What is Google’s Disavow Tool & Do You Need It?

Google’s Matt Cutts recently announced that the search engine was releasing a new “disavow tool” for website owners and SEO marketers. What exactly does this tool do?

If you read this blog regularly, you know that bad links harm your website’s search engine ranking. You don’t want irrelevant content or spammy websites linking to your domain, because Google’s algorithm will ding you for using unapproved actions in an attempt to artificially boost your ranking.

Well Google finally devised a way to completely stop links from particularly harmful websites (although, to be fair, Bing has already offered this function for a while). Disavowing links stops them from hurting your ranking.

Does my website need to disavow links?

Probably not. Before you freak out and disavow some questionable links, you need to understand why this tool is useful and what situations it helps in.

Here are 5 reasons to use this tool:

1) You’ve received notification about bad links. This is most likely a warning that needs to be reacted to, but not overreacted to. Try simpler, less drastic measures first.

2) You have been penalized. This one is very risky, because it is difficult to tell if a rankings dip is from a penalty or another cause.

3) You were slapped by Penguin. The Google Penguin changes were designed to punish links from low ranking sites and excessive exact match anchored text. If your website traffic decreased after April 24, the most recent Penguin update, you may have been affected.

4) You have tried cleaning up bad links without success. After trying to apply a “nofollow” to bad links and appealing to Google that your website ranking should be restored, you may find that you still don’t qualify. At this point, disavowing from a low PR webpage might be your best option.

5) You are the target of negative SEO attacks. Just as marketers can use questionable methods to boost their own ranking with the desire to avoid getting caught, so too can they use these methods on a competitor’s website with the intention of harming their ranking. By linking from spammy sites to your page, Google may recognize this as black hat SEO. Don’t worry, this occurrence is rare and akin to writing a fake bad review on Yelp. But if you think you are the victim of such strategies, you may consider disavowing the links.

Disavowing is a strategy that cannot be taken lightly; you may accidently kill some solid, productive links. You can choose to disavow entire websites or particular webpages. Consult your internet marketing company for advice.