Maybe Google has sent you a warning about unnatural links…Maybe the latest Panda and Penguin updates put your website in a lesser position…Maybe you or your SEO agency (accidentally?) used black hat SEO techniques in the past.
And maybe, just maybe, you’ve been lucky enough to hear about Google Disavow, the latest Webmaster Tool that allows website owners to request Google ignore poor quality, spammy, and plain old “toxic” links. Used correctly, it’s a productive asset for your SEO and link-building strategy.
The Advantages of Google Disavow
1. Removes harmful links to improve rankings
The primary purpose of Google Disavow, as mentioned above, is to request removal of unnatural and low-quality links that harm your site from a ranking perspective. It is definitely useful for websites who are exposed to these types of links and offers them a chance to clean up their act. Even the best websites are occasionally prone to this stuff, so it’s a good option to have.
2. Quick and easy power tool
It’s even simple to use too. You identify the links you want to disavow, load them into a simple text file, and upload the file to the tool. Within a few days to a few weeks Google will (most likely) stop following or recognizing those links.
3. It’s FREE
It’s way easier than requesting another website owner remove links for you – that can take weeks, months, or never happen at all. Worse, some owners request money to remove links and this is the last place you want to spend your revenue. Google Disavow is completely free.
Sounds great, right? Well don’t skip away to start disavowing links too quickly. There’s a bit more to this story then initially meets the eye.
The Disadvantages of Google Disavow
1. Removal of links not guaranteed
Google Disavow only lets you request that Google disavow the links, but Google has the final decision as to whether to follow along with your request (or in this case, not follow your links). Therefore, it’s not a guaranteed victory. If you really want to remove a link, you need to get the other website owner to do it for you.
2. The trouble of identifying low quality
To discover which links need disavowing, you can use link detox tools from software companies like Link Research Tools to find toxic and suspicious links or you can use your Open Site Explorer account to search, filter, and examine lower quality links. The really toxic links are easy to identify, but there are plenty that walk a grey line. If you disavow a link that was actually helpful, it can be hard to go back and reassert that link (or it will come back, but not carry the same weight).
3. The challenge of determining right quantity
Disavow too few potentially harmful links and you risk continued warnings and poor rankings. Disavow too many potentially harmful links and you risk destroying links that may actually have helped your website. At the same time, there’s no word yet on how Google perceives the quantity of links disavowed and as we said before, once you’ve disavowed links it’s hard to go back.
4. It’s NOT for every website
As Google’s Matt Cutts said about Google Disavow, “approach with caution”. Unless you have received a warning from Google, spent time building up paid links, or been involved in article syndication, you probably don’t have many low-quality links. For you, Google Disavow is not necessary. Google even added a warning message to the tool to think twice before using.
Now you’re probably feeling a bit more cautious. You can double check your website links by running a link audit and weighing the risks of your worst links. Remember, there are often better ways to spend your time improving your website’s SEO, so don’t even consider the Google Disavow tool unless you absolutely need it.
How To Use It
- Download a list of links to your website and identify the toxic links you want to disavow
- Create a text file of only the links you want to disavow in the format described in your Webmaster Tools Disavow links section
- Upload the text file and Google will process the information within a few weeks
Have you used the tool and experienced any positive or negative results? We’d love to hear from you!