Finally, it has arrived…on October 17, Google released their long awaited disavow tool. If you have been affected by the Penguin updates you may have been waiting with anticipation for this to arrive. But is it the answer to our dreams – will it really get our sites back and ranking again? Let’s find out.
What is the Google Disavow Links Tool?
For those that don’t know, the Google Penguin updates targeted websites with poor quality links or those that overused the same keyword in their anchor text. Both of these, we suspect, were what happened with our sites. We had used blogging networks in the past and they only generate poor quality links and in the early days we did tend to overuse the same anchor text a little too much when backlinking.
Okay, so fair enough, we did a few no-no’s in the eyes of Google and we got slapped on the wrist for it. However, the problem with those Penguin updates is that:
1. It made it very difficult for anyone who was affected to fix their websites. Just try emailing hundreds or even thousands of website owners to ask them to remove your links from their website.
2. It made it too easy for a competitor to get someone elses sites penalized by simply generating hundreds of poor quality links to their site. This got everyone riled up because although Google denied it we all knew that it was possible, and it was happening. Many webmasters were even testing it on their own sites to see if they could get them penalized and yes they could.
So, because of the number of complaints they received from irate webmasters, Google listened and they have now provided a disavow tool that allows us to ignore specific backlinks to our websites.
The Official Google Word
Here is a video from Matt Cutts (Google Engineer) explaining how the disavow tool works.
[youtube width=”535″ height=”355″]http://youtu.be/393nmCYFRtA[/youtube]
So what Matt is saying in the video above is that you only need to load up a text file with a list of the websites you want removed and low and behold (after a few weeks) those sites will be ignored. Simple right? Well if it is so simple, why does Matt Cutts reiterate a number of times that not many people should need to use this tool? It’s almost like he wants to scare us away from using it. Why?
Just take a look at what Google has to say about it on their Webmaster Tools blog:
“This is an advanced feature and should only be used with caution. If used incorrectly, this feature can potentially harm your site’s performance in Google’s search results. We recommend that you disavow backlinks only if you believe you have a considerable number of spammy, artificial, or low-quality links pointing to your site, and if you are confident that the links are causing issues for you. In most cases, Google can assess which links to trust without additional guidance, so most normal or typical sites will not need to use this tool.”
I love the last sentence, “In most cases, Google can assess which links to trust with additional guidance..”. If that’s the case, why do we even need such a tool?…more on that later.
How Does the Disavow Tool Work?
These are the steps for using the disavow tool:
Step 1: Assess the Links
The first thing you need to do is find the sites that are linking to you so you can determine which ones you want to disavow. You can do this using your own keyword tool or you can use Google Webmaster Tools (instructions below)
1. Login to Webmaster Tools.
2. Click on the site you want to assess.
3. Click on Traffic from the right menu.
4. Click on Links to Your Site.
5. Click the More link under section titled ‘Who links the most’
6. Click Download this table.
Step 2: Create a Text File
This step involves creating a text file that will list all of the domain urls that you want to disavow.
1. Open up Notepad or other text based editor and add one link per line in the following formats:
- To ignore an entire domain use:
- domain: thespammywebsite.com
- To ignore a page from a domain use:
So your text page might look like this:
2. Save the file to your computer.
Step 3: Upload List of Links
1. Go to the Disavow Links Tool page.
2. Login to Webmaster Tools if you haven’t already done so.
3. You will now see the Disavow Links box.
4. Select the website from the drop-down box and click the Disavow Links button.
5. You will see a big warning message from Google. Just click the Disavow Links button.Again you will see another warning message from Google…hmm, why do they need to keep warning us??
6. Click Choose File and find the text file you just created and click Submit. And your done!
Why Do We Need This Tool in the First Place?
Although I appreciate this tool being made available I am left wondering why we even need it. The tool lets us tell Google to ignore spammy or poor quality links but why can’t Google just ignore them to begin with? Google can pick a spammy site can’t it? I mean, if they don’t know the difference between a poor quality site and a high quality site by now, then they really need to reassess the system.
So what it essentially means is that you, the web owner, needs to determine what you consider to be poor quality links or not. But how do you do that? Do you look at the page rank of the page? Is that really an indication of the quality of the site.
Take a look at the pagerank of the site you are looking at right now. Do you see the pagerank – it’s a big fat zero. Why?…because in Google’s infinite wisdom they decided that the site doesn’t meet their quality guidelines. I have no idea what that means because we have never bothered to actively backlink to the site and we can’t see any other reason for the penalty. (At one point, we started to backlink but we stopped pretty quickly and didn’t bother after that)
We have asked them what the exact problem is but we keep getting back the same old email in Google Webmaster Tools which tells us absolutely nothing:
We’ve reviewed your site and we believe that some or all of your pages still violate our quality guidelines.
In order to preserve the quality of our search engine, pages from http://www.affiliateblogonline.com/ may not appear or may not rank as highly in Google’s search results, or may otherwise be considered to be less trustworthy than sites which follow the quality guidelines.
If you wish to be reconsidered again, please correct or remove all pages that are outside our quality guidelines.
Funnily enough, the sites that we have backlinked to aggressively in the past, received no such message in Google Webmaster Tools.
We have given up trying and just continue to add content. It’s a bit hard to change something when you have no idea what the problem actually is.
So figuring out what site is considered poor quality, a spammers site, or one that doesn’t meet Google’s guidelines is really a subjective thing. Who knows if a site we tell Google to disavow is actually okay or not?
Have We Used the Disavow Tool?
Not yet, but we will. Whenever something new is released by Google, we always like to let the dust settle before taking action. The other problem we have is finding the time but that’s another story.
We want to get our sites ranking like they used to so it will be interesting to see if the disavow tool actually works.