Finally, you’re experiencing a moment of triumph.
Your website’s pages and posts are appearing in Google’s first page of search results.
You’ve gotten into a rhythm, and you’re pleased to be getting real, tangible results from your hard work.
You and your website have been having a great time together for a while. Now, since you’ve started to taste success, you start investing even more time.
Most of your days are spent together.
You often party late into the night.
Then, it happens.
Dude, where’s my traffic?
Suddenly, your website doesn’t seem to be doing so well. Your traffic just jumped off a cliff. You’re not seeing those same pages and posts ranking in the first page of search results any more. Those formerly awesome rankings are now plummeting.
Is your website up to something behind your back?
Is it something you did?
What the heck is going on?
You’ve obsessively checked your analytics, but you can’t pinpoint the problem. Meanwhile, your sales and leads have taken a dive.
You’re pretty sure you’re going to end up appearing in the last page of Google’s search results, unless you can figure out what’s happening.
This scenario is all too common, especially for new website owners and anyone unfamiliar with SEO’s innerworkings.
There are several reasons for a steep traffic decline, including:
- Website redesign
- Site indexing problems
- Search engine algorithm changes
- Competitors using more aggressive SEO strategies
- Negative SEO campaigns
The most common cause? It’s when low-quality or spammy websites start linking out to your site.
Sometimes, the people providing backlinks are well meaning, or don’t realize that their website even has this negative power. Other times, the addition of backlinks to such sites is malicious—people are deliberately trying to bring you down (this is what’s known as a “negative seo campaign”).
You’ll most likely find that bad backlinks are the root of your traffic problem. And Google’s Disavow Tool is the way to get rid of these bad backlinks.
FAQ About Google’s Disavow Links Tool
Q: What is Google’s disavow links tool?
The meaning of “disavow” is to “deny any responsibility or support for.”
Way back in 2012—feels like a lifetime ago—this tool was created by Google so that webmasters would have a direct way to communicate to the search engine that they want it to disavow specific links pointing back to their websites.
In this case, you’re saying to Google, “hey, I don’t know anything about these weird links, can you please stop them from ruining my life?”
When Google crawls a URL or domain that you’ve mentioned in your disavow links list, it will no longer count them towards your page status. This ensures that your traffic isn’t affected by negative SEO, so you’ll retain your place in the search rankings.
Q: What’s a bad backlink and why does it affect my site?
Back in the dark days of the internet, it was okay to purchase links back to your website.
Hundred of other sites mentioning your URL pretty much guaranteed you more traffic. It instantly made you popular in the eyes of the search engines. It seemed like a no-brainer if you wanted to grow your website.
All the cool kids were doing it!
These days, Google mainly ranks your page by looking at the quality of links pointing back to your site, not the quantity. Poor quality in massive quantities is the easiest way to damage your site’s rankings and traffic.
If you have thousands of links from pages like spammylinks.org and dodgywebsitesRus.com, Google’s opinion of your site is going to slide, taking your traffic along with it.
Q: How do I find all the bad backlinks pointing to my website?
A great place to start your backlink search is right here with the Monitor Backlinks tool.
Just type in your domain URL and watch in amazement (or horror) as it generates all of the links pointing back to your website.
If you’re a new site owner, you might be surprised to see links out there—even relatively new websites can attract questionable backlinks.
Here, you’ll be able to view a complete backlink profile (good, neutral and bad) and decide what actions need to be taken.
Since disavowing backlinks isn’t a one-and-done kind of task, you’ll want a tool like Monitor Backlinks to keep an eye on new backlinks that pop up over time.
Q: Which backlinks are bad enough to disavow?
While there are plenty of ways to sniff out bad backlinks, you’ll always need to think critically and use your best judgement.
Sometimes, a backlink will be flagged as bad, but it’s coming from a site you know is valid and trustworthy.
There’s a fine line between being bad enough to disavow and bad enough to be flagged by your backlinks monitoring tool.
Q: How can Google’s disavow links tool help my site?
As noted above, the disavow links tool tells Google that you don’t have anything to do with the bad backlinks you’ve come across. They’ll stop counting these towards your site’s SEO.
And they’ll stop killing your rankings.
With the spammy links removed, your website will face less risk of Google penalties.
It should slowly gain traction again and climb its way back up the rankings within a few months.
Q: How exactly do I disavow my bad links?
First, you’ll need to find the URLs or domains you want Google to ignore in relation to your site. Then make a list of them in a .txt file on your computer. (This is the most tedious part of the whole job, and most backlink monitoring tools, like Monitor Backlinks, can take care of this part for you.)
Navigate to the disavow links tool, upload your .txt file and submit it to Google for review.
For detailed instructions on using the tool, check out this guide and the video tutorial below:
Q: Where can I find the Google disavow links tool?
The gateway to this disavow links tool can be found tucked away in the webmaster tools section of your Google Search Console.
Q: When should I use this disavow links tool?
John Mueller from Google advises to “use it thoughtfully.”
OK, clearer: no change on using the disavow file. Use it thoughtfully, as always.
— John ☆.o(≧▽≦)o.☆ (@JohnMu) September 23, 2016
It’s regarded as a “last resort” method of dealing with bad links.
Your first step should be to contact the webmasters of the sites your bad links are on and request that they manually remove those links.
If you get no response from them, they want to charge you money to remove your links or they just plain refuse to remove them, disavowing should be your next step. No need to argue or pay.
Q: How long will it take my website to recover after using the disavow tool?
There’s no accurate amount of time for your bad backlinks to be removed and your pages re-indexed. Google’s webmaster support site specifies a rather vague “number of weeks” until the links have been reviewed and processed. It could be mere days to lengthy weeks.
Once the disavowing has taken place, you should see your rankings pick up again.
If you’re using Monitor Backlinks, you’ll receive an email notification when your links have been disavowed. You can always check for status updates in your backlinks page, too. You’ll never miss another bad backlink or wait until it hurts your site to take action!
Q: Can the disavow links tool harm my website?
In short, yes.
There’s a straightforward warning on Google’s webmaster page that states, “If used incorrectly, this feature can potentially harm your site’s performance in Google’s search results.”
If you disavow links that are “helping” your SEO rankings you’ll lose the equity from them, resulting in a drop in your rankings.
When you uncover a large number of bad backlinks or you’re positive that a few specific backlinks are the cause of the drop in your traffic, then you should use the tool to selectively disavow the links that are, without doubt, harmful.
Q: What if I make a mistake using the disavow tool?
It’s not the end of the world if you make a mistake, either.
If you accidentally ask Google to ignore some good backlinks, you can undo this.
Simply download your disavow file, make the necessary changes and re-submit the file for Google to review.
Again, you’ll need to be patient and wait for their approval and the re-indexing of your website.
Q: Is this disavow tool even relevant anymore?
Since the roll out of the Penguin 4.0 filter in 2016, Google is more capable of making its own assessment as to whether your backlinks are trustworthy.
For typical websites, this will be enough to safeguard your page ranking and disavowing links isn’t absolutely necessary.
Q: I’m not very tech-savvy. Should I be messing around with this?
Navigating the disavow links tool can be tricky and time-consuming for a beginner. There’s always the risk that you could be asking Google to remove links that you suspect are bad but, in reality, are improving your SEO and traffic.
In this case, you’ll end up sabotaging your own efforts. Ouch.
If you’re totally gung ho about doing this yourself, we recommend having the assistance of a backlinks tool.
Not to sound self-promotional, but we’re pretty confident that Monitor Backlinks is the best choice for beginners—it has a wide range of features and the interface is easy to use if you’re just starting your foray into the world of disavowing and link building. It also provides plenty of resources in the form of tutorials, articles and videos to guide you in your backlink learning. Take Monitor Backlinks for a spin with a free, month-long trial—your first rounds of disavowing links are on us!
Q: I’m afraid of making things worse. Can I hire someone to help me?
Anybody who’s a seasoned webmaster or reputable SEO expert should be able to assist you with the technical side of this mysterious Google tool. For example, here’s one negative SEO specialist who can help with these sorts of campaigns. There are even freelancers on Upwork who list this as their specialty—reach out to those guys!
Now that your pressing questions have been answered about the disavow links tool, you can recover from an influx of spammy links or any negative SEO campaign against you.
You and your website can pick up where you left off.
Start looking forward to a bright future together!