The disavow tool, or more correctly, the Google Disavow Links tool, should be used wisely. This is a useful tool for those who rely on backlinks and Google PageRank as an important aspect of their SEO. However, it is essential that it is used as Google intended.
Anybody seriously involved in search engine optimization (SEO) should have registered their websites with Google Webmaster Tools (GWT). This is easy to do – simply Google the term and you will be walked through it. The webpage teaches you a lot about several Google tools, including authorship, the G+ button and the disavow tool.
Good and Bad Backlinks
During the life of your website it can attract many links back to various pages on your site, either by accident or design. The beneficial backlinks are those where the content on the linking page relates to the content on your own page. These provide what is known colloquially as ‘link juice,’ or points towards your Google PageRank.
The name PageRank only accidentally relates to web pages, since it was named after Larry Page, who founded Google along with Sergey Brin. It was developed in 1996, and Google was published in 1998, so PageRank was an integral part of the search engine ranking system. It relates to the number of links from other web pages to yours – the more the better.
The idea was that people would link their web pages to those that offered good, relevant information on the same niche. The more such links then the more authoritative the linked pages should be. However, Google realized that many links could be created artificially.
Here are some of the ways in which other web pages can become linked to yours, and many of these are artificial and not genuine inter-niche links.
- Other websites providing a link to your web page that may or may not be relevant to their own niche. They can do so without you even knowing.
- You pay for links from services that offer large numbers of back-links for cash payments.
- You agree to reciprocal links between your web pages and those of other websites. They link to you if you link to them.
- Using reciprocal linking software. There is software where reciprocal links are suggested to you that you can agree to or refuse.
- Links from article directories and other content sites. These can help your SEO significantly, but your articles can be listed on websites totally divorced from yours.
- Keyword-searching software: this is keyword-oriented. For example, it finds an article using the keyword apple, and publishes it on a fruit site, when your page referred to Apple computers. This is true – it actually happens, and it damages your ranking.
You are not asked for permission for many of these links back to your web pages, yet they can harm your Google ranking to the extent that your web page or even your entire domain can be dropped from Google listings. By gaming PageRank in this way, Google clients who were seeking information were given too many bad and irrelevant web pages in their search results.
Google cracked down on this, and many web pages disappeared from Google’s listings overnight. This is known as the ‘Google slap.’ The algorithm updates known as Panda (or Farmer) and Penguin were the culmination of Google’s war on gamed links that were created only for SEO purposes.
The disavow tool is intended to enable webmasters to remove such links to their web pages. One of the problems with negative links is that they cannot be removed unless the webmaster of the site providing them agrees.
Using the Disavow Tool
The Google disavow tool, or disavow links tool, enables you provide the URL of a link back to your website and to tell Google to ignore that link. You can access the Disavow Link Tool on your Webmaster Tools account. It is easy to use – simply follow the instructions.
However – there is a proviso. You must first try to remove your links manually. To do this, you can use the Webmasters Tools site to find the links back to each page on your site. You should then email the webmaster relevant to each of these links and ask for them to be removed from their website.
If this fails, then you can use the Disavow Links tool. It is not known for certain, but it is possible that this will only take effect if you have received notification from Google of ‘unnatural links.’ If you receive this then you should try to establish if it has affected your ranking.
Effect of the Google Disavow Links Tool
You should find what links appear not to be related to your pages and use the disavow tool to request they be ignored. You should then make a ‘Reconsideration Request’ through your WMT account. Google might then reappraise your website and its incoming links.
Sometimes reconsideration requests work and sometimes they don’t. They should only be used if your have been sent an unnatural link notification, or believe your page has been downlisted due to your linking strategy. Reconsideration only works if you have reason to believe direct action has been taken against your website for some reason.
The disavow tool has only recently been launched and made available to the public. Its effects are yet unsure, and the more that use it then the more we will learn about it.