Any website that is actively optimizing itself on search engines is most likely to pick up a few web links here and there that have dubious sources. When you hit the highway of SEO and with Google’s Penguin updates breathing down your neck, as a SEO professional or webmaster, these links can cause much embarrassment. They can bring down the sword of penalty on your website, not to mention the bad reputation that it picks up in the process. Now, Google offers everyone the disavow tool.
What is the Disavow Tool?
The answer is simple when you consider an analogy from the various spy films that you must have watched over the years! Field agents are renounced or cut loose when they are caught in enemy territory. The parent body announces that it has no link with the spies nabbed during field duty. That is called disavowing the agents. It is very similar to Google’s disavow tool. With the help of this tool, you can declare web links that you are not comfortable with as not belonging to your network anymore. These unnatural links may have appeared for whatever reason but you can cut loose from their presence with the help of the disavow tool.
Google’s View of the Disavow Tool
Here is a very interesting snippet of information about Google’s own perception of the disavow tool. We have picked this up from the official web page of Google:
It makes it sufficiently clear that you need to learn the tricks of the trade first before you hit the Google disavow tool. Otherwise, as evident, you might end up snapping web links that actually provided you SEO juice or simply destroy the network structure online.
What You Need: Audit
Now that you have decided to use Google’s disavow tool, the first step in the right direction is conducting an audit for your entire web link network. There are a ton of tools available online that can do the job for you. According to me, the best way out is doing it manually as far as practicable. Check each link and flag the dubious ones. Map these links out on a spreadsheet before you proceed to the next step.
You can conduct the auditing process in three easy steps:
- Download all the web links that you have from all sources available to you. You can take the help of tools like opensiteexplorer.org and majestic.com
- Use Google Docs or MS Excel to bring all of these links on to a single page
- Break them down into subdomains
- Use the dedupe function on spreadsheets to ensure that only one link from each domain is present on the page
- Check each of the web links now, armed with three important questions:
- Is this link important at all in bringing online visitors?
- Is this link present solely for the benefit of SEO?
- Is this link good enough to stand up to Google’s scrutiny?
The answers to these questions will determine if you need the links.
Tips on Google’s Disavow Tool
Let us take a quick look at how Google looks at the disavow tool so that you get a grip on what to do with the dubious links that you have unearthed in the auditing process.
- Do not panic when you see web links that have surfaced out of nowhere! Google is not paranoid about such links, nor is Penguin. The idea of the disavow tool is to do a cleaning up job of your web links. It does not mean that you take down every single web link that seems suspicious on first glance.
- Make sure that you disavow links not on the URL stage, but on the domain stage. If you don’t do that, you might miss out on some rotten URL links in the process as they might be embedded deeply into the domain.
- If possible, remove the links that you have disavowed with Google’s tool. However, if you find the process cumbersome and time consuming, you can leave it at that.
- You can bring back a disavow link if you think that you have jumped the gun. You need to modify the disavow file. But don’t expect the ‘reavowed’ link to kick into action straightaway! It takes considerable time for it to get back into the groove. As Matt Cutts says, it is easier to disavow than ‘reavow’.
Did I miss some points or do you have any queries? You can leave them in the comments section and I will try to answer them!