Search Engine Optimization and Marketing for E-commerce

Cleaning up bad links with Google’s Disavow Tool

by akagan 30. October 2012 11:05

Google’s announcement and release of it’s new link-disavow tool October 16 is a welcome addition to your webmaster’s arsenal, allowing you to clean out inbound links (“backlinks”) from poorly ranked or negatively ranked websites. The disavow-links tool joins a similar tool released by Bing earlier in the year.

webmasterblogiconInbound links (links from other websites to pages on your website) are normally a good thing, helping Google and other search engines gauge how much interest there is in your webpages. Widespread abuse of this metric, however, primarily through the use of link-farms and paid-link schemes, has led to significant and frequent changes in Google’s ranking algorithms, creating churn in search engine results, especially for webpages with thousands of inbound links. The problem has been compounded by “grey hat” SEOs manipulating search results by deliberately pointing negatively weighted links at their competitors, also known as “link spam.”

Google already alerts webmasters (through it’s Webmaster Tools website) when there are questionable/negative or “unnatural” links pointing at their website, which would potentially (probably) negatively impact the webpage’s search rank. Until now, however, there wasn’t anything you could do to remove the links, assuming you weren’t responsible for them.

Google’s new disavow-link tool is an effort to address negative links, by allowing users of Webmaster Tools to upload a text file with a list of links to ignore. As most SEOs will realize, if Google is alerting you to “unnatural” links on your website, then you’re already likely being penalized for those links. The best defense is to aggressively monitor inbound links using Webmaster Tools, and actively keep track of and disavow links using the new tool. It should be noted that Google does not guarantee it will take disavow requests into consideration in all situations.

Google’s Spam Czar Matt Cutts posted a video explaining the process in detail. The text file has a simple format of one URL per line:

Fortunately, you can also list entire websites using the shorthand format:


Each time you add to this list, you must upload all the links again. Cutts cautions that extra care should be used with the disavow tool, to prevent inadvertently removing valuable links from their web page rankings.

Unsure about how or when to use this tool? Then don’t…Google has provided it as an advanced method of correcting problems with backlinks, and it is designed for SEO professionals.

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