If you’ve done any kind of link building you know that as soon as a link has been established to your site, it is nearly impossible to get it taken down. Of course when the link is beneficial, everything is great. When the link is causing us to lose PageRank and position in SERP’s, it can be like an annoying splinter just deep enough in our figure that it cannot be removed; so we learn to deal with it. Contacting web masters to take down spammy links on your website can often feel the same way. After all, these people have no real incentive to help you out and in many cases they may not even care about your needs. Finally there is a ray of hope for this supremely frustrating scenario and it comes in the form of the disavow links tool provided by Google.
Matt Cutts announced the new tool at PubCon in a keynote speech and covers the tool in a Google blog post here. Although it may be common knowledge by now, Google uses links among hundreds of signals to determine the popularity and importance of a website. Its proprietary measurement known as PageRank measures the authority of a web page, the PageRank of the source, the location of the link on a page and dozens of other factors to in turn rank the importance of the page the link is leading to. Until now, webmasters were stuck with the sole tactic of contacting other webmasters in order to get links removed from their site. The disavow tool now gives webmasters a weapon that they can draw on when all else has failed.
About The Tool
It is important to note that Google isn’t touting this as a replacement for contacting web masters to take down spammy links. In Mr. Cutt’s post, it is still recommended that web masters contact whoever they are able in order to remove links in the traditional manner. In fact this is still the best way to promote a positive image for your site and have a truly clean backlink profile. The tool comes in when an individual has exhausted all other avenues and cannot get a link off of his/her site. By creating a plain text file with one URL per line where the links that you would like Google to ignore are listed; you can request that the search engine ignore these signals on your website. Notice that the name of the tool is disavow meaning to not support. This means Google is ignoring the link and not actually removing it from another person’s site. If you cannot get people to take links down, using the tool will benefit you as far as Google search results but you may not be in the clear with the dozens of other search engines that are out there.
Most sites will not have to use the tool: In several points of Mr. Cutt’s post, he mentions that the majority of website will not have to use this tool. In fact, it is even said that if you aren’t sure how the tool is used then you probably shouldn’t (and don’t) need to use it. For novice users, it can be easy to mistakenly add links that do not need to be disavowed. Although this process can be undone, it can take several weeks to get the process to work and several more to undo it if you make a mistake.
The disavow document is a suggestion, not a directive: Google mentions that the disavow tool is powerful for webmasters because they will take into account what is in the file however it is not an absolute solution. Google reserves the right to ignore information in the file if they so choose however for most users, suggestions will be implemented.
The tool should be used in select scenarios: So if you are a webmaster and you just heard about this tool from this post or perhaps somewhere else, there is probably not a need for you to rush to your webmaster tools account and start uploading links. In fact, unless you have been actively involved in link building activities, chances are you do not need to use this tool. If you have been engaged in link building activities on your own such as creating external web 2.0 properties under pseudo names, buying links from paid services, participating in link exchanges or actively engaging in any other link building activities that could be perceived as deceptive to users or against Google’s quality guidelines; you may want to take a look at your backlink profile. Other reasons one may need to use the tool are if you have received a message from Webmaster tools notifying you of unnatural link activity or if there are links you have been trying to remove manually and cannot.
Granularity is important: Just like in SEO, the difference between example.com and www.example.com is important. The document users submit to Google in order to have links on their site disavowed also supports a fairly granular level of detail. If you want a link removed that is found on example.com, submitting www.example.com will not be good enough.
Webmasters who have been toiling to find a way to remove detrimental links from their website at last have a solution; even if it is only for one major search engine. If you want more information on how the tool works, you can read about it in Google’s help center.
You can also check out this video featuring Matt Cutts.
Will you be using the disavow links tool? What tactics were you using before the tool’s release to get detrimental links off of your website?