To webmasters whose websites were badly affected by the Google Penguin update, Google’s latest link spam tool should be heaven sent.
That’s because the Google Disavow Links tool allows webmasters to purge low-quality spam links that are thought to adversely impact search engine visibility.Referring to the vocabulary, disavow means “renounce”, “disclaim”, “deny”, “repudiate” or “disown”. In a way, proceeding to use this tool is like filing for a divorce — severing ties with something/someone.
By using this tool we attempt to distance ourselves from these links and want Google to recognize our effort to deny connection with these unwanted links. By successfully doing this, we enable Google to remove links that we think are harming our website’s search engine visibility.
Imagine hiring one link builder who successfully built hundreds of inbound links for your website. But after a few months, Google notified you that your website has a significant number unnatural links, links that are perceived to be built deliberately for the purpose of rankings rather than their inherent purpose of referring traffic from one page to another. You ask the link builder to remove these links. But the link builder says he is unable or unwilling to remove the links for whatever reason.
You paid him once to embed those links, but now you’ll end up paying him just to reverse the action. In some cases, just like the online store I was consulting for, clients are at the mercy of link building folks, who can flat out reject requests for link removal. By the time they are paid, their accountability with the website automatically shuts down.
Or maybe webmasters were simply too eager to try new ways to acquire links, employing tools that build links on the fly. And as they might find out later, if it’s difficult to acquire links, it’s may also be difficult to remove them if you find out they do more harm than good.
With Google’s Disavow Links tool launch, it is now possible to detach websites from spammy links that risk that coveted prime search engine ranking. Low quality, irrelevant, autogenerated links, whatever you describe them.
The need for this type of tool may have been a while. When Google Bomb / Negative SEO type of links were largely responsible for questionable search results, Google certainly needed a crowdsourcing effort to help detect such category of inbound links, just like it seeks public help to get rid of spam.
How it works
Ideally associated with Google Webmaster tools (currently not connected), you are asked to pick which website you suspect is getting a substantial amount of unnatural links. This may include websites we manage which receive unnatural links warning from Google.
But once you click “Disavow Links” after picking one URL, a warning message that if misused, this tool may negatively impact search performance, instead of the intended consequences. So proceed with caution and we only do so when we are sure a significant number of spammy links are pointing to our website. Yet, it’s not the first time we encounter such gentle warning; URL parameter configuration at Google Webmaster tools bears a similar notice.
We will be prompted for a file which lists down suspected spammy URLs with optional annotations that may help in expediting the disavow effort. Google’s sample content of this file shows how we can place the URLs one per line:
# Contacted owner of spamdomain1.com on 7/1/2012 to
# ask for link removal but got no response
domain:spamdomain1.com# Owner of spamdomain2.com removed most links, but missed thesehttp://www.spamdomain2.com/contentA.htmlhttp://www.spamdomain2.com/contentB.htmlhttp://www.spamdomain2.com/contentC.html
domain:spamdomain1.com is a line that indicate we disavow links coming from the domain spamdomain1.com. The file can also be a combination of individual URLs and a general domain exclusion directive. Take note that there is a limit in file size of 2MB. Exceeding this size indicates we have a lot of bad links to deal with, and may be better if we start a new website.
If it takes several weeks to disavow links, it may also take the same amount of time to “reavow” them as Danny Sullivan puts it.
As mentioned, even if this tool is available, it seems that Matt Cutts, head of Google’s anti-spam team is reluctant to ask everyone to try it. According to a post at Search Engine Roundtable, “do not disavow internal links – it can hurt.”
Google understands that once negative SEO has been propagated against our website, there is little we can do to have them removed. With Google Disavow Links tool, we have hope that even if we can’t persuade webmasters to remove unwanted links pointing to our website, we can deal with them.