Earlier this year we wrote about how search engine Bing has released a link disavow tool for those websites trying to optimise around their algorithm. It was a bold step in the fight against web-spammers, although seemingly redundant from Bing.
Given Bing’s ranking practices, people didn’t really take much notice. What they really wanted to know was whether Google would be releasing something similar, seeing as their attitude towards spammy backlinks was decidedly harsher. Now, over four months later, they have indeed. Time will tell whether it has any meaningful SEO benefits though.
Why Disavow Links
Link disavow allows you tell Google that you don’t want to associate with a specific inbound link to your website, so Google will essentially ignore it next time it indexes.
After Penguin was updated earlier this year, causing poor quality inbound links to negatively affect your ranking rather than having no effect at all, there have been no shortage of reasons for webmasters to disavow links. Many criticised the update, particularly since the only suggestion Google gave to recover from it was to send a link removal request to the webmaster, with no guarantee of compliance.
Disavowing a link is a rather simple process that just involves submitting a structured list to Google through their Webmaster Tools. But while the process is simple, the result might not be. As it’s a new feature it’s still taking Google quite a while to work through all the requests, meaning you could wait a few weeks to know if it helped. They may also decide to not take it down at all if they think your reason is invalid.
Google Follow Bings For Once
Many were critical of Google when Bing beat them to launching the link disavow feature. This criticism continued to be expressed on Google forum during the several months it took for them to catch up. Although in all fairness, when they did start a discussion on their forum asking who wanted the disavow feature and the response was decidedly unimpressive.
No one knew why Bing introduced the tool either though, as their algorithm is well known for not levying ranking penalties against poor linking practices, unless its overtly spammy, but rather just ignoring the links.
Ideas for Smart Link Disavowing
When there’s a new Google feature that has even slightest hint of an SEO benefit, people tend to get somewhat carried away. It’s not time to just purge your link profile of any link you don’t like the look of. Rather, this tool is a safety net for negative SEO and noncompliant webmasters. We explore some helpful tips for link disavowing below.
Don’t Expect Immediate and Significant Results
Google have been saying it for a while, links aren’t as important as we think. So the real benefit of disavowing a link is if it is causing a ranking penalty. But don’t be surprised if your rank doesn’t experience a huge boost. Your ranking drop may have been the result of other updates to the Penguin algorithm.
And, as Google take a few weeks to apply the disavowal and another few weeks to run a data refresh on the index of websites, you may only see an improvement a month from now.
Ask Them to Take It down First
Google has stated that disavowing a link should only be used as a final measure. It’s not a tool with which to audit your link profile. Using it as such will likely results in Google setting your website aside for review and harm your rank in the short term.
Rather you should send a request to the webmaster of the site whose link you want taken down. If that is ignored then you should disavow and include a note that you made the request, in the disavowal document.
Remember it’s Only a Suggestion, Not a Fix All
The disavow tool has been described as being very close to the rel=”canonical” tag; insofar that a list of your disavowed links is just a preferred configuration of your website that you send to Google that they take note of when indexing. Having a link disavowed with Google is just a treatment; it doesn’t mean that link is no longer pointing to your site.
Make Sure the Link is Bad, Not Just Ugly
Your inbound link profile isn’t meant to be a list of attractive and respected site you want to be affiliated with. A link to your site indicates authority, which Google likes, so unless the website is obviously spammy or the link makes no logical sense, leave it alone. Otherwise, you’re just doing harm to your website’s rank by diminishing valuable link juice.