Questions and Answer on Google's Newly Released Disavow Links Tool

Disavow Links: Who, What, Where, When, How?

 

  • Who made this?
    A few months back, the potential disavow tool was discussed by Matt Cutts, Google Engineer who is the head of the web spam team at SMX Advanced. In July, Bing saw the need for it and added the disavow links tool in their webmaster tools earlier than Google. Today, Google has just announced the roll out of their link disavowment tool as a part of Google Webmaster Tools.
  • What is Disavow Links?
    It is a new option added to Google Webmaster Tools to disavow or disregard incoming external backlinks to your website. As many of you know, links help out in ranking but not all links are created equal. Some help you and some may hurt you. But since links are not 100% in your control and there has been some discussion on link bombing others to do negative SEO, you are under the mercy of other sites. The disavow links feature will allow website owners to tell Google to disregard or discredit a link going to your website.
  • Where is the Disavow Links Tool?
    This was announced earlier today at PubCon and Google has posted a help page,  a new blog post answering some possible common questions along with a video of  Matt Cutts (shown below) talking about the tool. But as of this time you may still not see it within your Google Webmaster Tools account. If you do not see the option, you can go directly to the tool here.
  • When will we see the Link Disavow Tool?
    This option will be included in Google Webmaster Tools. Try logging into yours: it might be there already! If you do not see it, and want to check it out, see above where the Disavow Link Tool is.

How do you use disavow links?

It will be as simple as compiling a list of URLs that are linking to your website that you wish to disavow. Format it in such a way that each URL is on a separate line. Then submit the URLs within Google Webmaster Tools. If you wish to disavow a sitewide link or any multiple number of links coming from the same domain, instead of having multiple URLs on separate lines form the same domain, replace it with 1 line in the following format: domain:example.com and this will disavow all links coming from example.com. It is as simple as 1, 2 3.

Disavow Links Tool
Step 1: Go to the disavow links tool, login to your Google Webmaster Tools account and choose the website you wish to apply link disavowment.
Disavow Links Tool Disclaimer
Step 2: Read disclaimer and click on the disavow links button to continue.
Disavow Links Tool Upload
Step 3: Upload the text file with the URLs of pages linking to your website that you wish to disavow. If it is for a whole domain simply use domain:example.com

Is this the same as Rel=”nofollow”?

They essentially do the same thing in discrediting a link but are not the same. The rel=”nofollow” is applied to the <a> tag on the page that is linking out. The disavow links is applied to the page that it is linking to and is simply uploading a text file and not doing any changes to your HTML code. The rel=”nofollow” is already accepted by all major search engines. The disavow tool by Google only works in Google. And Bing also has it’s own disavow tool that would work for Yahoo and Bing.

Will Google tell me what links to disavow?

Not really, although as Matt Cutts mentioned in the video, just in case you didn’t catch it, you may receive a message in Google Webmaster Tools for the types of links that Google finds spammy and may give some examples of these existing links, but does not mean that the examples given are the only links to disavow.

How do I figure out what links to disavow?

That is a heavily loaded question and can have a lengthy answer, but to keep it simple for now, you can look at various quality scores given by a variety of tools to evaluate the quality of a link. Like Google’s PageRank, SEOMoz’ Page Authority and Domain Authority, MajesticSEO’s ACRank, and more. Some go to the extent into looking into estimated traffic metrics like Alexa, Quantcast and Compete.com. And let’s never exclude just visually checking the site out. If the page looks spammy to you, most probably it looks spammy to Google too.

Are links automatically discredited if disavowed?

Similarly to the canonical link tag, it is a strong suggestion to Google, but does not necessarily mean Google will follow it right away. It may also take some weeks before it is reflected.

Use Wisely

Matt Cutts says this is an advanced tool and users should not just go crazy in start disavowing a bunch of links. Matt strongly recommends to still find ways to really remove a link than just disavowing right away. And if you think you can just disavow then request to allow it again, the process even takes longer to reflect.

What would a Blackhat SEO do with the disavow link tool?

I really don’t know since I am not a blackhat *ehem* *cough* *choke* *clears throat*. But here are some ideas I think blackhats may exploit this.

  1. Automated Link Building is Alive Again
    If there is the disavow link tool, then spammy submission and posting tools might still be used by everyone. Just submit links to tons of places, regardless if they are good or bad quality sites. Once posted using tools to evaluate backlinks can be used to check things like SEOMoz domain authority, Google PageRank etc. And everyone in the bottom list just copy and paste it in a text file and submit for disavoment.
    What I think Google will do about this?
    The link disavowment tool will see too much URLs submitted. Or a high amount of bad quality links are submitted at a high rate on a regular basis. This can raise whatever red flags for possible link spamming, sounds like a Penguin patch to me.
  2. Trying to make a good link look bad
    So if you competitors has some pretty good links, try making the good link site look spammy. If it is fom a blog, attack it with comment spam or trackback spam with spammy topics, like adult, phramaceuticals and casino stuff. Hopefully it ends up on the radar of the competitor and they might decide to disavow them.
    What I think Google will do about this?
    Nothing. This is more of a question to the owners of the websites where the backlink is if they will allow comment spam, and where the backlink is going to, if they will decide to disavow it.
  3. More Sophisticated Link Bombing
    For blackhats that try negative SEO using spammy sites that link to competitors to pull them down, they might just make their link bombing sites more sophisticated with rotating domain names so you really do not know which domain to disavow. Of they can change their link bombs might be cloaked so you don’t see them but search engines do.
    What I think Google will do about this?
    I don’t know. But the Google Spam Report has been existing for several years already. If sometimes tries to do this to you, you can always fill up the spam report form and have Google take some manual action to penalize the site.
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