Google Disavow Tool Released – We Tested It!

by Alex Graves
Bronco - Digital Marketing Agency

Following the announcement at PubCon that Google have made their "New and Improved Link Disavow" tool open to the masses, we feel that it is about time that we shared our experience with the tool after being asked to be one of the Beta testers of the disallow link platform, while also passing on our findings and observations.

We have had access to the tool while it was undergoing development and have had the chance to make use and analyse the effect that it has had on the test sites that we used, and although the tool seems to be offering webmasters more control over the websites that they operate, we have a few thoughts that we feel should be brought into discussion, to see what your thoughts and views are over what could be one of the biggest feature releases from Google since their announcement of Webmaster Tools.

With the Link Disavow tool now available through your Webmaster Tools platform, you are now able to shape your backlink profile like you have never experienced before, telling Google that you want them to ignore the negative links while keeping the authoritive equity firmly flowing into your website but is that necessarily a good thing for search engine users?

We wanted to be able to see the tool in action and so forging a plan to run the tool over a test site, we embarked on seeing what this tool was really all about, taking a full backlink analysis of the site that we were focusing on and determining which of the links that we were going to classify as ‘negative' or ‘ineffective', much like millions of webmasters all over the world will be doing today and then seeing what knock on effect the tool would have on the rankings of the site that we were testing.

I think it goes without saying that the Disavow tool is a powerful asset to any website owner and that obviously if Google had failed to secure their tool, it could have had potentially devastating results on the search engine results as we know them, but the requirement to have ‘admin' or ‘owner' status on the webmaster tools platform made sure that only those with authorisation to this level are able to even access the tool, let alone indicate links for removal.

Link Disavow And A Warning From Google

Amid all of the excitement and preparation that you might well be doing right now to get ready to use the Disavow tool, we strongly suggest that you take note of what has been said by Matt Cutts, Head of Web Spam at Google, about the tool.

Cutts revealed that the tool is very advanced and strongly recommended that use of the tool should only be done if you know what affect it could have on your site, warning that excessive listing of links could affect the way in which your site performs in the search engine results, basically saying that if you remove all of the links pointing into your site, don't be shocked that the site still doesn't rank in the search engine results as you have no equity.

This warning backs up the comment from Cutts that says that only if you know what you are doing should you use this tool, a warning which is likely to fall on the deaf ears of many as they fight to try to recover from the loss of rankings that their site has had, but we recommend caution when using the tool.

Our Disavow Links Test

As I have already pointed out, we were entrusted into the ‘secret circle' of Beta testers for the Disavow tool and made sure that we had something to report back on and the findings that we experienced will be sure to guide you along your own Disavow experience.

From what we found, the process was simple to follow as long as you were only looking to remove a small number of links, whereas if you’re looking to a site with millions of links that you want to place through the process, you will be looking at a prolonged text file creation period, as you have to be very specific with the links that you want to use.

Having created the document and uploaded it to the Google servers, we pushed a reinclusion request in front of Google, signalling that we had used the tool as well as offering a number of proofs that we had attempted to contact other site owners to have some of those links removed, we then sat back and monitored the site rankings.

Just as had been indicated, the effect was not immediate, nor was it only a matter of days, instead it seemed to take forever and a day, until suddenly one morning we saw that the rankings were back!

Now we are unsure whether this is a coincidence or whether this will be a running occurrence, but the day on which the rankings returned, there was a Google Penguin data refresh… Is there a tie between the two actions? We simply don't know but it seems very likely.

Is The Disavow Tool Just A Link Buyers ‘Get Out Of Jail Free Card'?

The introduction of the Google Disavow tool has been met with a number of concerns from many within the industry and we can see where that concern is coming from as you have to ask yourself whether this is a new exploitable method that would allow site link abusers to flood their sites with low quality links to obtain a high placed ranking only to disavow those links weeks later to avoid penalisation.

The question which has to be asked is whether there will be a limit to the number of instances that Google will allow website owners to make use of this feature or will link sculpting become more evident than it has been ever before.

We have already seen that spammy links within a backlink profile are still providing the power to be able to rank within different niches, with the Pay Day Loans market being one of the most exploited and reported, seeing sites that have no relevance being pumped full of loan related links in a magnitude of formats to climb the rankings and find their place on the first page of the Google search engine results, but this is something that is still to be answered by Google.

In a recent Google Webmaster Tools video which has been released on YouTube, Matt Cutts gives an explanation on the Link Disavow tool, pointing out that the idea behind it is that webmasters are now able to ask Google to discredit links that they are otherwise unable to remove. A short sighted view of the situation in my own personal opinion as it is unlikely that owners are likely to spend the time approaching sites prior to using the tool, but one that could simply be the SEO within thinking about the timescales.

It would be interesting to see whether you guys that are reading this would be willing to undertake the process of emailing website owners to have links removed or whether you would take the newly available shortcut to having the links disavowed? Feel free to let us know in the comments area!

What the Disavow tool means for link tools

With the release of the disavow tool, we can clearly see that the use of link analysis tools such as those seen on LinkResearchTools.com, Ahrefs.com and MajesticSEO.com to name just a few, will increase significantly, making the detection of bad links vital to website owners that are looking to make use of the new disavow feature, so if you aren't currently using any of these tools, we strongly recommend that you jump onto at least one of these to aid your decision making.

Although we can predict that the number of users of such tools will increase, we also believe that there will become an emerging issue which will be trying to figure out which of the links within your backlink profile are considered to be negative within the eyes of Google, although according to the earlier video that we have placed into the article in which Matt Cutts talks about using the tool for sites with unnatural link warnings, it appears that you should be looking at the latest indexed links by Google as it is likely that these are the links that have triggered the warning, so those should be your starting point for removal and inclusion into the disavow tool.

One update which has been made by one of the creators of a tool, LinkResearchTools.com, seems to show that they are now pulling in a mass of new metrics in which to help webmasters identify which of their links could potentially be harming their site via Link Detox, however how close this is to seeing what Google do is still to be seen.

Matt Cutts Explains What Disavow Is…

Bronco - Digital Marketing Agency
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