Understanding the benefits of the Google Disavow Tool and when you should be using it.
The Google Disavow Links Tool first made an appearance in 2012 and has been the topic of many SEO-related debates ever since.
As we all know, low-quality links can harm your SEO rankings, which is where the Google Disavow Tool comes in. Basically, this tool gives webmasters the option to tell Google which backlinks to ignore when ranking their websites.
However, this handy tool also comes with a warning. According to Google, their Disavow Links Tool can also have a negative impact on your rankings if it is used incorrectly. Before you go ahead and use this tool, it’s important to make sure that your website has a large number of low-quality backlinks pointing to it that is definitely affecting your rankings.
Should you use the Disavow Tool?
In order to decide whether you should be using Google’s Disavow Tool, ask yourself the following two questions when analysing backlinks:
- Is the link relevant to my website and my visitors? If it isn’t, it shouldn’t be pointing to your site
- Does this link have the potential to bring targeted customers to my site, encouraging them to convert? If not, it shouldn’t be pointing to your site
Here are a few examples of backlinks that could be negatively impacting your rankings:
- Private Blogging Networks. Even though Google has been de-indexing PBNs for several years now, they do still exist. These low-quality domains do not make for quality backlinks.
- Hacked Websites. If a hacked website is linking to your site, it’s bad news for your rankings
- Low-Quality Directories. While there are a few directories that offer great backlink juice, links from low-quality directories will definitely harm your rankings
- Negative SEO. Yes. Unfortunately, there are competitors out there who will intentionally link to your site from hundreds of low-quality sites in an effort to harm your rankings. If you think this might be the case, apply the above two questions to determine whether you should get rid of the link or not
Knowing when to start using Google’s Disavow Tool is mostly dependant on bad backlink volumes and whether you’ve noticed a sharp decline in your rankings.
Before you go ahead and start using the tool though, it’s always better to try and remove the links yourself first by contacting the relevant webmasters.
A brief guide to using the Disavow tool
If you have decided that using the Disavow tool is the best course of action in order to salvage your SEO rankings, use the following steps:
- Download a list of backlinks. Login to Google Search Console to download a list of the links that are currently linking to your website. Ahrefs and Open Site Explorer are also great sources for downloading links. It may even be helpful to use multiple sources to download links to ensure that you’re covering all your bases.
- Organise your links. Sort your list of links by domain and sub-domain, getting rid of any duplicates.
- Audit your links. Now that you have a comprehensive list of backlinks, you can start deciding which links you want to disavow. Not sure if you want to disavow the link? Simply revert to the two key questions mentioned earlier.
- Clean up your spreadsheet. Once your audit is complete, get rid of any backlinks that you will be keeping so that you are only left with those you want to disavow. You will now need to add “domain:” in front of each primary domain, remembering to leave out the quotation marks. This will ensure that you disavow all links from that domain
- Create a text file. Your Disavow file needs to be a 7-bit ASCII or UTF-8 format in order for it to be accepted and processed. Copy and paste all URLs with the domain: in front of them into your text file and save.
- Submit your Disavow file. You can now navigate to the Disavow tool and submit your file. In order to prevent any errors, it’s important to not include any sorting, fonts, or syntax in the file.
In terms of how often to disavow, it’s best to not do it too often. By allowing at least a month to pass in-between disavows, you have the chance to pick up on recurring patterns and problems. Google will disavow any links as soon as it crawls your website but since you will need to wait for the algorithm to be run again, you won’t see immediate results once you’ve submitted your file.
Overall, the Disavow Tool is incredibly useful when used correctly and should definitely be a consideration for all webmasters.
What has led you to consider Google’s Disavow Tool for your website?