Ever since search engines have been around, people trying to trick it have also been around. In response, search engines have constantly endeavored to get smarter and flag these attempts by tricksters. One of the methodologies used by search consoles is to detect unnatural links pointing to a specific website. If you own a website, and many backlinks are pointing to your website from different sources (social media, news publications, blogs, etc.), then your site tends to rank higher in search results. Google Search Console Disavow Tool allows website owners to manage the backlinks pointing to their websites. Some people use this knowledge to buy links or participate in link schemes to artificially bump up their rankings in search results.
Search engines constantly try to combat this malice. If Google somehow determines that unnatural links are pointing to your site, then you can get a manual action, and that is not a situation you want to be in. If your site has a manual action against it, then a part of, or all of your site will simply disappear from Google search results, and won’t appear back again till you fix the issue, and Google’s team reviews it. The entire process could take several weeks. While there are other reasons for which your site could get a manual action, let’s talk about the ‘unnatural links to your site’ issue.
How do you protect your site against this manual action? If you feel that several spammy links are pointing to your site, you can first attempt to get them removed. But if you aren’t in a position to do that, you can disavow them, using Google Search Console Disavow Tool. The dictionary meaning of the word disavow is ‘deny any responsibility or support for’. By disavowing links, you are essentially telling Google that you have nothing to do with these links. In this article, you will learn about the Google Search Console Disavow Tool, and what are the best practices when using this tool.
Table of Contents
- An active Google Search Console account, with a website property linked to it.
Note that the Disavow tool does not support domain properties.
Introduction to Google Search Console
Google Search Console is the one-stop portal for visualizing your site’s performance on Google. It features several tools and reports that give you a complete picture of how your site is doing, including performance reports, core web vitals, mobile usability, etc. You can use this console to submit sitemaps to Google, to make the crawling process faster, and also to restrict some parts of your site from appearing in search results.
If you have a website and wish to understand and improve your organic traffic coming from Google searches, then a search console account is a must-have. Google Search Console Disavow Tool allows website owners to manage the backlinks pointing to their website.
Key Features of Google Search Console
Google Search Console helps website owners monitor the site’s performance and provide other tools to optimize website performance. A few features of Google Search Console are listed below:
- Mobile-first Indexing: Users can monitor only mobile usability that helps know about the traffic on websites coming from mobile.
- Keyword Analysis: Google Search Console allows you to search for keywords your website is ranking and perform keyword analysis.
- URL Inspection: Google Search Console allows users to inspect any specific URL and compare Google’s index with the page as it lives on your site.
To learn more about Google Search Console, click here.
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Steps to Disavow Links in Google Search Console Disavow Tool
Now that you have understood about Google Console Console Disavow Tool. In this section, you will learn the steps to how to disavow links in Google Search Console Disavow Tool. The following steps to use Google Search Console Disavow Tool are listed below:
Step 1: Creating a List of Links to Disavow
- You can download the list of links to your website, from the Links Report Section. Over there, click on EXPORT EXTERNAL LINKS -> Latest Links.
- Identify the links that appear spammy, paid, or, in general, violate Google’s quality guidelines.
- Open a new text file (extension must be .txt) and enter the URLs or domains from which you wish to disavow links in the file, following these rules:
- Enter only one URL or domain per line
- Domains (or subdomains) should contain the prefix “domain:”. Example: “domain:spammysite.com”
- The maximum file size should be 100,000 lines
- The maximum URL length should be 2048 characters
- The file encoding should be UTF-8 or 7-bit ASCII (don’t bother too much about this, it is unlikely that you will have a different encoding if you use any of the common text editors unless you make efforts to change the encoding)
- Comments can be added by the # mark, at the start of the lines. An example file is shown below:
# Pages to disavow
# Domains to disavow
Step 2: Uploading List to Google Search Console Disavow Tool
- Go to the disavow links tool and Select your property. You will get to see its status (the current list of disavowed links or domains), and also the button to upload the new disavowed links list.
- Upload the text file you created. Note that if you have disavowed any domains/links earlier, they will get overwritten.
- If there are any errors during the upload, then the errors will be shown to you immediately after upload.
Steps to Remove Disavowals in Google Search Console Disavow Tool
If you wish to remove all the disavowals for your property in Google Search Console Disavow Tool. The steps are listed below:
- Go to the disavow links tool.
- Select your property.
- Click on the ‘Cancel Disavowals’ button. This will take a few weeks to get incorporated into Google’s index.
Effects of Uploading List on the Google Search Console Disavow Tool
Once the list has been uploaded, then as and when Google recrawls the web, it keeps considering your disavowal request. Gradually, the pages are reprocessed, and your disavowal request gets incorporated into the Google index and Google stops holding the spammy links pointing to your site against you. The overall process takes a few weeks.
Note: The disavowed links will continue to show up in the Links Report.
Best Practices for Google Search Console Disavow Tool
- As Google repeatedly tells you, whenever you visit any page related to the disavow tool, this tool should be used with caution. Use it only if you have any manual action against your site, or think that there is a possibility of getting a manual action, due to a large number of artificial/ unnatural links.
- Make sure that any organic backlinks are not disavowed. This may affect your rankings in the search results. Backlinks are good as long as they are natural.
- Before disavowing, make an honest good-faith effort to get unnatural links removed by contacting the webmaster of the concerned site. This is especially important if you have received a manual action for your website. If you simply disavow all backlinks, without making an effort to get them removed, it may not please Google’s review team and your request may get rejected.
- If you can’t get the backlink removed, you can also try to get the webmaster of the concerned website to prevent the spammy links from passing PageRank. One way is to add a rel=”nofollow” attribute.
In this article, you learnt about Google Search Console Disavow Tool and the steps for disavowing links. You also read about the best practices to follow to keep the website healthy.
The Google Search Console Disavow Tool is built for a very specific use case. It is a savior if you have a (potential) manual action against your site due to a large number of unnatural links pointing to your site, and you can’t get them removed. However, it is very unlikely that you will use it otherwise. Make sure that you don’t abuse Google Search Console Disavow Tool, as it can hurt your ranking in Google search results if used incorrectly. Be cautious and make an informed choice.
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