Backlinks. Who doesn’t love backlinks?
But are there any reasons for removing some of the links that point out to your web pages?
Yes, there are!
When these backlinks come from websites that are spam in the eyes of Google or are irrelevant to your niche, it will hamper your SEO efforts.
This is where the Google Disavow Tool comes into picture.
Let’s understand more about this tool and how you can use it to improve your SEO?
A. What is Google Disavow Tool and its purpose?
Remember when you joke with your friends telling that you’d play strangers if they do something unusual in public places?
Now relate this analogy to you telling Google to avoid certain websites or web pages referring to your site. These websites are ‘bad’ websites, and obviously you don’t want to keep a bad company.
For ranking purposes, you must audit your website time and again.
And while doing so, disavowing bad links is the key to ensure that you are doing SEO the right way.
Now, you might think there are no longer link penalties around, why bother removing links at all?
But keep this in mind, Google Penguin is not penalizing you for bad links. Rather, it’s completely ignoring or reducing the rank of your web page when it finds irrelevant links pointing back at your site.
So, the question of the hour is, how to find out links that harm your Google Rankings?
Stop buying backlinks for your website. While you think that it is an excellent way to boost your site SEO, Google algorithms are smart enough to detect this and demote your site.
When you have dofollow links from irrelevant niches or with content marked “Sponsored”, Google will identify this and you know the drill that follows.
Add a couple of exact match anchor texts pointing back to your website from these posts, and rest assured that you get into the bad books of Google.
2. Links in comments
Even though you are tempted to leave that blog link with a key-word stuffed description, it is a bad practice to spam comments with links.
Here’s how most spammers leave their links:-
That doesn’t mean you should stop commenting and adding your links.
But do that to generate engagement and establish relationship with the writer, and eventually driving some part of their traffic to your website.
That will happen by writing well thought comments, not by leaving some random links on other blogs.
3. Hacked sites
This one here can get you in real trouble.
Stay as far as possible from the hacked site. Such sites will not only harm your reputation but will result in getting penalties from Google. Not just apathy but penalty.
Rather than attracting crowds from hacked sites and compromising data of your users, it is better to invest in tools that can aid you in implementing robust content marketing strategies.
If you are into app development, what’s your blog link doing on a website that’s selling garments?
Yes, this is backlink spamming.
Although your SEO team might implement such techniques to increase website domain authority, it’s not advisable.
5. Private Blogging Networks (PBN)
Using PBNs is a black-hat strategy when it comes to link building.
The logic is that SEOs build a network of private blogs to drive the ranking of the target website, by linking back to it from a group of websites (mostly irrelevant sites containing exact match anchor text).
Google has been actively de indexing PBNs and considers it as a black hat technique to pump up ranking.
It makes sense to disavow links if they are coming from PBN networks.
6. Bad Directories
When a directory linking to your website is not bringing useful traffic, it’s a bad directory.
Avoid linking to such directories of low-quality even when your SEO consultant suggests you to do otherwise.
For example, if you are a B2B SaaS company, it makes sense to be listed on G2 Crowd. But what purpose are you solving by being present on Yelp or Yahoo?
7. Negative SEO attack
If you can’t stand up, make the other person fall.
With this reasoning, there are people who link back to their competitors from spammy websites and PBNs, with an objective to degrade your link profile reputation.
You will immediately see a spike in the number of backlinks gained from completely irrelevant websites when this happens, and it makes complete sense to disavow such links.
Step #1: Audit your website
Before you venture out to use the Disavow tool, audit your website. Find out all the web pages that are pointing to your website.
This can be done using Google Search Console.
Navigate to Google Webmasters and click on the website for which you want to track the links.
After that on the left hand side, click on the Links tab. Then on the right hand side, click on more under the ‘Top linking sites’ block.
Now, click on the Export option. You now have a file of all the links that point back to your website.
The next task is to segment the links into the bad and good ones.
A simple trick is to check the domain extensions of the websites. If anything seems offset, it’s a bad or spam link.
For instance, if you see websites with extensions like .xyz or .click, add them to the bad links list.
Also, the sites that are irrelevant to your niche are spam links that should be disavowed. If you or your client has acquired paid links in the past and all have an exact match anchor text, consider disavowing them too.
As a best practice, Google suggests to reach out to these website owners and request them to remove the links to your website, before you disavow them.
In practice, not many webmasters respond back, and some may even ask for money. I would suggest not to waste your time and directly disavowing the links that have been identified.
D. How to use Google Disavow Tool?
If you can’t connect directly with the webmasters and get your links removed, make a text file of all the bad links that you have sorted.
Example of text file:
You can also use this disavow file generator tool from Paramount Digital.
You are now set to use the Google Disavow Tool.
But before you do that, it’s better that you check out the risks involved in using the Disavow tool.
There is always the risk of losing the links that might be bringing in website traffic when you disavow.
As a best practice, don’t be in a hurry and disavow links slowly, understanding and studying the impact before you disavow.
Once you have the text file ready with all the links that are to be disavowed, visit the Tool.
In the dialogue box that appears, select the website for which you want to disavow the links. You will get a warning message. Click on disavow links to continue.
Here, choose the text file that contains the links to be disavowed. Once you submit, Google will take care of your request shortly.
And there you have successfully disavowed the bad links to your website.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
#1. What is Google Disavow Tool?
Google disavow tool allows webmasters to give up selected 3rd party inbound links coming to their website. Please understand that the links still exist. It’s just that Google stops passing the SEO value from selected pages to your website, thus saving you from the toxic backlink problem.
#2. How do you use the Disavow Tool?
a. Once you are ready with a file containing links to be disavowed, you need to visit the Disavow Tool
b. Select the website for which you want to disavow the links
c. Click on ‘disavow links’ to continue
d. Next, upload the text file that contains the disavow links
e. Last, submit it
#3. Which file format is supported by Google link disavow tool?
Google link disavow tool follows .txt file format.
#4. Should I disavow links?
Yes, you should disavow toxic links because these backlinks are harmful for your website. It will worsen your website rankings.
#5. Is there any risk involved in using the disavow tool?
Yes, there is always a risk of losing links that bring traffic to your website. So you need to be extra careful while selecting the links before disavowing them.
E. Wrapping it up
Disavowing links can cover you up in sweat. But, if done the right way, it can do a lot more to your website performance.
Here’s a result that Michael Cottom published on Moz after he disavowed a couple of links for his client website: –
Although the chances of disavowing the links that might bring in traffic are always on the table, but, removing bad links and spam links is a best practice when it comes to getting higher rankings.
So the key is, audit your website regularly, find the bad links and use Disavow Tool judiciously.