Google launched the tool 4 months ago in an aim to help site owners deal with their Webmaster Tools warnings about un-natural and poor quality links. The types of links that we’re talking about here are the likes of directories, article hub sites as well as paid links. These aren’t the only types of links but they’ll certainly cover the majority of what’s considered ‘spammy’ by Google.
If you have been building these kind of links then Google recommends to try your upmost to remove them yourself. This will mean getting in touch with the web owners requesting link removals. However, Google fully understand that in many cases removing all your poor quality links isn’t possible and that’s where the disavow tool comes into play.
The idea behind the tool is for Google to not take down the links but instead not consider them when addressing your site.
Google repeatedly stresses the fact that this tool should not be used lightly. If used incorrectly it can seriously damage your sites ranking performance. This tool should only be used when combatting against a significant amount of low quality links.
What links should be taken down?
Matt Cutts advises to take a look at your most recent links as well as the comments provided by Google in their WMT message. Here, they should provide a few example links that it describes as being ‘spammy’, you should then use these examples as a guide to removing links. Nevertheless, confusion crops up here due to the lack of comprehensiveness with regards to all your backlinks – some sites will have thousands of backlinks and by only providing a few examples Google isn’t really helping you out that much.
How to use the disavow tool
The tool is very simple to use, simply head to the disavow page. All you need to do is upload a text file of all the links that you’d like to ignore. Place the URL of the site on each single line and you may also add comments as to how you’ve tried to remove the links yourself.
What happens next?
Once you’ve uploaded the file Google will begin its process of re-assessing your backlinks. Matt Cutts says these links will be treated as ‘no-follow’ therefore dropping out of their processing. However, time lags do occur for this process to be completed. This is due to the fact the pages need re-crawling, re-indexing and then re-processed.
Google reiterates for you to proceed with caution when using the tool. If you want to un-disavow a link then this process will take even longer than the one stated above. Moreover, it’s possible that this particular link won’t regain the same weight as it had before. Carefully think about which links you want Google to ignore.
Does it work?
There’s been a wide response to the way the tool has worked for site owners. Some have had to wait months for re-consideration without response and others have seen the tool kick in to effect after several weeks. We’ve even seen SEO’s commenting that Bing’s similar tool responds much quicker. Whatever the case, there’s a few guidelines to follow when using the disavow tool.
Disavow tool checklist
• Carefully construct a link audit to assess both recent and past link data
• Use the WMT message as a guide to the type of links you should target
• Aim to take down some of the links yourself (this can and probably should be documented within your links file that you upload to the disavow tool)
• Carefully check the links you wish to disavow
• Submit your file and wait a few days before performing a reconsideration request
Stay tuned for more updates in Google penalisation on our upcoming podcast episode. In the mean time there’s a few videos below worth watching.
*Please also take a look at Matt Cutt’s summary video of the Disavow Tool:
There’s also a further video from Matt when considering how to perform a re-consideration request: