Many SEOs cheered that Google’s new disavow links tool would make it easier to recover from a bad backlink profile. No more worrying about directories charging to remove links or trying to get out of bad link networks. But Google says it does want to see a good faith effort to go along with any disavow links request, or those disavow requests might not get honored.
Google: Try To Remove Links
Google had previously suggested that the disavow link tool wasn’t a replacement for making link removal requests. From the company’s blog post, the day the tool launched:
We recommend that you remove from the web as many spammy or low-quality links to your site as possible. This is the best approach because it addresses the problem at the root. By removing the bad links directly, you’re helping to prevent Google (and other search engines) from taking action again in the future….
If you’ve done as much as you can to remove the problematic links, and there are still some links you just can’t seem to get down, that’s a good time to visit our new Disavow links page….
Disavow Not Enough? No, Says Google
But given the seemingly automated nature of the disavow link tool, did site owners really need to go through this effort? Why not just submit a list of bad links and save the time? Isn’t that really all you need to do? According to the head of Google’s web spam team, Matt Cutts, no:
I wouldn’t count on this. In particular, Google can look at the snapshot of links we saw when we took manual action. If we don’t see any links actually taken down off the web, then we can see that sites have been disavowing without trying to get the links taken down.
His answer came as part of a long Q&A I posted yesterday about the link disavow tool. It suggests that the link disavow tool is also looking to see some actual removal of bad links, or it won’t kick in.
That’s odd, however. The entire point of having a link disavow tool is that it’s hard to get some of links removed. Having a tool that works to remove links you can’t remove but only if you can get those links removed either defeats the purpose of having the tool or is a Catch-22.
Hit By Manual Action? Don’t Mess Around: Both Remove & Disavow
I think the reality is two-fold, however. First, many of the sites impacted by things like the Penguin Update and seeking to remove bad links may have many of them, so that by removing a few, the link disavow tool can help as part of an overall clean-up effort
Second, I actually think the link disavow tool isn’t trying to do some type of cross-checking. If you were hit by an automated action like Penguin based on your backlinks, rather than a manual action, I suspect that just disavowing those bad links (if you can tell what they are) will be sufficient. If you read the comments from Cutts closely, his statement is more about what Google could do, not what it necessarily does.
But having said that, his is the official advice, and so if you think you were hit by a penalty, I’d follow it fully. Try to remove some of those links manually.
Moreover, if you were hit by a manual action, where you know some human at Google has penalized yourself, you’re going to be under even more scrutiny when filing a reinclusion request. That means you’ll want to know that if a Google web spam team member checks on their site, they’ll see you’ve done more than just disavow links.
- Q&A With Google’s Matt Cutts On How To Use The Link Disavow Tool
- Google Launches Disavow Links Tool
- Google Penguin Update 3 Released, Impacts 0.3% Of English-Language Queries
- The Google Dance Is Back
- Google Now Reports “Practically 100%” Of Manual Actions