How to Use Google’s Disavow Link Tool

Google’s long awaited “Disavow Links” tool is finally here for websites registered with Google’s Webmaster Tools: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/disavow-links-main. Now you’re probably asking, “Why on earth would anyone want to Disavow a link pointing to their site?” It’s common knowledge that Google’s organic ranking algorithm is heavily influenced by links. The more links you have, the more trust Google will have in your website. Well…that used to be the case.

Over the last few years webmasters have debated whether or not a link can actually hurt a website’s ranking. The common argument is that one has no control over links pointing to your site. In April, Google released an algorithm update called “Penguin” that targeted Web Spam. While Google is always releasing algorithm updates to target web spam, this update specifically targeted “link schemes” that could help artificially rank a website. This update affected around 12% of search queries and created a new potential problem in the SEO world: Negative SEO. If Google is now penalizing certain links, what’s to keep a competitor from using the aforementioned “link schemes” to harm your site’s organic rankings? Back in June, Matt Cutts hinted at a possible tool to disavow links, and it’s finally here.

Before you begin, ask yourself a few questions:

Was your website hit by Penguin or another recent Google update? If it wasn’t, you probably don’t even need to consider the Disavow link tool. If you’re not sure, head over to: http://www.panguintool.com/ which will overlay your Google Analytics traffic with recent Google algorithm updates. If you notice a drop in traffic around the time of an algorithm update, skip the next few questions.

Did you receive an “Unnatural Links” warning in Google Webmaster Tools? If you didn’t, why are you still reading this article? If you did, head on to the next question.

Has your Google Organic traffic dropped significantly (>10%) recently? If so, you may want to consider disavowing some links. If it didn’t drop, or you saw an increase in traffic, run far away from the disavow links tool!

Ready to Remove Some Links!?

Head on over to the Disavow Links tool: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/disavow-links-main. Step 1 – Choose the site you think is being hurt by low quality links and click the big scary red “Disavow Links” button.

Disavow Links Tool

Next you’ll need to upload the file with a list of the links you want to disavow. If you don’t already have a list of your links, open your site in Google Webmaster Tools and follow these steps:

  1. Click Traffic > Links to Your Site
  2. Under the “Who links the most” section, click “More »”
  3. Click on “Download more sample links”

The links you just downloaded are only a sample. If you’re looking for an extensive list of links to your site, you need to use a service such as SEOMoz’s OpenSIteExplorer, Ahrefs, or Majestic SEO.

Once you filter through the list and identify shady or spammy looking links, create a plain text file with each URL on one line. It should look something like this:

[sourcecode]
# Leave a comment here with the date so you know when you submitted these links
# Be specific. You’ll thank me later
http://www.spamlinkingtome.com/spammy-links-on-this-page.html
http://www.iamashadyarticlenetwork.com/your-keyword-links.html
http://www.ilovetolinkformoney.com/this-guy-bought-spammy-links.html
[/sourcecode]

Now it’s time to upload that file and press the blue Submit button.

Upload Links to Disavow

You’re done! It will probably take a few weeks for Google to process your links and determine if your request is valid, so be patient!

If you have questions, leave them in the comments or you can watch this helpful video Q&A video that Matt Cutts put together: