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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Official Google Announcement: A new tool to disavow links

As I have been watching the Pubcon Twitter stream today for any news on the recent updates by Google the past few weeks, I witnessed a large amount of tweets flying through with excitement about the new Disavow Link Tool from Google.  At 1:18 pm pst I saw three tweets come through saying there would be an announcement on the Google Webmaster Central Blog, so I quickly opened up the page and continued to hit refresh every 10 minutes.

Then suddenly - there it was:

Official Google Webmaster Central Blog: A new tool to disavow links: Webmaster level: Advanced Today we’re introducing a tool that enables you to disavow links to your site. If you’ve been notified of a manua...

To reiterate what Matt and the Google team are stressing - Most sites DO NOT need this tool. They are serious, and cannot say it enough.

That being said - here's a quick note about links, why you would want to disavow them, and how to do it...

Bad Links

A long, long time ago when SEO's could tweak and play with sites and watch the rankings happen almost instantly, a strategy call "Link Building" was provided by agencies and consultants as a quick means to obtain instant rankings. By submitting a website URL to directories, submitting articles with links to article distribution sites, and press releases with links to the URL surrounded with key terms and anchortext with longtail keywords websites began to see nearly instant rankings. But as all spammy tactics must come to an end, so did the link building strategies.

Unnatural Links

In Google Webmaster Tools, some sites are seeing a warning in their messages about "unnatural links". This is due to Google picking seeing evidence of paid links, link exchanges, or other link schemes that violate their quality guidelines. More specifically participating in "link schemes" as Google puts it.

A few examples of what a link scheme could entail:
Buying or selling links that pass PageRank (ex: paying for a link from a site with a high pagerank)
Excessive link exchanging (ex: asking a site to link to you if you link to them))
Linking to web spammers or unrelated sites with the intent to manipulate PageRank
Building partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking
Using automated programs or services to create links to your site

Removing Bad or Unnatural Links

The absolute best way to remove these unnatural links is to find out where the links re coming from and contact the website owner or webmaster directly. I myself have used our agency to contact such site owners individually and receive a weekly report of how many of the low quality links have been removed. In addition, I have contact a few of the site owners myself. I have found I either do not get a response at all - or a nice email asking for more details of where the link is located and what I would like removed. It's that simple...
Of course, I have heard stories from others in the industry with not as much luck or ease in this process. Some site owners have clued into these requests and actually ask for money for removal of the link.
But you really have to put the time in to find the link, contact the website admin and ask away.
A quick tool to help you determine what are good links, and what are bad links is the SEOmoz Open Site Explorer tool. You can plug in your URL and a full report of incoming links, page authority and domain authority will help you decide which links need to be removed.

I Tried - But I Still See Unnatural Links

Ok, so you did all you can, but you're still seeing bad or unnatural links pointing to your site. This is where the Disavow Link Tool will come in handy. But remember, don't get carried away with submitting a large amount of links. Also - take note that whatever link you remove, you cannot reavow and get the credit you once had (according to Matt Cutts in this video).
1) Head to the
2) You will be asked which domain you would like to use the disavow link tool for:
3) You will be prompted to upload a file with the links you want to disavow:

Disavow Text File

The file you will upload is a simple .txt file. You can easily create this in notepad on windows, just as you would your robots.txt file.

Within the txt file you want to add a snippet after a # sign with any comments as to the domain, and what you have done to try to remove the link(s).

# Contacted owner of webdomain.com on 10/1/2012 to

# ask for link removal but didn't get a response
In the case of links from a whole domain that need to be disavowed, you can add the line "domain:" with the domain preceding.
  domain: webdomain.com
If you have worked with a webmaster that has removed some links, but not all, and you wish that more be disavowed then you can comment as to the details of the request with the date. Then add a list of individual links you want disavowed.

# Owner of otherdomain.com removed most links, but missed these

Right now Google only supports one disavow file for each domain, so choose and create the file wisely. Naming of the file doesn't matter - as long at the file extension is a .txt. Perhaps calling it simply "disavow.txt" would be the safest route in case of Google not accepting "-", "_", "=", or spaces.

For more information visit these links:
Google Webmaster Central Blog: Disavow Link Tool
Google Webmaster Tools: Disavow Links
Matt Cutts on Youtube - Disavow Links
Matt Cutts' PPT from Pubcon
Lisa Barone's Pubcon Live Blogging:  Google Announces New & Improved Disavow Link Tool
SEOmoz post by Dr. Pete Google's Disavow Tool - Take a Deep Breath

The Dos and Don’ts for Google’s New Disavow Links Tool

Direct Link to Disavow Links Tool