Should You “Disavow” Your Links? What You Should Know

Tips from John Lincoln, Director of SEO Consulting and Social Media, on how to stay in Google's good books.

By John E Lincoln is Founder and President of SEO and Social Media at Ignite Visibility, a premier Internet marketing company based in San Diego, CA. As a seasoned online marketing expert John E Lincoln has ensured results for hundreds of online businesses. He is Google Analytics certified and Google AdWords Certified with an emphasis in Advanced Reporting and Analysis. You can follow John on Twitter at: @johnelincoln.


For those of you running the websites for your business centers, you know that for search engine optimization there are two ways to increase your rankings. The first way is onsite optimization or modifying your existing site. The second way is offsite optimization, or building links and social mentions to your site. Offsite optimization has long been a contentious topic with Google. The reason being, people build links to their site in an attempt to rank better for an individual keyword.

How Google Wants you to Get Links

Google wants links to be built to a site in a natural way, not through paid links. While this is the case, many website owners just don’t care and go out and purchase links. Because of this, over the last few years Google has been penalizing these people who buy links to their website. Google has been doing this because they are trying to create a “fair” ranking system online, and don’t want anyone paying to be at the top of the index. The most popular public penalty was the JC Penney link buying scandal earlier this year.

Huge Penalties; But Google Comes to the Rescue

Over the last few months Google has really been cracking down on people who have bought links. Site after site has been penalized, which in most cases means lost rankings and traffic from Google. But the only way Google has offered to deal with this penalty is to contact all the websites that point bad links at your site and ask them to take the links down. Following this you can submit a reinclusion request. This has been a major issue because, (1) many of the websites are not responsive, (2) how are people supposed to know if it’s a bad link or not and (3) what if it was actually a dirty competitor who built the links to your site to get you in trouble!

Well, Google has now come to the rescue (for the most part) of site owners who have bad links pointed at their website. How you ask, with the new Google Disavow Link Tool.

What is the Google Disavow Link Tool?

The Google Disavow Link Tool gives website owners the ability to block links pointing at their site from another website. According to Google, “If you’ve been notified of a manual spam action based on “unnatural links” pointing to your site, this tool can help you address the issue. If you haven’t gotten this notification, this tool generally isn’t something you need to worry about.”

Things to Keep in Mind

1. This tool can only be accessed through Webmaster Tools. If you don’t know what Webmaster Tools is, it is a free service provided by Google that basic tells you how Google interprets your website. You must have your website hooked up to Webmaster Tools to use the Disavow Link Tool. You also must have your website hooked up to Webmaster Tools to even know if you have a penalty!

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2. This is a very powerful tool in regards to search engine optimization. If you block the wrong links from your site it could really hurt your rankings and traffic, so please be careful if you decide to use it. When you are looking at bad links there is a certain criteria you need to follow. Things like PageRank, anchor text, etc.

3. This tool will not solve all your problems! Even if you disavow links to your site, you will still need to do a re-inclusion request to get back in the index. The main purpose of this tool is just to block bad links to your website.

The Bottom Line

The Google Disavow Links Tool was created by Google to help people who want to get back in Google’s good graces after an external link penalty. If you have not purchased any links and don’t have evil competitors trying to take you out you will probably never need to use this tool. While that is the case, it is nice to know it is there. Should you ever get a Google penalty and loose much of your traffic, this tool and a well written and thought-out reinclusion request can get you back on track.

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