The first aspect of the Google Disavow Tool (aka Disavow Links Tool) you should be aware of is that, in the word of Google’s web spam guru, Matt Cutts, “Most people do not need to use this tool.” He says it should be approached with caution and not to use it unless you know what you are doing.
That said, we shall first explain what the Disavow Tool is, and then how it can be used to remove links to your site that may be harming your ranking.
The Need For the Google Disavow Tool?
Google lists individual web pages, not entire domains or websites. A significant factor in your Google ranking for any page on your website or blog post is the number of other web pages linking back to your page. Google reads each relevant link as a vote in favor of your page as being an authority on your niche.
A major problem is that you have little control over what other web pages link back to yours. You may have links from totally irrelevant web pages, or even gambling and porn sites without your knowledge. These links can do a great deal of damage to your listing position in Google. There is nothing to stop any web page publishing a link to any page on your website or blog.
While links from sites that are authorities on your niche will help to improve your Google ranking, links from sites that are not related to your niche will be ignored at best, or have a negative effect on your ranking at worst. If such links are from gambling, adult or even porn sites, they could result in your targeted web page or even your entire website being dropped in the rankings or even delisted from Google.
The Google Disavow Links Tool enables you to remove such backlinks and helps you to regain your former ranking. It may sound easy to use, but there are other aspects of the Disavow Tool of which you should be aware. First, how do you use it?
How to Use the Disavow Links Tool
You should not use this tool until you believe your ranking has dropped due to backlinks from irrelevant or toxic web pages. The Google Disavow Links Tool should generally be used only when Google sends you an ‘Unnatural Link Warning.’ You will not be informed of what links are deemed ‘unnatural’ and Google will expect you to find that out for yourself.
Do not use the tool immediately if you want Google to be sympathetic. First check out where your backlinks are coming from. Register with Google Webmaster Tools and register details of your websites and blogs. You can get a list of backlinks to your websites from Google Webmaster Tools and the following services:
Manual Removal of Identified Toxic Links
Identify links that do not conform to your needs. These may be either from spammy sites or web pages not associated with your niche. You should then make an effort to remove them manually.
If you put the links into an Excel spreadsheet, you can analyze them using a useful tool known as ‘SEO for Excel.’ This is a free tool and can be downloaded here:
Once you have analyzed the links and identified those that you feel might be damaging your ranking, you must try to remove them. The first step is to contact each website by email, and request that they remove the link. With some, you might have added the link to their site yourself, and with others they may have published articles you have written.
Yet others might have been added through either a paid link program you joined, or you may have used blast software to add links to multiple sites. Whatever the means by which they got there, you now want them off. Many will help you out – others will refuse.
Once you have completed this process, and have had as many links as possible removed manually, file a Reconsideration Request with Google. You can do that here:
Google staff will manually check out your site and your links and will look for an improvement in the quality of your links. Just as importantly, they will record your request. Once you have gone as far as you can manually then use the Disavow Tool.
Google will check up on your attempts to remove irrelevant links, and if you have made none then the Google Disavow Tool may not work for you. Particularly if you have not received an ‘Unnatural Link Warning.’ Google doesn’t like it when you rely on them to resolve your problems without first trying yourself. So manually remove these links to your website. Here’s how:
If you have a Google account, and you have registered with Google Webmaster Tools, you will find a drop-down list of all your registered websites. You can enter the URL of any links leading to your selected site and disavow them.
You must then file another Reconsideration Request. The Disavow Links Tool does not automatically file a reconsideration request, and Google may take 2-3 months to make all the changes to your incoming links. The tool also appears to help prevent you from disavowing beneficial links.
Using the Disavow Tool: Summary
If you have been hit by Google for bad links, then use the Disavow Tool. You will know when you are hit because Google will send you a notification of ‘unnatural links.’ If you have lost ranking through an algorithm update such as Penguin, it is not yet clear whether or not the Disavow Tool will help. If it does, it may not be applied until the next Penguin update.
When using the Google Disavow Tool to disavow yourself of links you do not want, you should, in Google’s own words,’ use it ‘with caution.’ It is not a tool to be used frequently, but only when you must remove links that you know are doing you harm.
There are online tools to help you with this, and can also check each link manually by physically clicking on it. You should immediately disavow any that return a 404 error. Any other links that appear suspicious should first be removed manually – send an email and request removal of your link. Only when that fails should you use the Google Disavow Tool.