Monday, November 12, 2012

Google's Disavow Links Tool - Proceed With Caution

By: Jessica Davidson 

Matt Cutts, Head of Google's Webspam team, announced Google's Disavow Links Tool at PubCon in mid-October (Check out Janet's post Live From PubCon: State of the Index with Matt Cutts about the announcment). If you have never engaged in artificial link schemes, this tool is not for you. 

At Search Mojo we have never participated in any spammy backlink schemes for ourselves or clients, but at an agency you may work with clients who before your engagement had employees or worked with an agency that acquired artificial links, even unbeknownst to them. If you encounter this situation, the Disavow Links Tool may be used to remove unnatural links pointing to your site. Just remember to proceed with caution when using this tool. 

Who Should Use the Google Disavow Links Tool?

Not everyone should use the Disavow Links Tool. Google has specifically stated that "If you're not sure what the tool does or whether you need to use it, you probably shouldn't use it." There are two instances where it is likely that your website has unnatural links pointing to it and should consider utilizing the Disavow Links Tool. 

Sites That Have Received Unnatural Link Warnings - Sites that have received warnings in Webmaster Tools like the ones shown below should consider using the Google Disavow Links Tool. There already has been at least one reported case of false alarm unnatural link warnings, so make sure your warning does not fall into this category before proceeding with using the Disavow Links Tool. 

Unnatural Links Warning Googles Disavow Links Tool   Proceed With Caution

Unnatural Link Warning Googles Disavow Links Tool   Proceed With Caution

Sites Negatively Impacted by Google's Penguin Algorithm Update - If your site experienced an inexplicable traffic drop on or immediately after April 24, 2012, you may want to consider using Google's Disavow Links Tool. 

If you do fall into one of these categories, use the Disavow Links Tool as a last resort when all other remedies, such as contacting site owners to remove unnatural links, have been exhausted and failed. 

How To Use The Google Disavow Links Tool?

Visit the Disavow Links page in Google Webmaster Tools and choose the site for which you want to disavow links. 

Disavow Links Tool Googles Disavow Links Tool   Proceed With Caution 

Upload a file that contains the links you want to disavow. The file must be a plain text file similar to the one seen below. Currently, Google only allows one disavow links file per site with a 2 MB size limit. 

Disavow Links Tool Text File Googles Disavow Links Tool   Proceed With Caution
  • Pound Sign (#): Pound signs indicate comments about the links. Adding comments will be helpful for you and Google will ignore them.
  • Domain: Use the domain line to disavow links from all pages on a specific root or subdomain.
  • Full URL: Use full URLs on their own lines to disavow links from a specific page.

I've Uploaded The Disavow Links File, Now What?

After uploading the links you want Google to disavow, it will be a waiting game as the links will not be ignored immediately. Google will need to recrawl and reindex the URL's in the file before your disavowals go into effect. This process may take a couple of weeks. 

Proceed With Caution

Again, it needs to be stressed that using this tool should be used with extreme caution. Google stresses this point by stating the following on the page to upload the disavow links file: 
"This is an advanced feature and should only be used with caution. If used incorrectly, this feature can potentially harm your site's performance in Google's search results. We recommend that you only disavow backlinks if you believe you have a considerable number of spammy, artificial, or low-quality links pointing to your site, and if you are confident that the links are causing issues for you."

Just as it takes several weeks for the unnatural links to be disavowed, it may also take several weeks to "reavow" the links if you make a mistake. So please, proceed with caution when using Google's Disavow Links Tool. 

For more information about Google's Disavow Links Tool, check out Google's blog post which includes a video explanation by Matt Cutts. 

About the Author:
Jessica joined Search Mojo in January 2012 as a Junior Account Manager. Jessica discovered her interest in search marketing during an internet marketing course at James Madison University. Upon graduating from JMU in December 2011 with a major in Marketing and Accounting, Jessica ventured out to Charlottesville to begin her career in search marketing at Search Mojo. Follow her on Twitter or Google+