The 2 Sides of Google's New Disavow Tool

It’s no secret that Google has been waging something of a war against spammy backlinks in recent months. Their algorithm has been beefed up, revamped and revised repeatedly to make low quality links less valuable and in some cases detrimental to your site.

Of course like in all wars there has been some collateral damage. Through all of the recent updates some high quality and trusted sites have been hit hard because, let’s face it, at a certain point you can’t control who links to your content.

Or maybe you made mistakes when you were just starting out – 5 years ago – or maybe you hired an SEO who was doing things to get results that you didn’t realize he was doing.

Whatever the case, bad links can hurt people with quality sites just as much as the spammy blackhatters that these algorithm updates are meant to snare.

So, it’s not surprising and frankly, a bit overdue, to see that Google has finally come up with a new tool that allows SEO’s and webmasters to disavow links to their site.

Here’s How it Works.

First log into your Google Webmasters Tools account, once in, visit the disavow links tool here.

To disavow your bad links upload a text file that includes a list of all the backlinks you’d like removed pointing to your site. You can use “domain:” to remove an entire domain from linking to you or enter individual page URL’s into the text file to disavow those links.

Here’s Matt Cutts explaining the tool:

Who is This For?

The vast majority of site owners were not affected by the Penguin updates. Some were dinged a little harder than others and some saw only small impacts. However, for those that were hit hard either because they bought links in the past or used spammy practices to get backlinks, this tool is for you.

Will it bring back your number 1 rankings? No one knows for sure yet. But it can help you reset the clock and start working on natural linking for your site again, especially if you really want to keep your site as is without having to completely start over.

But Google is Smart…

Google is nothing if not clever and it shows in the fact that this disavow tool effectively crowd-sources the entirety of their bad backlink detection efforts to webmasters like you and me. What was once a multi-million (possibly billion) dollar operation can now be streamlined as webmasters submit tens of thousands of “bad” links to Google.

When you submit a link through the disavow tool, you are helping Google learn how to identify bad links more effectively and creating for them a massive database of where to find those bad links. Imagine how many blog networks and private link wheels will be tagged and affected with the next Penguin update as a result of this new tool.

One must always be careful when Google comes bearing shiny new objects.

Is Link Building Dead?

No – Google’s algorithm still relies heavily on backlinks – all their latest efforts have been geared towards identifying and removing all the bad backlinks from their index and making their bots more efficient in categorizing “link weight”.

And now more than ever I think that Tiered Linking is the way to go, you can see how I do it here:

What Else Can You Do?

Google has been (for a while now) giving more weight in their algorithm to parameters like; time on site, bounce rate, social interaction (comments, likes, plus one’s, tweets, etc.) and returning visitors.

All of the above can be achieved with high quality, useful and engaging content, so you should start spending more time creating this type of content and when you do, the good backlinks will naturally come without you having to do anything else.

Please share your opinion on the Disavow tool and Google’s intentions by leaving a comment below.


AlexThe 2 Sides of Google's New Disavow Tool

Comments 4

  1. Clive

    Hi Alex, yes it’s interesting that it’s taken them so long. Also shows that ‘negative’ SEO i.e. spammers lowering a competitors rankings with bad links was NOT a myth!

    But how to get that list of links pointing to your site? What tool/method do you suggest?

    1. Post
      Alex Safie

      Hi Clive,

      There are a lot of tools out there, Market Samurai for example. And Google also provides a list of backlinks to your site inside your Webmaster Tools account.

  2. Martin

    Hi Alex, I think your point about being wary of Google when they offer new toys is well made. It’s not like the recent changes have even made their results better.

    I don’t know if we are finally seeing a market reaction to the new “high-quality” dross that Google is serving up on it’s search results, but maybe a few more knocks to their earnings will wake them up to the fact that they are not delivering what they promise.

    I’m seeing more and more cases where page after page of results all come from the same site, or countless youtube videos suck up the first 30 results and I’m just not sure that this is fit for purpose.

    I’m certainly not going to be using SEO as a main strategy in the future. Linking my livelihood to a company which changes its mind as often as Google is a recipe for disaster.


    PS A wee tip for your readers and commentators – Don’t use your name too often to comment on blog posts (especially if you have an EMD named blog). I’ve seen my site disappear from the rankings because I dared use my name in blog comments like this……and now I’m over-optimized 🙂

  3. Jon

    Interesting possible *misuse* of disavow to designate a link as “bad” would be to disavow the URL of each and every one of your competitors! How in the world can Google ever hope to police that to make sure a “disavowed” site is really bad news or that somebody has an axe to grind?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *