Improving Links for SEO with Google’s Disavow Links Tool

Google just released a new tool that allows you to ignore certain links to your site. In the past, if you were looking to clean up your backlinks, your only option was to email a site owner and request that he or she take down the link. Google’s Disavow Links tool now allows you to submit a text file of backlinks that you would like the search engine to ignore—including links from an entire domain.

Why Disavow or Remove a Link to Your Site?

Confused as to why you would want to remove a link to your site? Aren’t links good for SEO? For the most part, yes. High quality backlinks greatly demonstrate your site’s authority to search engines and count as a “vote” for the quality of your site. In the past, Google used to count these high quality links towards your site’s ranking and ignore low quality or irrelevant links. But since Google’s Penguin Update, the search engine actually penalizes your site for having irrelevant and low quality links. So having spammy links pointing to your website can actually hurt your site’s authority and ranking in search engines. If you’re worried certain links might be hurting your rankings, you’ll want to disavow the link.

When Should I Disavow Links?

Most people shouldn’t need to use the Disavow Links tool. The tool is mostly for site owners that were penalized by Google’s Penguin Update, which greatly impacted sites that purchased links or gained them through spamming. Here are some situations where you might consider disavowing links to your site:

  1. If Google sends you a message that says you have “unnatural links” to your site
  2. If your site has been penalized by Google
  3. If you were paying for links
  4. If you participated in blog spam, comment spam, or forum spam for linkbuilding
  5. If you think someone might be trying to harm your rankings by pointing bad links at your site
  6. If you’re unable to get the links taken down through ordinary measures

Google warns that Disavow Links is an advanced tool and should be used as a last resort. If you’ve already exhausted your options for getting spammy links taken down, you should disavow the remaining bad links. Additionally, make sure you actually want to disavow the links you submit. If you decide in the future that you actually want Google to count that link, it will take a long time for Google to “reavow” the link.

How Do You Disavow a Link?

Once you’ve decided that you definitely want to disavow a link or links, here are the steps you can take:

  1. Download a list of links to your site. You can do this with Google’s Webmaster Tools.
  2. Create a text file containing only the links you want to disavow, using one link per line.
  3. You can also ask Google to ignore all links from an entire domain by adding “domain:” before the link.
  4. Go to Google’s Disavow Links tool page.
  5. Select your website and upload the text file.

Understand that Google only takes this as a “strong recommendation” to ignore those links. It’s a not a sure thing. It can also take a few weeks to disavow the links, because Google must re-crawl and re-index the links.

Does Bing Have a Disavow Links Tool?

What? Who cares about Bing? Get out of here with your Bing questions. I’m just kidding. Kind of. Bing released a similar tool to disavow links that you can access through Bing Webmaster Tools.

Posted in Google Updates

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