Is It About Time?
Ever since Panda and Penguin all but destroyed a ton of businesses that were relying on search engine optimization there have been a lot of people trying to figure out how to fix the damage. Tons of people were going around trying to delete links that they had created. And a bunch of others have been tirelessly been sending notices to sites trying to get their links removed.
Matt Cutts announced at PubCon yesterday that Google has finally added a Disavow Links tool. SEO’s have been calling for this tool ever since Bing added theirs back in June. So is it time to start discarding links?
Here is the Matt Cutts Google Webmaster Help video on Disavowing Links:
Whereas Bing’s user friendly tool simply asks you to submit a page or domain that you don’t like, Google’s comes with multiple warnings and is marked as an ‘Advanced Tool’. But really its pretty simple to use.
From Google Webmasters Blog
In Matt’s video, he also says you should be emailing webmasters multiple times with link removal requests before using the tool to disavow the last few links. He has obviously never tried to get hold of the owner of a spammy links directory…
The format is straightforward. All you need is a plain text file with one URL per line. An excerpt of a valid file might look like the following:
In this example, lines that begin with a pound sign (#) are considered comments and Google ignores them. The “domain:” keyword indicates that you’d like to disavow links from all pages on a particular site (in this case, “spamdomain1.com”). You can also request to disavow links on specific pages (in this case, three individual pages on spamdomain2.com). We currently support one disavowal file per site and the file is shared among site owners in Webmaster Tools. If you want to update the file, you’ll need to download the existing file, modify it, and upload the new one. The file size limit is 2MB.
One great place to start looking for bad links is the “Links to Your Site” feature in Webmaster Tools. From the homepage, select the site you want, navigate to Traffic > Links to Your Site > Who links the most > More, then click one of the download buttons. This file lists pages that link to your site. If you click “Download latest links,” you’ll see dates as well. This can be a great place to start your investigation, but be sure you don’t upload the entire list of links to your site — you don’t want to disavow all your links!
When Should you Use the Tool?
According to the advice about you should only use the tool if:
- You have received an unnatural links warning
- You have tried to contact the owners of low quality/spammy links to your site multiple times with no response
However, as with any announcement like this from Google it’s likely that Webmasters who aren’t ranking number 1 for their target keywords will ignore the official advice and there will be a rush to get as many links disavowed as possible.
So here is what I am going to tell you. If you know that you were hit by Penguin and you know which links are hurting you then use the tool.
When Shouldn’t you Use the Tool?
It will be very tempting to do a complete purge of your links and try and get everything disallowed. Especially if your not ranking high in the search engine.
Think before you act or you might shoot yourself in the foot.
If you’re on page 1 for a target keyword, you might do much better by building some new strong links rather than submitting a giant list of links you don’t like to Google.
It can take quite a while for Google to consider your disavow links, so if you submit a list and lose rankings, it will then take weeks to correct the problem.
Links to Avoid/ Remove/ Disavow
If you’re an active SEO you should be aware of these anyway, but as a refresher here Google’s guidelines on links:
- Bought or sold links – including in exchange for goods or services
- Link exchanges/ reciprocal links
- Link wheels
- Blog networks
- Automated link programs
- Low quality/ unrelated/ SEO link directories and bookmark sites
- Links embedded in widgets
- Blog and forum comments that don’t provide value
- Footer/ sidebar links across entire sites and networks
Most of the above tactics have worked in the past and some report that they still do. However, these are the sorts of links Google hate so if you or somebody on your behalf has been building links in this way, and you are sure that it is having an adverse effect on your rankings then Google’s Disavow Links Tool may just become your new best friend.
What About Somebody Disavowing My Links
Google has stated that they have taken negative SEO campaigns into consideration. They claim that their algorithm is more that capable of handling negative SEO campaigns. Now, I follow tons of SEO forums and really I think negative SEO was something created to scare people. The “what if” crowd created the term and now a lot of people are afraid of it. Can it happen? Sure it can. But if your practicing good business and monitoring your webmaster tools anything the gets by Google should be easy to spot.
In conclusion, I want to reiterate that if you are not sure if you should use the tool, then don’t. You can potentially hurt your site beyond repair.
But if you are positive your previous linking campaigns were picked up by Google. And now your site has just tanked. And you have done everything else that you possibly can to fix it. Then give this tool a shot, after all your rankings already suck so what do you have to lose?
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