Yesterday during a keynote speech, Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Web Spam team, announced the launch of a long-anticipated “disavow link tool“.
In a relatively simple process, webmasters can upload a text file containing a list of urls, or entire domains, containing links they want Google to ‘ignore’ or not count when calculating algorithms concerning their site.
While this may seem like a blessing to anyone who’s spent the last 20 months trying to manually take down unnatural links in an attempt to restore rankings, this tool should be used with discretion and only as a last resort, according to Mr. Cutts. Manual link removal, i.e., contacting the webmaster and having the link removed from the web permanently, is still your best bet. Only when this is unsuccessful should this tool even be considered.
And we agree. While it would be interesting to see the results of skipping manual link removal entirely and using this tool to removal all suspicious links, we, along with Google, would encourage otherwise. You could potentially do irreversible damage to your ranking, as Matt pointed out that accidentally disavowed links, once restored, may carry less positive link juice. He also noted that this restoration period could take far longer that the few weeks required to disavow the links in the first place.
Another point, one less stressed by the Google team, is that links should be disavowed slowly. That is, once manual removal has taken you as far as it can, and your sure you still have links you want google to ignore, slow and steady is the rule. Starting with the most suspicious, and waiting to see results. This is of course best practice for any changes made to your site, so you were going to do this anyway, right? In short, this is a tool, not a savior. This is a last resort, after all else fails and should be treated as one. There will be folks, fed up with manual removal, who will abuse it. You know who you are, and we look forward to hearing from you… For more info on using the tool, try this.