After months of rumours, Google has officially unveiled a link disavow tool that allows webmasters to shrug off the responsibility of poor quality links pointing to their sites.
In his announcement, Matt Cutts repeated several times that this should not affect the majority of webmasters, but could be useful for those who have been victims of shady SEO agencies or negative SEO attacks. The majority of websites affected will receive a warning about unnatural links being detected through Google Webmaster Tools. In the coming months it hopes to include examples of links that it views as spammy.
Firsts steps in disavowing links
Cutts suggests that reaching out to site owners to remove the links manually is still the best course of action, as it can be quicker and also removes the links from other search engines. Bing, however, launched its own disavow tool back in June.
As many people found out when Penguin hit, not all site owners respond to such requests or are even contactable, especially if they use a blogging service such as Blogger. It’s in these cases that the disavow tool should be utilised.
How to use Google’s disavow tool
Found within Webmaster Tools, to disavow links you simply need to upload a document with a list of URLs or domains that are linking to your site that you wish to disassociate with. Disavow requests will take a few weeks to take effect. If you are going to submit a resubmission request to Google after using this tool, it is recommended to mention it in your proposal.
Cutts warns people to use this tool only in dire circumstances. He mentions potential problems, which are duplicated in Webmaster Tools, where users will remove links that aren’t seen as spammy and will have a negative effect on a site’s performance in the SERPs.
It’s possible to re-upload your disavow document with some URLs omitted, but it will take longer than the original request to re-include these in your backlink portfolio.
How to choose which links to disavow
In his video presentation, Cutts suggests a few starting points for links to disavow:
- Any obvious spam posts – on forums, through blog comments or in guestbooks
- Link networks – a favourite of black hat SEO merchants
- Spun articles that have been syndicated to low quality sites
Webmaster Tools will soon give examples of some sites it thinks is affecting your performance, but until then Cutts suggests looking at your most recent links for the likely culprits.