Webmasters everywhere are breathing a collective sigh of relief today. On October 16, Matt Cutts, head of Google’s webspam team, made the announcement during a keynote speech he gave at the 2012 Pubcon conference. Then, directly after the speech, Google’s Webmaster Central blog formally posted the big announcement. According to the post:
Today we’re introducing a tool that enables you to disavow links to your site. If you’ve been notified of a manual spam action based on “unnatural links” pointing to your site, this tool can help you address the issue. If you haven’t gotten this notification, this tool generally isn’t something you need to worry about.
This is big news indeed, and now – at long last – you have the power to completely control your backlink profile once and for all.
How to Use the Tool
If you’ve emailed the owner of RussianMailOrderBrides.com begging for the spammy links to your site to be removed to no avail, you’re in luck. If you have a Webmaster Tools account, simply head on over to Google’s “Disavow Links” page from your dashboard. The first thing you’ll need to do is select the domain for which you’ll be disavowing links:
Then, Google will then display a dialog box prompting you to upload a simple file that contains the links you want to disavow:
All you must do is upload a text file. The format is very simple, just list the offending domains, one per line, using this format: domain:example.com. You can also include comments in your text file regarding actions you took to try to remove the links – just preface each one with a pound sign.
Handle This New Tool with Care
In a Webmaster Help video uploaded via YouTube, Cutts fleshed out a list of caveats and warnings about using the new tool. First, he urged webmasters to do their very best to contact webmasters directly to try to get links removed before resorting to the tool. He mentioned multiple times that it’s a “power tool” and that webmasters should handle with care.
In addition, he noted that it may take weeks for links you disavow to be discounted by Google, so extreme patience is a huge prerequisite here. Make sure that you double-check everything you disavow. Although it’s possible to “reavow” links, it will take an additional series of weeks on top of the time period you’re already waiting for your original disavow request to populate.
The Importance of Managing Your Backlink Profile
Google uses over 200 signals to determine where you website will place in the SERPs. The most well-known of those signals (and arguably, the most important) is PageRank. Spammy or purchased links negatively impact your ranking and PageRank equally. That’s why a manicured backlink profile is so vital to a good position in search results.
This new tool will kick negative SEO out the window and allow you complete control over your website. Don’t abuse it – heck, don’t even use it if you don’t need to – but take comfort in knowing it’s there if you ever find unsavory links lurking in your Webmaster Tools dashboard.