Best Practice Tips for Google’s Link Disavow Tool

Written by Brick Marketing

If your site has been flagged manually or algorithmically for unnatural links part of the recovery process will involve Google’s Link Disavow Tool. This tool, which only became available in the last year, gives sites owners the ability to request (no guarantee) that Google disavow (i.e. not count) certain links against their site’s SEO program. Google heavily stressed that the Link Disavow Tool was not a reset button and should only be used as a last resort to clean up links.

Here are 6 best practice tips for using Google’s Link Disavow Tool:

Pull inbound links from multiple sources.

As useful as Google Webmaster Tools is, it doesn’t work in real time. Even if you download the “latest links” it’s entirely possible that not every single inbound link will be in there. That’s why it’s also worth pulling data from sources like OpenSiteExplorer and ahrefs Site Explorer and combining everything into one master list. You might find more links from certain domains, or entirely new domains that a single list didn’t capture. The more complete your backlink check is the more bad links you’ll be able to catch and cleanout with manual requests and the disavow tool.

Evaluate the real value of those inbound links.

You might find some inbound links that maybe don’t look the greatest, but they are actually fairly valuable to your overall SEO campaign. For instance, I’ve seen many curation type-sites that pick up RSS feeds and syndicate content from dozens of other blogs and news sites. Those may not be the most authoritative sites around, but if they drive a fair amount of traffic to your site it might be worthwhile to just leave them be. You have to judge each link/domain on a case-by-case basis and it’s not always immediately obvious is a linking source is good, bad, or just okay. Those okay links can still help your SEO program in the grand scheme of things.

Try to get bad links manually removed AND disavow them.

Barry Schwartz at SERoundTable reported that “A Google Webmaster Help thread has Google’s John Mueller implying that it may be “good practice” to list the sites and URLs in your disavow file even if they links were removed and especially if you simply requested the webmaster to remove them.”

Lots of junk links? Just disavow the whole domain.

With the Google Disavow tool you have the option to either disavow individual links or domains as a whole. If you have dozens of junky links coming from the same domain Google recommends that you take a “machete” approach to cleaning up your link profile as opposed to the fine tooth comb approach hoping you find 1 ho-hum link in a 100. Here’s what Matt Cutts said on his blog:

“Hmm. One common issue we see with disavow requests is people going through with a fine-toothed comb when they really need to do something more like a machete on the bad backlinks. For example, often it would help to use the ‘domain:’ operator to disavow all bad backlinks from an entire domain rather than trying to use a scalpel to pick out the individual bad links. That’s one reason why we sometimes see it take a while to clean up those old, not-very-good links.”

Worry about removing follow links.

Here is what John Mueller from Google says on the matter.

You don’t need to include any nofollow links…because essentially what happens with links that you submit as a disavow, when we recrawl them we treat them similarly to other nofollowed links.  Including a nofollow link there wouldn’t be necessary.

John Mueller also said in another Hangout that any algorithms do not use nofollow links, including Penguin.

Use the disavow tool BEFORE filing a reconsideration request.

A manual penalty message means that an actual human on Google’s WebSpam team evaluated your website and determined it to be in violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Keep in mind that manual penalties have an expiration date and can resolve themselves in time (albeit it could be years), but when you are hit with a manual penalty you actually have the chance to rebound much faster than if you got caught by the algorithm, thanks to the reconsideration request option. But before you can file a reconsideration request with Google you have to make a legitimate attempt to clean up your website, including removing bad links and disavowing the worst of them. Be sure you upload that link disavow file BEFORE you file a reconsideration request, along with other documentation of your cleanup efforts, so you can prove to Google you tried to fix whatever had gone wrong.

Want to know more about Google’s Link Disavow Tool? Get the story directly from Google’s Matt Cutts himself:

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