Matt Cutts Finally Announces Link Disavow Tool For Google Webmaster Tools

    October 17, 2012
    Chris Crum
    Comments are off for this post.

After months of anticipation, Google’s Matt Cutts, at PubCon in Las Vegas today, finally announced a new tool in Webmaster Tools to disavow links.

Cutts made comments at SMX Advanced back in July, indicating that a tool would be on the way, and it is now here.

In text on the tool itself, Google says, “If you believe your site’s ranking is being harmed by low-quality links you do not control, you can ask Google not to take them into account when assessing your site.”

Here is Cutts talking about it in a new Webmaster Help video:

“You might have been doing blog spam, comment spam, forum spam, guestbook spam…maybe you paid somebody to write some low quality articles and syndicate those all over the place with some very keyword rich anchor text, and maybe Google sent you a message that says, ‘We’ve seen unnatural links to your site or we’ve taken targeted action on some of the unnatural links to your site,’ and so as a result, you want to clean up those backlinks,” Cutts says in the video.

First and foremost, he says, they recommend getting those links actually removed from the web. Of course, that’s easier said than done.

Google says in a help center article:

PageRank is Google’s opinion of the importance of a page based on the incoming links from other sites. (PageRank is an important signal, but it’s one of more than 200 that we use to determine relevancy.) In general, a link from a site is regarded as a vote for the quality of your site.

Google works very hard to make sure that actions on third-party sites do not negatively affect a website. In some circumstances, incoming links can affect Google’s opinion of a page or site. For example, you or a search engine optimizer (SEO) you’ve hired may have built bad links to your site via paid links or other link schemes that violate our quality guidelines. First and foremost, we recommend that you remove as many spammy or low-quality links from the web as possible.

If you’ve done as much work as you can to remove spammy or low-quality links from the web, and are unable to make further progress on getting the links taken down, you can disavow the remaining links. In other words, you can ask Google not to take certain links into account when assessing your site.

Update: Google has now put out an official blog post about the tool. In that, Webmaster Trends Analyst Jonathan Simon writes:

If you’ve ever been caught up in linkspam, you may have seen a message in Webmaster Tools about “unnatural links” pointing to your site. We send you this message when we see evidence of paid links, link exchanges, or other link schemes that violate our quality guidelines. If you get this message, we recommend that you remove from the web as many spammy or low-quality links to your site as possible. This is the best approach because it addresses the problem at the root. By removing the bad links directly, you’re helping to prevent Google (and other search engines) from taking action again in the future. You’re also helping to protect your site’s image, since people will no longer find spammy links pointing to your site on the web and jump to conclusions about your website or business.

If you’ve done as much as you can to remove the problematic links, and there are still some links you just can’t seem to get down, that’s a good time to visit our new Disavow links page. When you arrive, you’ll first select your site.

According to a liveblogged account of Cutts’ speech, he says not to use the tool unless you’re sure you need to use it. He mentioned that Google, going forward, will be sending out more messages about examples of links Google is distrusting. He also says not to disavow links from your own site.

Regarding those link messages, Cutts says in the video that these are only examples of links, and not a comprehensive list.

The tool consists of a .txt file (disavow.txt), with one URL per line that tells Google to ignore the site. You can also use it to block a whole domain by using a format like: domain:www.example.com.

Cutts apparently suggests that most sites not use the tool, and that it is still in the early stages. Given that link juice is a significant ranking signal for Google it’s easy to see why Google wouldn’t want the tool to be over-used.

It can reportedly take weeks for Google to actually disavow links. In a Q/A session, according to the liveblog from Search Engine Roundtable, Cutts said you should wait 2-3 days before sending a reconsideration request after you submit a disavow file. When asked if it hurts your site when someone disavows links from it, he reportedly said that it typically does not, as they look at your site as a whole.

Danny Sullivan blogs that “Google reserves the right not to use the submissions if it feels there’s a reason not to trust them.”

Users will be able to download the files they submitted, and submit it again later with any changes. According to Sullivan’s account, Cutts said the tool is like using the “nofollow” attribute in that it allows sites to link to others without passing PageRank.

That’s good to know.

A lot of SEOs have been waiting for Google to launch something like this for a long time. Perhaps it will cut down on all of the trouble webmasters have been going through trying to get other sites to remove links. At the same time, we also have to wonder how much overreaction there will be from webmasters who end up telling Google to ignore too many links, and shooting themselves in the foot. This will be a different era, to say the least.

Just be warned. Google’s official word of caution is: ” If used incorrectly, this feature can potentially harm your site’s performance in Google’s search results. We recommend that you disavow backlinks only if you believe you have a considerable number of spammy, artificial, or low-quality links pointing to your site, and if you are confident that the links are causing issues for you. In most cases, Google can assess which links to trust without additional guidance, so most normal or typical sites will not need to use this tool.”

The information Google uses from the tool will be incorporated into its index as it recrawls the web and reprocesses the pages it sees.

Google currently supports one disavow file per site. That file is shared among site owners in Webmaster Tools. The file size limit is 2MB.

  • http://www.shoutmeloud.com Harsh Agrawal

    Finally it’s here and now I’m waiting for next iteration of this tool…Hope it will get more graphical and get a tab in Webmaster tool directly…

  • http://www.arnavgupta.com Vishal Gupta

    yes, i am agreed with Harsh. it will be good to see more data on GWT so webmaster can understand more about his website penalty factors and fix them to back to search engine. file size good accepting is also enough for webmaster. still suppose google discounted the low quality backlink.. what happen after that? how long it will take my site to back on google? or i do to do some other work on my site to back to old ranking? i hope we get the answer of these question soon.

    Vishal Gupta
    Webmaster – arnavgupta.com

  • http://www.freshbloggingtips.com RJ Pen

    Thanks for the breaking news. I’ve been waiting for this.

  • http://www.justsearch.fr Jonas

    Thanks a lot for this news – Google finally allows webmasters to refuse some links.
    And I totally agree with Harsh Agrawal: I hope that they will soon integrate it directly to the GWT…

  • http://www.visibletents.com Viaksh Patra

    This tool help all those webmaster who had fare about their website can be step down by the competitor. So this tool prevent adverse effect of SEO.

    • http://textislife.com Dzianis

      Are you sure it will prevent negative SEO?

      Let’s imagine a situation:

      Your site visibletents.com has a comment link from this post. I get a comment link from this post as well, but then I go and disavow it. Five other people also disavow it. You will not disavow it, but Webpronews is already in the black list, right? Does that make you a spammer my friend? :)

      • http://frankhaywood.com/ Frank Haywood

        Yes it will. You can imagine the new service already.

        “We will get backlinks from the same sites your competitors do, and then we will disavow them, CRUSHING the competion. Just $97 / month.”


        -Frank Haywood

  • http://www.matthewwoodward.co.uk Matthew Woodward

    This is bad news for SEO as a whole.

    Do people not see what is actually going on here?

    Google are essentially creating a human driven low quality link honeypot of data for them to use to hand out penaltys to other sites.

    This is just a mass snitching scheme to try and solve a problem they can’t at the algorithm level (although claim to do so)

    • http://frankhaywood.com/ Frank Haywood

      @Matthew Woodward,

      That’s exactly what I thought when I read this. Get loads of unpaid workers running around doing Google’s job and marking sites the unpaid workers consider spam. Easily manipulated once you know what’s going on.

      I absolutely do not believe a word of what’s been said. It’s an ADVERTISING company for god’s sake. Smoke and mirrors and it’s all nonsense. They can’t cope with the decision making load so they’re going for the much easier task of outsourcing it to us.

      I’ve been spending less and less time taking notice of what Google do or say and my SE of choice is now DuckDuckGo – I get much better search results and I’ve been recommending my clients to use it instead and tell everyone they know.

      In fact I hardly rely on search traffic for anything now – it’s pointless. Even the “local” results from Google are very poor and I can find what I’m after in Yellow Pages easier and faster.

      Google had their day and now they’re in decline. C’est la vie.

      -Frank Haywood

  • Robert Blueford

    1. Doing manual Link Suppression from unknown and unresponsible sites and people from 1 month to 10 years ago takes too much time for business purposes, while adding an eternal waiting game with unknown individuals that are mostly incapable of responding in real-time or care about such requests that DON’T PAY THEM to do it. (What’s in it for me?)
    2. Knowing how businesses work, such requests will mostlikely be treated as SPAM and automatically redirected to most SPAM email folder… This based on reasonable linking experience from the past.
    3. Using Google’s Link Disalow Tool would much better and faster satisfy Google’s own NEW SELF-IMPOSED NORM and eliminate tons of aggrevating emails going back and forth throughout the planet to try to get anything done right , in a reasonable & affordable time frame so NOT to affect sales… If ever Google can figure that websites sell stuff every day and pay salaried people to do so, keeping world economies going in this time of hellish perfomances.
    4. If Google can implement it’s own process internally (At its own discretion, as Cutts said) AND-OR allow for fast & effective DISALOW.TXT file to implement IN ONE SHOT their own concoctions, why bother the planet and each website owner on the planet to backtrack sometimes 10 years of linking done on their website.
    5. OR this is simply another ruse to PPC = Please Pay (us in) Cash

  • http://www.bonsaimediagroup.com Ryan Markham

    This will make life a lot easier for SEOs inheriting a client’s link profile that has been filled with spammy links. As Dzianis said, there will always be those who will find a way to misuse something, just like there will be SEOs who will find a way to spam Google temporarily. This is a sad truth that we must live with. That said, most SEOs want to do the right thing. I think Google will use this tool to find websites that allow spam.

  • http://www.infoline.in/ Kamini Prajapati

    I heard that Link Disavow Tool For Google Webmaster Tools not give garantee for link.

  • http://www.engage-2012.com/ Engage 2012 Conference

    Thanks for writing about this. I knew something like this was coming, but I didn`t know when. Now I know it. Thanks again.

  • http://www.cobwebseo.com/ Ajay Jhunjhunwala

    I have already seen the video in searchengineland, and check with my webmaster account. Mat Cutts said googlg will allow uploading a text file which will contain links to disavow. But i am not finding the option or link to upload. But as a whole this will going to be useful tool. I have a significant recovery from Penguin could be possible.

  • http://nissandieselamerica.com Nissan

    I would like you ignore all my links. I really not need them.

  • Tai Kung

    He’s playing saint in front and jab you with a spear when you turn your back. Come on guys, you still choose to believe this Cutt guy?? Gimme a break.

  • http://www.sitiweb-bologna.com/ Criss

    The fact that such a tool becomes available demonstrates that negative score from inbound links is real.

    This is horrible, because we can’t just control what other sites do.
    This tool just gives binds us webmasters to more things to look at and more work to do.

    In my opinion, inbound links which are not reciprocated should never give a negative score. At the worst, they bring zero score.

    This would definitely solve the issue, and leave us with less overhead.

    Perhaps too simple? I just don’t like the way Google is tackling the spam problem.

  • http://seodigitalmarketingservice.com Jamil Ahmed

    I was thinking to remove low quality links from one of my new client’s website, but found it literally impossible, i think this tool will fill the need for hiding the low quality links from search engine completely.
    Thanks for the tool and thanks for the post

  • http://cereseo.com/ Bhavya Rao CEO

    Thanks for evaluating about this disavow tool.
    Its good that Google introduced a tool which will help eliminate unnatural links but hope that does not effect the site in a bad way as said by other professionals.

  • http://www.enviroequipment.com Enviro Equipment Inc.

    A colleague of mine has a website which, under previous management, participated in a low-quality link building scheme which resulted in them getting over 14,000 links. Unfortunately, 13,995 those links are complete garbage. Google’s new tool will allow them to right the wrongs that were previously done. Of course, it will take months to do that at least now they can clean up their List of link partners.

  • http://www.gameslido.com/ umair

    Matt means seo is now changed,now webmaster looking another unique way to build their links.

  • http://www.techlido.blogspot.com/ Tiana Martin

    It would be great! As I understand this tool will help to remove those links from which you want get rid but fails or almost impossible to remove these links. Thanks for sharing latest news.

  • http://www.shrinkwrapandstretchfilm.com Brent Roake

    We stick to the rule of providing quality content about our products and services, and still have back links to our site that we do not want. This could be a good thing if it works.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zbKtPfELpU8& roofing company in des moines

    It’s difficult to find well-informed people about this topic, but you seem like you know what you’re talking about!