As many of our savvy readers may know, Google Launched a new tool last week to help publishers remove links that carry a negative spam signal to their sites or in other words start over with a clean slate, Google calls this the “disavow Links” tool. We like to call it the tool you shouldn’t use around the office. This is a tool designed for publishers who may have been affected by Google’s Penguin update, but more importantly by publishers who may have been less than forthcoming regarding the sources of their backlink profiles.
A Little History
If you are new to marketing your law firm online, links are a very powerful indicator that Google and other search engines use to determine which site is most relevant, and thus which position that site will occupy on the SERP (Search Engine Results Page). So many publishers and marketers have attempted to game Google’s and other search engine algorithms to allow their lower quality websites to appear higher in the search engine results. Google isn’t a big fan of this practice, and actively attempts to prevent and penalize websites that it suspects of participating in this linking strategy. This link analysis is referred to as PageRank, which was the basis for Larry Page & Sergey Brin’s original paper that built the foundation of Google, the world’s largest search engine.
What’s the Big Idea?
Because PageRank is so widely known and understood, and still forms the backbone of most web searches, it has been a popular target over the past since the beginning of Google for unethical publishers and spammers to use Link Schemes to improve their ranking. For example, that SEO “guru” you hired last summer might have built or purchased spammy, low quality backlinks or violated some other Google quality guidelines. More importantly, with the rise of low quality links sending a negative signal to Google since the Penguin updates (previously these links were ignored), not only have many law firms seen the negative effects of the Penguin updates, it has also opened the door to Negative SEO.
Is this an SEO Amnesty program similar to the IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program, a way for Google to have publisher’s self incriminate their less than squeaky clean backlink building schemes, or possibly a preventive strike against the upcoming onslaught of Negative SEO? Should I use the tool if I am a small law practice who has not performed any SEO? Probably not.
Then what is it? I suspect that Google is building an algorithm that will be able to detect less than honest links. To do so, Google needs to develop data that includes the patterns, location and examples of link schemes that go against its term of service. I believe that they will honor their agreement and allow publishers to start with a clean slate again, although I believe that there is another update in the making that will make the penguin update look like, well… a penguin.
The Disavow Links Tool in Practice
Google has warned that the tool should be used sparingly if at all and should only be used as a last resort after all other attempts at removing the low quality links such as working with the site owner or backlink purchasing companies involved have failed as misusing this site could drastically harm your website’s performance.
How To Use The Tool
Step one: Download a list of all the links to your website. You can easily do this by using the links to my site feature in Google’s webmaster tools. To do so, go to the webmaster tools home page and select the website from which you want to get a list of links. On the left-hand side of the menu, select Traffic, then choose Links to Your Site. Once you have the list pulled up, click Download.
Step two: Use the downloaded text file to create a list of all the links you would like to submit using the disavow tool. If you want to block an entire domain, type the domain like this Domain: example.com
DO NOT UPLOAD THE ENTIRE LIST OF LINKS TO YOUR SITE.
(unless of course you want Google to ignore your website.)
- Go to the disavow tool links page.
- Select the website you are going to disavow links for.
- Click Disavow links.
- Choose the text file that you just created.
Wait. It can take a number of weeks for Google to go through all of the disavow link data and apply the changes to your website. Good luck! And once again, this tool isn’t for everyone. It’s designed for publishers who have or suspect that someone in their organization has used unethical link schemes to promote their website.
For More Information
Access the Disavow Links Tool Here
Google Webmaster Blog Regarding Disavow Links Tool
Google’s Webmaster Tools Support Page for the Disavow Tool
Matt Cutts of Google, head of their Web Spam Team speaking on the tool
Bing also has a disavow links tool. Read more about it here.
SeoMoz – Google’s Disavow Tool – Take a Deep Breath
SEOBook – Google Disavow Tool