Backlinks to your site tell Google search engines that your content is relevant and add credibility to your posts. Links from other sites to your site show you know your subject matter. The more times people refer to your site, the higher Google boosts your rank. However, it’s not only the number of links that matter, but the quality of those links. Posting too many links can work against you as well, making Google think your site is spam. If you think spammy links are affecting your site negatively, look at the process of disavowing links to your site.
What Is Disavow?
Sometimes a link may have a negative effect on your website’s search engine optimization (SEO). Links posted on paid advertisement sites and on spammy websites hurt your rankings on Google. This is an attempt to keep spammers from pasting their links all over the web. If you find that your site is performing poorly, it might be time to look at how many links you have pointing to your site, and if they appear on relevant websites. Disavowing the link means you are telling the search engine spiders to crawl right over that link without paying any attention to it. Google launched this tool in October 2012 to help websites plead their cases against bad SEO campaigns and links used without permission. Once the process is complete, Google will not hold these links against your rank.
Use With Caution
Do not use the disavow tool lightly. Removing all links to your site can also have a negative effect on your SEO. You’ll want to be sure you are selective and disavow links for the right reasons. If you can remove spammy links by yourself, you should do that first. Then they will be permanently gone from the web. It is also important to note that re-avowing a link takes a lot more time than disavowing a link. If you are having trouble, you may want to enlist the help of a professional.
Should You Remove Links Yourself?
If there are any links you can take down yourself, you should do that before turning to the disavow tool. Creating a disavow file takes a lot of time and energy, and you don’t want to waste resources. If the links are not easy to remove, it is probably a bigger waste of time to try emailing every site owner and asking them to remove the links by hand. In that case, disavowing is most likely the better way to use your time. Don’t forget that the links will still exist, but search engines won’t read them.
How to Disavow a Link
Disavowing is a two-step process. Follow this guide and be sure to complete both steps. Don’t forget that Google reads the www version of your site and the one without as two different websites, so you may want to search for both links.
- Download a list of all links to your site.
- Go to the Search Console home page. Choose your site from the drop-down menu. If you’ve never used this site before, you may need to verify that your website belongs to you. There are a few different options for verification available and the page will walk you through the details.
- Click Search Traffic on the dashboard, and then pick Links to Your site.
- Find the option that says Who Links the Most and click where it says More.
- Select Download More Sample Links. If you’d like to see the date associated with the links, select Download Latest Links.
- This will produce a disavow file with a list of links to your site. You’ll need to go through the list to figure out which links you want to keep and which need to go.
- Copy and paste the links you want to disavow to a .txt file with one link per line. Don’t forget UTF-8 or 7-bit ASCII encryption to make the file work.
Remember, this file should only contain the links that you want to disavow, not all links to your site. If you would like Google to ignore all links from a domain, include the whole domain on one line, i.e., domain: example.com. If you would like to make notes on the file, put a # before all lines that Google should ignore.
- Upload your .txt file to disavow links.
- Visit the Disavow Links tool and select your website from the pulldown menu.
- Select Disavow Links.
- Select Choose File and upload your .txt file to the site.
If you have previously uploaded a file to the disavow tool, the new upload will replace any previous versions. Do not expect immediate results. It takes Google a bit of time to catch up and read the file.
What Happens If You Make a Mistake?
If you accidentally include a good-quality link in your .txt file, you can go back to your .txt file and remove the link from the list. Then upload the file to the disavow tool again. Google will notice that the link is missing and eventually add it back into its crawl around the web. As mentioned before, it takes a lot longer to re-avow a link than it does to disavow a link, so be sure that you are as accurate as possible on the first try. Re-crawling a whole list of sites can take up to a year.
Manually Audit Links
Unfortunately, there is no substitute for a manual audit of all the links attached to your site. An actual person needs to sit down and analyze where the links are and determine their quality. Depending on how many links you have, this can become an extremely tedious process. Audits should happen regularly to make sure you are keeping up-to-date with any new links to your site. If someone is using your link in a negative way, you may be able to fix it once, but it will probably keep happening. SEO needs careful monitoring.