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Google’s Disavow Tool: only use when necessary

I’m not sure I’ve ever mentioned this before, because I consider it to be understandably arcane, but a reader mentioned Google’s Disavow Tool, so here goes. If you’re not an SEO geek, this may not be the most exciting two minutes of your working life.

We all know that links to our sites are one of the main drivers of Google rankings, and that these links all have different values, depending on their relevancy and the linking sites’ authority. When people first started to game the system, they would set up thousands of low quality sites all pointing to the one they wanted to rank well in Google, and for a while, this worked. Google’s response was to ensure that not only did links from these valueless sites count for nothing, they actually counted negatively, and too many would lead to a ‘manual action’, downgrading or even removing the site which had all the links pointing to it.

However, you can’t control what sites link to you, so people started to ask what to do about unasked-for links which were working against them. Google responded with the Disavow Tool, and now says: “If you have a manual action against your site for unnatural links to your site, or if you think you’re about to get such a manual action (because of paid links or other link schemes that violate our quality guidelines), you should try to remove those links from the other site. If you can’t get these links removed, then you should disavow those links to your website.”

It’s really unlikely that you’ll need to use the Disavow Tool. Indeed, it can be dangerous, because you don’t know what a ‘bad link’ is. Some Search Engine Optimisation consultants use it far too often, perhaps just to show they’re doing something. “Getting rid of bad links” can sound like a really positive action. There’s some more information about bad links here. You do need to know that you’ve got a problem before you use the tool. If you want to know more, here’s a good article.