Last week Google launched a new tool called the Disavow Links tools. It does exactly what it says on the tin really; allows webmasters to tell Google which inbound links they don’t want the search engine to take into account. It gives webmasters a chance to breath following the recent Google updates that have targeted spammy links. Google will view disavowed links in the same way that the ‘nofollow’ attribute works. The links will obviously still exist but they wont contribute to the ranking of your site in either a positive or negative way.
The announcement was made by Matt Cutts, Googles head of web spam, speaking at a conference on October 16th. He warned that the tool should be used with caution and that it should only be used as a last resort. Webmasters should do everything they can to get undesirable/damaging links removed before they use the disavow tool. This usually involves contacting site owners and asking them nicely to take down the links or getting paid link building companies to remove all of the bought links. If this fails then the disavow tool becomes an option. It takes weeks for the disavow to come into action once submitted.
Who Should Use It?
The tool has clearly been created for use by those hit by Penguin. Penguin hit sites that were thought to have used unnatural, manipulative techniques to gain links. The main source of these spammy links was paid for links, usually placed on a poor quality site with no real content. This caused major panic in the industry and there was an immediate outcry for a way to discount old links and start from scratch, instead of being penalised.
It is also aimed at those who think their site has been targeted by the practice of negative SEO, which sees competitors point spammy links at your site hoping that it will then be penalised by Google.
It will no doubt be abused by those who cant be bothered to actually remove bad links, which is why they have waited a while to launch it. The main thing that webmasters and SEO’s need to avoid is over using the tool, removing links that aren’t actually regarded as spammy.
In terms of usability, those who have tested it out say its pretty simple to use and if you make a mistake you can re-submit your file and the links will be crawled again a few weeks later. The other interesting thing to consider is; what if my website is submitted multiple times by other sites? Will Google then see my site as spammy? The chances are; Yes. And to be honest, if your site is being submitted and people want links from your site disavowed then your site probably is spammy.
What the Industry Thinks
The general consensus is that its a good thing, but only if used properly. It ultimately allows webmasters to clear the slate and start again, which is fair. Here at Miromedia we have taken on new sites and realised that previous SEO’s and webmasters have built spammy links, so in this instance its great for starting over. However many see it as an information gathering exercises by Google, with the intention of compiling yet another list of spammy websites.
Cutts explains the tool in more detail below.
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