No matter how hard you try you can’t control who is going to link to your website. Every site out there is going to have a few unsavory links that they want to get rid of, it’s a reality of building a website. Since Google came out with their Penguin update people have been scrambling to try to clean up their link profiles and many are resorting to some pretty desperate measures. There are even stories of sites charging to remove their links in this link un-building panic. When combined with equal panic over negative SEO (building bad links to a competitors site to hurt their ranking) it’s easy to understand why Search Engine Optimization sounds a little scary these days.
I recently wrote a story about Google’s new disavow links tool and as you might imagine site owners everywhere were overcome with joy. The idea of being able to tell Google that a link to your site is unwanted and that you don’t want it considered as part of your ranking sounds amazing. This tool should be a savior for your website, and specifically your SEO efforts then right? Well, not so fast. Let’s take a step back for a moment.
The disavow links tool is not intended to be a cure-all for your link profile. I’m sure many of you out there were thinking you could use it to essentially reset, and start over from scratch. In Google’s blog post about the new tool they explicitly said “We don’t recommend using this tool unless you are sure that you need to disavow some links to your site and you know exactly what you’re doing.” The idea is that disavowing links is supposed to be a last resort, not a quick-fix or an easy way out.
You also have to realize that the disavow tool is only a suggestion to Google, so just because you disavow some links from a certain domain doesn’t necessarily mean they will be ignored. Google also points out that it’s likely to take several weeks for a disavow request to take effect.
Before you get disavow-happy and try to clear your entire link profile take a step back and really ask yourself if removing those links is necessary. It’s easy to get ahead of yourself and start removing links that may actually be helping your site. Make sure you are only removing links that you know, for certain, are hurting you. If you’re even a little unsure as to the quality of a link to your site it’s best not to mess with it, the last thing you want to do is sabotage your own SEO.
The disavow tool is great as a last resort for those site that have exhausted all other options and still can’t get rid of those negative links that are brining down their profile, and it is especially great for anyone who may be the target of a negative SEO campaign. However, for anyone else, I suggest using it with caution.