About three months ago, Google launched the disavow links tool that helps the webmasters to identify and remove bad backlinks (or entire domains) to their websites. As I was apprehensive about the outcome from this tool, I didn’t quite experiment with the same till recently.
Last week, I took a bold step of using this tool to filter unwanted backlinks to my site. While I am waiting for any significant results from Disavow links tool, let me summarize my experience about this tool and what could be the ideal way to go about using the tool.
What exactly is Google Disavow Tool?
As you know, backlinks are one of the most important aspects of SEO that determine how well your pages are linked from other websites and their internal pages. Good and relevant backlinking boosts your search rankings (Of course, you need to have very good content).
Unfortunately, from time to time you may end up receiving backlinks from sites that you don’t quite like. At times, this happens as a result of your own paid SEO efforts and some other times due to link baiting or natural linking by others. Whatever be the reason, if you want to remove those unwanted backlinks from consideration by Google’s search indexing algorithm you can do it now using the Google Disavow Tool (Nice name, by the way!).
How to go about Disavowing certain links?
Using the tool itself is very easy but consolidating all those bad backlinks and domains is not so – especially when you have large number of backlinks pointing to your website. For example, this blog domain had a total of 175,364 backlinks off which I could disavow only around 12000 so far. Well, it’s difficult to manually go through all the links, you see.
Anyhow, here’re the step by step instructions for using the Disavow tool:
Create a text file of all bad domains and links that you want to disavow in the format given below. You need to enter one link per line and if you want to block the entire domain from linking back to you then you should have the format ‘domain:whateverdomain.com’ in your disavow file.
Google recommends to use the webmaster tool backlinks data (Via Traffic => Links to Your Site option) to consolidate a list of disavow links and domains. Unfortunately this is not always practical and in reality you may have to use multiple tools
Go to disavow links tool, select your domain name and click on the ‘Disavow Links’ button.
In the next page (or after a warning page), you can upload the text file that you prepared from Step 1 and click the ‘Done’ button, that is it.
Now, Google will ‘supposedly’ ignore these links and bad domains that are in your disavow list. By the way, I am yet to see any major result in increased traffic but a few SERP positions have definitely changed.
Some more Disavow Tool Tips
As per Google, the disavow tool is NOT for all sites. However, if you belong to one of the categories listed below, you may want to try the tool yourself.
- You have done some off page SEO efforts recently that seem to have backfired
- You received bad backlinks warning in your Webmaster Tools account
- Your website traffic has been hugely hit due to unknown reasons (Or animals such as Penguin or Panda hit you hard!)
- You marketed certain products with backlinks (e.g. Theme sponsorship) that went into wrong hands and you want to block all those domains
Now, once you decide to go about using the tool, it may be a good idea to start with all those domains belonging to categories such as sites with rated content, discontinued domains, parked domains, sites that host hate/warez content, sites with script or page load errors, websites with totally outdated and unrelated content etc
As a second step, you can try identifying bad deep links of good sites (or those you don’t want to disavow at a domain level). The reasons could be irrelevant or bad internal page from which the link originates. This step is rather difficult and I am yet to try it.
Disavow Tool – Shortcomings
Okay, so what are some issues with the tool itself?
Firstly, there is no way to consolidate all links. Ideally, Mr.Google should have found out an automatic way of determining which backlinks are good for your website and picked them. By not doing so, it’s basically passing the buck to the Webmasters. How bad is that?
Secondly, majority of the backlinks to my site originate from Blogspot.com which is essentially huge number of links from blogger hosted blogs (e.g. myblog.blogspot.com). Unfortunately, there is no way I can pinpoint how many blogger blogs have to be disavowed. So I still do not know what to do with those blogspot.com backlinks that weigh at 90,000 plus as of today!
Third, never ever upload too many links/domains in succession. In other words, if you keep updating your disavow links file too often, that itself may backfire. That’s the idea I am getting from various webmaster forums that discuss the Disavow Links Tool topic.
That’s pretty much for now. I shall keep updating the section below with more of Disavow Tool success or failure stories.
Disavow Tool Results – Update
1-Jan-’13: Before using Disavow Tool
Total Backlinks: 175,364
4-Jan-’13: First attempt with Disavow Tool
Domains uploaded: 29
Total links from the above domains: 11,256
Type of domains removed: Rated/Hate content, Domain not resolving/parked domains, Unrelated content, Less frequently updated sites, Sites with script errors
9-Jan-’13: Links Statistics
Total Backlinks: 137,075 (Significant drop beyond the 11,256 requested)
Inference: Removed domains still appear in the list, Some of the keyword positions moved up on SERPs significantly while some others went out of first page