Link building is a core component of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Links from a website passes authority to a receiving site, giving the site a ‘vote’. Unfortunately, not all links are equal, and bad links may cause negative SEO. Hence, be consistent in identifying links pointing to a website, and disavow links that are deemed harmful to the search ranking.

In this tutorial, we’ll look at what are disavow links, and how to use Google’s Link Disavow Tool. Let’s begin!

The Content of Discussion:

  1. Understanding Link Building
  2. Identifying Bad Links
  3. Learn about Disavow Links
  4. Using Google’s Link Disavow Tool
  5. Preparing a Valid Disavow Links Text File

What is Link Building?

Understanding link building is the first step to take before any attempt to disavow links. Link building is an essential ranking factor in Search Engine Optimization (SEO). A site that receives many links from other websites is deemed as a good source of information for a particular keyword. Search engines will rank these websites on page one of a search result as they are deemed the most relevant to a user’s request.

As mentioned earlier, not all links are equal; a link from a well-known site or high-authority site weighs more than several or even hundreds of links from newly created and unknown websites. These prevent potential link schemes where marketers create multiple websites for the sole purpose of building links between them.

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Links create an association between two websites, hence they should be used carefully.

What are bad links?

Since links from different websites contribute ‘link-juices’ differently, there must be a good and bad classification of links.

While good links are links from high-authority sites, bad links are those coming from sites that are identified as spam or contain viruses, illicit, or pornographic content. Spam sites usually contain unnatural sounding paragraphs due to their excessive use of keywords, or outbound links. Websites, where the content is thin and lacks quality, may not be desirable too.  

Bad links are common where competitors adopt ‘Black Hat SEO Tricks’ to take down a site from a highly contested keyword ranking. They go about by buying or creating artificial bad links pointing to a competitor’s site to manipulate the search results.

What are Disavow Links?

Disavow links are backlinks that are excluded from a search engine’s count of links. By disavowing a link, it tells the search engine not to count links from a particular web domain, preventing them from influencing the site’s page rank.

Disavowing links allow marketers to prevent bad links from influencing their site’s page rank. These are usually done as a last resort when they fail to get the site from removing the offending links.

On Google’s Search Console, it has a Link Disavow Tool where users can upload a text file to specify those links to be excluded.

Periodic Monitoring of Inbound Links

Monitoring inbound links should be performed regularly to identify new sites that are linking to a website. This can be done through the Google’s Search Console.

Regular maintenance of inbound links can ensure that bad links are sieved out quickly.

How to Use Google Search Console and Link Disavow Tool

Before using the Google Search Console, make sure that the website has already been linked. New sites added to the console will require weeks for the full data to be collated.

Digital Marketing and WordPress Tutorials - Search Engine Optimisation - SEO Basics - Disavow Links with Google's Link Disavow Tool - Warning - Leow Hou Teng

Google’s Link Disavow Tool Warning Message

  1. On the Dashboard, toggle to Search Traffic > Links to Your Site > More > Download this Table
  2. Download in .CSV or Google Docs format which is viewable on Google Sheets.
  3. Look through every single link and identify them.
  4. Verify the links by hovering over them.
  5. Websites may also be visited for verification. However, these sites may contain viruses and illegal content, hence user discretion is advised.
  6. Highlight all links that are bad links.
  7. Add into a .txt file.
  8. Attempt to contact these sites to remove the offending links.
  9. If the attempt fails, upload the .txt file to Google’s Link Disavow Tool.
  10. As any future uploads will overwrite previous uploads, keep a copy of the .txt file with previously blocked links.

A Valid Disavow Links Text File

# example.com removed most links, but missed these
http://spam.example.com/stuff/comments.html
http://spam.example.com/stuff/paid-links.html
# Contacted owner of shadyseo.com on 7/1/2012 to
# ask for link removal but got no response
domain:shadyseo.com

For more information regarding Disavow Backlinks, refer to Google’s documentation.

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Hou Teng

Hou Teng

Art Director, Digital Marketing Strategist at LeowHouTeng.com
Hou Teng is a Singaporean graphic designer, specialising in both print and web. After graduating from Nanyang Technological University, School of Art, Design & Media, he has worked in advertising and launched an education startup as a side project. He has also worked briefly in a renovation start-up in Shen Zhen, China. While his strengths are in branding and layout design, he is also skilled in digital imaging, web design (HTML & CSS), WordPress content management and administration, search engine optimisation, and digital marketing.
Hou Teng