Why Has Google Created the Disavow Links Tool?

Over the last few years Google has gotten better and better at understanding exactly what a natural link profile looks like. Google released a series of algorithm updates which penalised websites with what they deem to be “unnatural” links. Heres an idea of just some of the type of links this could include:

Links from within articles that make no sense
I’ve seen this before, and its really ugly. 300 word articles about something or other that make no sense. The content is usually off topic. The link is usually keyword anchor text and looks out of place within the content. Here is a good example.

Excessive link exchanging
Reciprocal link exchanging is dead. In days of old, webmasters would sign-up to link exchange websites and seek out others to exchange links. Google sees this as a “links scheme” and is an unnatural way of gaining links to your site. If any further proof was needed that reciprocal linking is dead then read the notice below recently posted on the homepage of the UK Link Exchange.

Forum comments with anchor text links
Forums are online communities that gather to talk about particular interests. Gaining links from forums is a natural part of organic SEO. After all, if you have a service or product that is great then people will naturally discuss it and even link to your site. What doesn’t look natural is the use of keyword anchor text within these links. The general public will usually link with a full URL by cutting and pasting it from their browser. They don’t generally wrap these types of links around keywords using HTML.

What Does the Disavow Links Tool Do and Who Should Use It?

The problem is that most websites carrying out any kind of optimisation strategy in the years previous to now have probably indulged in one or more of these practices to manipulate their rankings within search. Maybe you’ve purchased some links or got involved in comment spam and are unsure whether these links are affecting your rankings in a negative way. The simplest way to discover this is to check your Google Webmaster Tools account. Google will send you a warning via Webmaster Tools about any links it deems as unnatural that point to your site. If you have received one of these warnings then follow these simple steps to get the link disavowed. Which simply means you are telling Google you wish to disown the link and accept no responsibility for it pointing towards your website. In short, the disavow links tool lets you tell Google which links back to your website you would like ignored. Its important to note that if you have never been involved in any kind of aggressive SEO techniques then you will not need to use this tool. It has been created purely for when there is no other way to remove a bad link that is damaging your website. The Google Disavow Links Tool is not a “reset” button.

I Have Bad Links Pointing to My Website, What Now?

First of all you should try to contact the owner or webmaster of the website in question and politely request that they remove the link. It’s really important that you follow this step first as in most cases this is all it will take to get the link permanently removed from the web. Sometimes though, this isn’t always possible and Google understands this. This is when the Disavow Links Tool should be used.
The first release of this tool requires you to upload a small .txt file that combines your comments with the URL of the page that you wish to block the bad link from.
It should look something like this:

Always use hashtags for your comments and notations etc. You should also ensure that each URL is on its own individual line.

Once you have a list of all the links you would like removed with individual comments, save the file for upload to Google Webmaster Tools. It doesn’t matter what you name the file but disavow.txt already seems to be standard and should be fine for this instance.

What happens once you submit a file to Google Disavow Links Tool?

Once you have uploaded your text file to the Google Disavow Links Tool it is only treated as a “strong suggestion” and not something that Google feel they must abide by, which is the exact same methodology used by Google with the REL canonical tag. Normal circumstances predict that it will take approx 6-8 weeks for your links to be disavowed as the pages need to be recrawled, reindexed and reattributed.

 

The Google Disavow Links Tool by Matt Cutts

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Hayley

Search Analyst at Silkstream
SEO, blogger and Google geek. Committed to helping small business thrive during economic austerity.
  • Biljana

    Finally an answer to the Negative SEO story after the Penguin update – I was expecting this.
    \nThanks, very useful.

  • Chinami

    I am really impressed with your writing skills as well as with the layout of your blog. Keep up the nice quality writing, it is rare to see a blog like this these days.