October will mark the five-year anniversary of Google adding the Disavow Links tool to what was then still called Google Webmaster Tools, and anecdotal evidence I’ve accumulated in that time suggests that only a small fraction of the total people aware of its existence actually understand how it’s intended to be used.
I’ve spoken to people in the business who almost reflexively say the word “disavow” in mentioning that they detected backlinks that seemed fishy, or, in the case of the particularly trigger-happy, backlinks that they just didn’t remember acquiring (as if someone at an enterprise-level company should be expected to record, let alone remember, every backlink that its website gets). “The site that gave us this link looks weird. Can we disavow it? Google lets you do that now, right?” Well, yeah, in the sense that they did create this tool and we do have access to it. But the disavow tool is not to be reached for the minute you notice a link that arches your eyebrow. It’s to be kept behind emergency glass and used only when you’re as sure as you can possibly be that 1) the link is toxic, and 2) there is no other way to remove it.
Use the disavow tool wisely, and you unleash one of the most fearsome foes that spam has ever seen. Use it nonchalantly, and it will come back to haunt you. So let’s talk about the rare conditions that actually might inspire you to consider this nuclear option called the Disavow Links tool, the better to keep you from exposure to radioactive fallout. Or something. [Read more…] about What Google’s Disavow Links Tool Is and Isn’t For