Disavowing Spam Links

Disavow is defined as to deny, disclaim, disown, or renounce. If you are a fan of the Mission impossible movies you get the idea. Remember the line about if the agent gets caught the government will disavow all knowledge of the person and his actions. Sound familiar? Well, if you been collecting spamming links and your links got caught it’s time to start taking example of the CIA and start disavowing!

Disavow with care

First, you need to make a decision if you really need to start taking action at this time. There are several reason why you might want to consider disavowing links.

  • Google has caught you link spamming and you received a message in Google webmaster tools about “unnatural links”. For this one, you know that you are being penalized for spammy links and it’s time to get rid of some of them.
  • You have been using known link spam methods. One big one is using footer links in wordpress themes and giving away the theme. Usually spam sites pick up the theme, build a huge site with thousands of scrapped pages and you are stuck with thousands of spammy footer links.
  • One of your competitors is taking advantage of Googles new Panda algo and updates and has slammed your site with tons of worthless links that have now affected your search engine rankings.

If you fall under one of these categories, it might be a good time to go into Google's webmaster tools section and start thinking about disavowing some links and domains.

How to use Google’s Disavow links page

First log into Google's webmaster tools. At the time of my writing this page I was unable to find a link to the Disavow page so you can use this link to get there. Google Disavow Page

Next you will choose your site that you want to disavow links to. You can only work with one of your domains at a time. For each domain you will need to create a text file listing the links you wish to disavow or you can also disavow all the links from a particular domain.

Use the # sign to write comments like “I contacted spammy-domain.com on 10/15/2012 and asked them to remove the links to my page but they refused unless I would send them money” Follow this by either the list of links (one link per line) of domain: spammy-domain.com

Disavow Links Example

# I contacted spammy-domain.com on 10/15/2012 and asked them
# to remove the links to my page but they refused unless I would send them money
domain: spammy-domain.com

If you wish to disavow individual links instead of full domains you can do that this way.

# I contacted spammy-domain.com on 10/15/2012 and asked them
# to remove the links to my page but they refused unless I would send them money
http://www. spammy-domain.com/contentA.html
http://www. spammy-domain.com/contentB.html
http://www. spammy-domain.com/contentC.html

You only get one text page per Domain that you are trying to protect so if you have links from multiple domains that you want to disavow from your site in clued them all on the one page like this.

# I contacted spammy-domain.com on 10/15/2012 and asked them
# to remove the links to my page but they refused unless I would send them money
domain: spammy-domain.com

# I contacted super-spam.com on 1/1/2012 and asked the to remove the links to my website
# but I have received no response
domain: super-spam.com

In webmaster tools, after you have chosen which of your domains you want to disavow links from, you will be asked to upload this page.


Choosing links to Disavow

Google seems to be hitting footer links pretty hard. In the past I have often used wordpress blog themes to advertise my sites. You create a niche theme like a particular automotive brand, purchase rights to a theme and put your link in the footer and give away the theme. Most of the sites using your theme would likely be of the same topic as your theme and this was a pretty good way to get some traffic from niche sites as well as, Yes, get more links back to your site. While a few years ago this was a pretty good idea, this is now one of the easiest ways to get your website penalized (or for a competitor to get your site penalized).

If you used this method in the past and your theme was picked up by a domain that created thousand of scrapper pages, this would be a good domain to disavow. Likewise if you have in the past bought links from spamming link pages, you know the type, 75-100+ links to every type of site you can imagine on the page. Yep, that would be a good site to disavow.

If you are not sure, just choose the worst of your link profile first and wait a while (weeks, months) to see what happens before you do more.

More Tips on using Google’s Disavow Tool

You can also find more information on Google’s webmaster Central Blog, here.

Should everyone use this tool?

Should everyone use this tool? In most cases probably not. Those of us that have old, valuable sites and have used various link building methods in the past, that have clear evidence that some of those link building methods are now causing problems, are probably highest on the list. Owners of Spam sites will just move on to new domain names.

If you go into webmaster tools and there doesn’t seem to be a huge number of links coming from any disreputable site then you are probably fine. If you are in a competitive field, you might want to start checking your link profile on a regular basis to make sure you are not getting hit by someone trying to destroy your sites reputation. If you find a spammy site that has tons of links pointing to your site it doesn’t hurt to disavow it.