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How to Disavow Links (And Tools to Get Started)

By | August 12, 2013

The question: “Should I be worried if a couple of sites that I don’t want to be associated with are linking to me?”

Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s Webspam team, addressed this common question last week with the short video below.

Like Cutts said in his video, it’s important to take all of the appropriate steps to remove low-quality links, including reaching out to the site directly. If you still aren’t able to get the site to remove the links, you need to disavow these links. So what should you consider when disavowing links? We walk you through the process (with some great tools to help):

Disavow all the links!

1) Start with looking for domains sending a lot of links, especially those with exact match anchor text.

Open Site Explorer is a backlink research tool that allows you to compare backlinks with competitors and analyze anchor text. Other tools include Ahrefs, Majestic SEO, and backlinks can also be found on Google  Webmaster Tools within the Traffic section.

2) Add all the low-quality sites linking from exact match anchor text.

Ahrefs (mentioned above) will allow you to export the domains by anchor text.

3) Use Google’s disavow tool.

Use the ‘domain:’ function to block entire domains. Cutts recommends using the disavow tool on the domain level like a machete, and do not take a “fine-toothed comb” approach to disavowing links. Being too selective with bad links could be one reason why it sometimes may take a while to clean up these links. There is a middle ground when using the domain function: be aggressive, but don’t be too gentle. Keep an eye out for sites like BlogSpot; this is where you will want to only disavow individual URLs, not the whole domain.

Other Things to Keep in Mind:

  • Request no-follows on links from advertising or banner ad images.
  • Visit the manual action viewer in Webmaster Tools. This new feature should be something you take a look at as soon as possible; it shows information about action taken by the manual webspam team that directly affects the site’s ranking. It also offers links to resources for troubleshooting these issues.

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