Google's Disavow Tool

Google's Disavow Tool

As usual, Google’s latest announcement has webmasters and SEO specialists buzzing. Instead of an update though, this time it came in the form of a keynote address by Google’s own Matt Cutts. The idea was to help explain and clear up any misunderstandings about the disavow tool; but it seems to have had the opposite effect of causing even more confusion and a small amount of panic. Over the last few years, Google became a little more stringent in the use of their algorithm and have begun taking into account links that are poor quality or paid when determining SERP rankings. They have begun notifying owners of sites about inbound links that are suspicious and this has caused webmasters to pay attention and try to clean up their link profiles as much as possible. Sometimes these are simply very old profiles that no one was paying much attention to; and some of them were put into place by an SEO company that worked the site before. As Google has gotten better at detecting links of poor quality, some negative SEO campaigns occurred. This is an unethical technique which is used by competitors who will buy links and point them at sites that they want to rank lower than themselves. This leaves innocent webmasters in a bind even if they find out what did actually occur. Google created the disavow option for situations like these.

What is the Disavow Tool?

The release of Google’s disavow tool comes after the latest Penguin update in which we learned that sites with bad links could be penalized. The Panda update had everyone scrambling to get rid of links that were questionable or retrieved from black hat methods trying to beat the system. The main premise behind the disavow tool is offering webmasters or SEO specialists ways of reporting bad links that may be on a site with no way to get them removed. For example, if a site of ill reputation links to yours and for whatever reason refuses to remove it – you can get penalized for having it and your ranking will suffer. The disavow tool allows you to report that specific link to Google and have them “disavow” it.

Who Should Use the Disavow Tool?

This latest information does not mean that everyone needs to start disavowing every unidentifiable link on their sites. Since we are still unsure about how effective this new tool will be, there are only a few classes of people who should even worry about it for now. One of the first reasons that you should use the disavow tool is you have already received a warning from Google that alerts you to the fact that there are some possible problems with your link profile. Usually, if you receive such a direct warning from Google and you have not been able to remove the links you may want to use the disavow tool.

If your site got hit by Penguin, which targets some of the aggressive and questionable link building strategies, try to fix the links first. If you are having trouble getting it resolved then attempting the disavow tool might be your best option. Remember that there is a lot of uncertainty still about the Penguin update and it can be a lengthy process to get everything straightened out even when using the disavow tool. It’s not an overnight cure for sure.

Those who have been trying unsuccessfully to fix link based penalties or bad link warnings should probably opt to use the disavow tool. Google is usually pretty good about reconsideration but they will not always act until at least a large portion of the bad links has already been removed. Those who are victims of negative SEO and there is no way to remove the links then the disavowal is a very good option. Remember that these instances are very rare, but they do occur. Just be sure that you are sure that that is the problem before you list a lot of links to disavow.