Earlier this month, Christmas came early for many in the SEO industry. Google launched its wildly anticipated disavow links tool bringing with it a way for you to remove some of those shady things you your former SEO company have done.
The biggest problem with disavowing your links is that at first glance, it looks like the easy way out. Instead of taking the effort to remove your unnatural inbound links by hand, there will be people who assume this tool will do it for them. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Matt Cutts warned about using the disavow links tool with caution, and if it were me, I take any warning from him to the heart.
So before you go and throw up the Hail Mary, think carefully if you really should deny your link building past to get to your ranking future.
You May Be Shooting Yourself
People who were penalized by Penguin will be the biggest users of the disavow links tool, but because it’s so user-friendly, people may be too quick to jump on the disavowing bandwagon.
If you haven’t actually been penalized and you start disavowing your links, you’re essentially outing yourself to Google that you manipulated the system. Make sure that you equivocally know you were penalized and it’s not just some random fluctuation in rankings, a sitemap or indexing problem, or an accidentally no-indexed page.
It Could Do You Way More Harm
With the disavow links tool, you’re telling Google what you think are the spammy links that you have in profile, but there is no way to actually know if a link is hurting you or not.
Even if you’ve done every link assessment known to man, all you have is an educated guess, and it’s very possible — read, pretty much guaranteed — that you could be discounting some links that are actually helping you. If you do, it’s unlikely that you will ever get that good link back to count for something.
It Might Not Actually Work
Putting together your XLS of the links you’d like removed will be the quickest thing about disavowing your links. Like with anything with Google, it could take weeks, if not months, for them to credit what you disavow. That is, if they even disavow them in the first place because it’s ultimately left to Google’s discretion.
Furthermore, even if it does go into effect, your rankings aren’t going to suddenly skyrocket just because those bad links don’t exist anymore, which means…
Have A Good Link Building Plan In Place
The biggest complaint on link building the right way is that it takes too long, but think about how many good links you could get in the months that it could take for Google to disavow your bad links. The more good links you have in your profile, the less the bad ones matter, especially if they’re several years old.
Before you use the link disavow tool, make sure you have a sold link building strategy in place that will both account for removed links and give a natural boost to your website.
Start building up content on your own website for your customers. Lists and crowd-sourcing are a great way to do this. Ask your customers or industry influences a question and put their answers directly in your post. People are more inclined to link, share or tweet something they’re mentioned in.
That’s just one example. There are literally hundreds of great link building strategies you could use.
You’re Giving Google (Even More) Power
Google uses the data from the disavow links tool to discredit any of the links to your website in said spreadsheet. For now. There is no telling what else they could do with that data. Would they use it as a ranking factor to discredit a site that comes up frequently in disavow submissions? Sure, those sites probably deserve to get docked if that happens, but go further.
What happens if someone disavows a link from your website for whatever reason? Will your website get flagged as spam?
Google has enough leverage over us anyway. Do you want them to have even more?
You’re Not Just Disavowing Your Links
Call me a Disney princess, but I like to assume the good in everyone. I know there are oodles of shady SEOS out there — I’m probably even friends with some of them — but what I’ve grown to love about the SEO industry is that we’re not malicious people, and we don’t just tattle-tale to Google about some less-than-ethical tactics some people may be using. That’s just what the disavow links tool does, though: You’re calling out everyone else who has links on those pages, too.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.