On Tuesday 16th October Google announced a new tool for webmasters – it’s not one that everyone will need but it might just come in handy one day. The tool effectively allows you to tell Google which of the links that point to your site it should ‘ignore’.
Why is this tool needed?
Since the Google Penguin update (read my previous post if you’re not up to speed on Penguin) webmasters have been wondering if Google would create a process that would allow them to affectively ‘disavow’ links that they considered spammy and which they couldn’t remove. The announcement made on the Webmaster Central Blog will have delighted a small number of site owners who were hit hard during Penguin, as well as a larger number who think they might be affected by future Penguin updates and want to take a ‘pre-emptive strike’.
Should I disavow some of my links using this tool?
Tip: Always try contacting the website to ask them to remove the link to your site before using the disavow tool.
Most sites will not need to use this tool. The tool should only be used if you or Google have identified spammy links, and you’re unable to remove them. At the minute you should only need to use this tool for the following reasons.
- Group1: You’ve received a warning email from Google notifying you of a manual spam action based upon ‘unnatural links’ that point to your site
- Group 2: You’ve aware of a number of links pointing to your site that could be considered spammy (and you’re worried that future Penguin updates might identify them as such).
If you’re in Group 1…
… then the problematic links pointing to your site that Google’s referring to will already have stopped passing any value to your site. They won’t be helping you to rank anymore. In the meantime they may now be causing your site to appear lower in search results that it should – Google will still see them pointing to your site and use them as a ranking signal. Remember that Penguin was designed to devalue spammy links that fall into these categories: paid links, link schemes and links from sites that violate Google’s quality guidelines.
If you’re in Group 2…
…then it’s possible that some of the links you’ve identified as spammy are still providing value, i.e. they are still helping you to rank for certain keywords and phrases. It’s important to note that disavowing these links may cause a dip in rankings. This obviously depends on how many links you’re disavowing and if they have any trust/value. Other links might be causing you to rank lower, it’s not always instantly obvious but by looking at a site that links to you it’s possible to ascertain whether a link should be removed or not.
You should still be planning to acquire other links – good quality ones that can take the place of any disavowed links.
How do I use the link disavow tool?
The usage of the tool is covered in detail at the Google Webmaster Tools Support area so I won’t reinvent the wheel in this post. One interesting point to note is that you’ll be required to add links that you’d like ‘disavowed’ into a text file.
A basic overview: You’ll need to login into Webmaster Tools with Owner level access to use the tool. Visit the disavow tool link https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/disavow-links-main and click ‘Disavow Links’. Then you’ll need to point Google to your text file with details of the links you want to disavow. You can enter full links or entire domains into the file, allowing you to squash enormous numbers of spam links from spammy domains (if they exist).
What if I don’t know if my site has spammy links pointing to it?
Then steer clear of the disavow tool – you could end up removing a link that’s helping your site to rank, thus doing more harm than good. It’s always worth speaking to an expert, get in touch with Zen Web Solutions if you’re unsure and we can provide consultancy to discover if you need to use the disavow tool or not.
Watch this video from Matt Cutts, Google’s Head of Webspam, explaining more about the tool and why you might need to use it.