Disavow – Our How To

As the dust settles in the wake of Penguin 2.0 dazed and confused website owners have started to appear wondering what exactly happened and, more importantly, why their search engine result page (SERP) rankings have dropped. We now know that this latest algorithm update was aimed at what Google defines as ‘bad links.’ This is not the first time Google has done this, we touched on their previous algorithm update in our blog post entitled Looking After Your Link Profile all the way back in November of last year. Just as it was then, Penguin has been a rude awakening for many website owners that they have been unwitting accomplices in the implementation of ‘black hat’ SEO.

Many people paid Search Engine Optimisers (SEOs) money in good faith, assuming that the work that was being carried out was completely beneficial, and when they saw their rankings increase this feeling was only reinforced. However, thanks to these SEOs actions these same individuals have been left out of pocket and out of time. They have seen their rankings fall almost as fast as their SEOs disappeared, leaving in their wake a catalogue of poor quality, irrelevant and ultimately damaging links.

All Is Not Lost

If this all sounds painfully familiar do not pack it all in just yet! Google understand that this may not be your fault. In recognition of this fact they have implemented something called disavow. After the first Penguin update the disavow tool was announced as a way for webmasters to remove these damaging link profiles from their site. With the Penguins second sweep disavow has now returned to the fore of many SEOs and webmasters efforts to continue ranking.

As with all releases and updates by Google, disavow has been open to a lot of speculation and analysis by many keyboard ‘experts.’ All you have to do is Google ‘disavow’ to be exposed to as many different opinions as we have had hot dinners. This can make it undeniably difficult for non-SEOs to understand how they can go about utilising the disavow tool to prevent them falling off the SERP cliff. Thankfully, our favourite Google expert Matt Cutts has released a GoogleWebmasterHelp video detailing how not to go about disavowing.

In Plain English

These are the main points we extracted from the video, translated from ‘technical speak’ where appropriate.

1. Make sure you upload a regular text file

This is an easy one. Do not use word or excel or Google docs (or any other text format) to create your disavow file. Notepad is an easy to use .txt format editor that comes as standard on all windows PCs. Use this to create a file with a comment on its own line followed by ‘domain:*name* (more info on this later). Extra info can lead to the file being rejected, wasting all your time and effort.

2. Do not try and pick out individual links from a bad link profile

“Rather than a scalpel you might be thinking more of a machete.” This is Matt Cutts way of describing the action of removing a bad link profile. If you have a lot of bad links from a particular forum for example using domain:*name* removes all links and prevents you from accidentally missing any.

3. The use of the ‘domain:’ tag requires the correct syntax

When using the ‘domain:’ tag to disavow all links on an entire website you must follow a particular format. Luckily, it is a simple one of ‘domain:*name*.’ So, say you wanted to get rid of all those nasty links from www.mattcutts.com, you would then enter domain:mattcutts.com into your text file. Nothing more, nothing less.

4. Do not include reconsideration request (more on those here) information in the disavow text file. Include it within the actual reconsideration request

Another self explanatory one but worth mentioning none the less. Include it separately to the .txt file to prevent both from being automatically rejected.

5. Do not use long winded comments or comment too often

This can lead to human error in styling which would result in the file being refused.

6. Try and do some of the work yourself

If you have been carrying out ‘black hat’ SEO, whether knowingly or unknowingly, don’t expect Google to come in and sweep it all away for you. Get out your own broom and help. Try and remove as many of the links as possible. Contact the webmaster of the pages that contain the bad links and ask for them to be removed. In other words, show Google that you are sorry.

This is by no means an exhaustive guide but we hope it has helped you get to grips with the basics of disavow and, most importantly, what not to do with it. However, we understand that sometimes you just do not have the time or resources to carry out an in depth clean up of your link profile. As proud ‘white hat’ SEO purveyors we can carry out an audit and clean up of your link profile for you. Contact us on 01753 878435 or email us today for more information.

Written by Ryan Hill

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