Google announced the launch of their new Google Disavow Link Tool yesterday, to the relief and excitement of webmasters across the globe – particularly those whose sites were affected by the Google “Penguin” update earlier this year.
You can find the tool here: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/disavow-links-main?pli=1
What is the “Penguin” Update?
The Google Penguin Update launched on April 24, a change to Google’s search results that was designed to punish pages or sites with a suspicious linking history. It penalised sites that had been spamming Google with linking techniques such as keyword stuffing or cloaking that explicitly violate Google’s guidelines.
By Google’s estimates, Penguin affected approximately 3.1% of search queries in English, about 3% of queries in languages like German, Chinese, and Arabic, and an even bigger percentage of them in "highly-spammed" languages.
The presence of a Penguin penalty was announced by a message in the Google Webmaster Tool in March (penalty messages were sent pre-update to warn users of the coming issues).
Google stated that in order to recover from Penguin update, website owners would need to remove any spam they might have and then apply for reconsideration in their results. Within Google Webmaster Central there is the ability to file a reconsideration request, which could be used once a site has made sufficient efforts to remove suspicious links. Additional to the standard reconsideration request, they also issued a new form that could have been used to report errors.
With the new Disavow Link tool now integrated into Webmaster Tools, the opportunity to tell Google to ignore certain links has put paid to the need to contact sites directly – a relief to webmasters bashing their heads against walls to try and work out means of removing links. A file can be submitted to Google with a list of links that you want ignored, so care must be taken when selecting your lists.
This week at Pubcon, Matt Cutts stated, "Your submission will not take effect immediately, if you submit your links on Monday, don’t expect Google to have discounted them by Monday night. The way it works is that when Google crawls the Web, they will see the links you’ve mentioned and they’ll get annotated. It could take a few weeks. This is done on purpose so that webmasters don’t try to turn links on and off in real-time. Google is onto your games."
A Step by Step Guide to Disavowing LINKS
Here’s how the tool works in an easy step by step guide:
1. Find your penalised links – tools like opensiteexplorer.org and Majestic SEO should give you a decent idea, if not comprehensive, of your linking profile. You’ll need to trawl through these manually or automatically to root out those links from dodgy sites that you might want removing. Don’t be overly ruthless, but foreign language sites, dodgy anchor text links and sites that are completely irrelevant are worth adding in general.
Disavow links from a specific URL
http://spam.com/comment-found/ >>> disavows all inbound links coming from that page.
Disavow links from an entire domain
domain:super-spammy-domain.com >>> disavows links from an entire domain.
Line starting with a “#” is to be used for comments. Commenting can be useful if you have a large file which may need to be separated into different groups of links for easier overview and updates.
2. Create a text file with the link URLs listed, one URL per line. You can also disavow links by domain to ignore ALL domain links. Definitely be sure you want to do this before disavowing all your links from Facebook or Twitter!
Each domain is allowed just one disavow document, so you can annotate and organise your text file to help you understand what the status is. Mark your comments with a hashtag (#) for every line:
#Contacted this site (1/9/12), but no response
#Exclude by domain
This helps you keep the text files manageable and organised in case you have to go back and adjust the document in future.
3. Go to https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/disavow-links-main?pli=1 within Google Webmaster Tools and select the site you want to affect in the drop down bar top right:
4. Upload your text file of links and hit submit. The filename (e.g. 1.txt) should appear in the box. Now click ‘Done’ – surprisingly enough, you’re done!
BE CAREFUL: Google will ignore the links that you specify, but if they see something going wrong, they reserve the right to ignore you. Matt stresses that most sites should NOT use this tool.
If you then want to edit your file, there is an option to download your TXT files as a CSV, change it and upload it again. This is in case you want to add or remove some links to or from your list.
The Rise of Negative SEO post-Penguin
Especially in the more aggressive SEO industries such as gambling, Viagra and payday loans, we’ve seen “negative SEO” starting to spread like wildfire post-Penguin. Whilst Google have long claimed that negative SEO wouldn’t work, it was fairly clear that it could with this new update, and anyone could acquire malicious links to harm a competitor’s site’s rankings. For instance, we saw one of our clients attacked by over 20,000 low-quality links, acquired primarily using black-hat techniques across a large number of domains – a site that then received a penalty notification.
The main issue with Google Penguin update was the free rein to black hatter to harm, penalize and cripple businesses almost behind repair. The last resort for many webmaster has been to ditch the domain affected and started from scratch with a brand new domain throwing away years of SEO campaigns.
Since the Penguin update, we have had clients bringing sites affected by negative SEO and so we definitely welcome this tool, though perhaps it’s been a little too long coming - Bing released their version back on the 6th of June 2012 with their Phoenix update to Bing Webmaster Tools (http://www.bing.com/toolbox/webmaster).
So is disavowing the same as nofollowing?
According to Matt Cutts, it’s about 99 percent the same. With nofollow, Google will drop that link out of their analysis – apparently with disavow they’re being a little more cautious so people don’t accidentally disavow all links from themselves.
If you’re in the process of filing a reconsideration request – take care of your links first. Then wait a little bit before submitting the reconsideration request and let Google know that you’ve used this tool so they know to look for it.
If you need help identifying the links to submit to Google please get in touch with @frankseo (www.orchidbox.com). We’ve got some really nifty tools that help us identifying the most toxic links which can streamline the process, so hopefully we can help!