depth look at when you should or shouldn't use the new tool

Yesterday (Oct, 17th, 2012), Matt Cutts, Google’s resident spam-fighter, announced the release of a new webmaster tool. This tool is called “Disavow Links” and its purpose is to help website owners get their site back on the right track after being negatively affected by Google’s algorithm updates.

The disavow links tool was created with the knowledge that a lot of site owners have fallen into the trap of purchasing links on spammy directories and other unnatural link building practices. Though Google does not condone this, they understand that people make mistakes and should have a chance to redeem themselves.

The best way to recover from taking a hit in the Search Engine Rankings is to remove all your unnatural links and start building quality ones. Of course, removing links can be even more difficult than getting them in the first place, especially if previous SEO companies have built hundreds or thousands of spam-based backlinks pointing to your website. This is where the disavow links tool comes in. You can now specify to Google which links you don’t want considered in your link profile.

Now, this is not to be taken lightly. Google will not disavow links without proof that you attempted to remove them, so it is still best to manually remove all the unnatural links possible. After all, even if Google ignores certain links, those links are still out there for the world to see. It is worth the time and effort to remove every single questionable link possible. Since you don’t want people to associate your site with anything questionable or of low quality, it’s best to remove as many unnatural links as you can.

The trouble comes in removing links that other people placed for you. Getting a hold of people who run link directories or people who placed links in bulk can be really difficult. Some might refuse to remove the link, and others might insist on an unreasonable fee in order to take the link down.

Now by using the disavow links tool, you can tell Google that you don’t want certain links, and therefore request that they not be counted against you. You do this by going to the Disavow Links Page in Google’s webmaster tools and selecting your website. You then upload a plain text file with a list of links you want disavowed. There should only be one URL per line. You can disavow links from either a single webpage or an entire domain. You can also write comments about each one, such as “contacted site owner three times, no response.” Any notes should be preceded by a pound sign (#) and will not be read by Google’s bots.

You can only have one disavowal file per site, so if you want to make any changes, you will have to reupload the file. In a video explaining the new tool and what it should be used for, Matt Cutts emphasized that this is an advanced tool and can easily be misused by people who don’t know how to use it. Therefore it is best to be 100 percent sure you use the tool correctly.

It is best to be absolutely sure of what you are doing if you use this tool, as you don’t want to disavow quality links or bring unnecessary attention to your site. The only reason to use this tool is if you have received a warning from Google stating that they have discovered unnatural links to your website. This email will list a couple examples of links they found that they consider unnatural.

However, this is not a comprehensive list, so you will have to go through all of your backlinks and find similar ones. Once you remove all the links you possibly can and then enter a disavow links request, it will take a few weeks for any changes to take effect. This will allow the request to be processed and the search engine bots to re-crawl and index the site.

After this time, you can submit a reconsideration request to Google so that their manual webspam team can assess the changes you've made and decide if you meet their requirements. If you have not received a warning, it is best to simply continue removing any unnatural links to your page and engage in positive link-building activities. The disavow links tool is to be used as a last resort and should not be seen as a replacement for removing links.