When Google’s most ferocious anti-spam deputy Matt Cutts had mentioned that the search team has been working on a tool which will allow webmasters to disavow particular spammy links back in June, it had incited some fuss and excitement around the SEO community.
But as time went by, people began to believe that Matt Cutts and his companions have neglected this idea. Well, they haven’t. After more than four months since the initial reference, Google finally released this intriguing tool. Webmasters can now tell Google which links they don’t want it to consider.
Danger, Danger, Danger!
Before anything, it’s crucially important to stress that most site owners SHOULDN’T use it. Yes, that’s right, this Disavow Links tool can be extremely hazardous for a website’s rankings if wielded wrongfully. The only reason to actually avail it is if the webmaster firmly believes that certain links which pointing to the site have a negative affect on its rankings.
In fact, it is highly recommended to stay away from this tool as much as possible if you don’t fully understand it. Google urges webmasters first and foremost to try removing potential harmful links themselves before they commence disavowing links with the tool.
So in which cases exactly should you use it? If you are SURE you were negatively impacted by the Penguin update which targets sites with dubious linking profile and/or you had received an unnatural links message from Google (indicates that a manual action may have been taken against the site). Again, you have to be solemnly positive that specific links menacing your search performance.
How To Use The Disavow Links Tool
Before using the Disavow Links tool, you need to know first which links you intend to disavow because the tool itself won’t tell you that. For that purpose you can assist Open Site Explorer, Ahrefs or your own Google Webmaster Tools account. Once you fathom which links to disavow you need to prepare a text file containing a list of all the links you wish Google to ignore.
Place each link URL in a different line on the text file. The file should look something like this:
If you want to tell Google to disregard links from a whole website you can use the domain: annotation to indicate it. In that case, your file can look like this:
After you have prepared the file, enter the Disavow Links tool page, choose the website you want to disavow links to (has to be a claimed website from Google Webmaster Tools), choose the file you have formulated upfront and upload it. Afterwards, you’ll have the possibility to download the file if would want to make some changes (add/remove URLs from the list).
The effect of the tool is not immediate, Google first need to recrawl those pages. Google states it can take multiple weeks, but I suspect that it can even take months before the search engine will reindex all those URLs. And of course if you were hit by the Penguin update, you should also wait for a data refresh.
Here are few more important points to know about the tool:
- Note that Google reserves the right to ignore your file.
- If you alter the file after uploading it, it may take a while to process it again.
- If a manual action has been taken against your site, file a reconsideration request after you’d uploaded the file to let Google know about it.
- www.example.com and example.com considers as two different URLs so you might have to list both of them (not required if you use the domain: annotation).
For more information about the tool you can watch the following video by Matt Cutts: