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Best practices for using the Google disavow tool, confirmed
Robert Charlton




msg:4542080
 7:48 pm on Feb 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

Ever since Google announced its Disavow Tool, we've had a lot of concerns expressed on the forum here about how best to use the tool to clean up backlinks, how to avoid collateral damage, possibilities of negative SEO with the tool, etc.

In a recent post on his blog, WebmasterWorld senior member pontifex (aka in real life as Ralf Schwoebel, and well-known to many here) shared some information he'd gotten from Uli Lutz, of the Google Search Quality team in Germany, covering some of these questions. This is the first official information I've seen on the subject, and I've gotten permission from Ralf (who has further cleared this with Uli) to pass it on.

Questions Ralf asked included what source of backlinks to look at for disavow candidates, and could he accidentally hurt a friend or good source if he reported a link as bad. Summary of answers he got back (using his translation from the original German) are...

"I would concentrate on the links reported in the Webmaster Tools on Google"
"Do not worry about damaging other people, that does not happen"
"Be aware of the site-wide disavow possibility, it will make your life easier" have been the key sentences in his reply. I am thankful for such a definite answer and thought Id share it here.

Additional information and blog post here...

Best practices with the Google disavow tool confirmed
Posted on February 1, 2013 by Ralf Schwoebel
http://sno.pe/b/best-practices-with-the-google-disavow-tool-confirmed/ [sno.pe]

Thanks pontifex!

 

aristotle




msg:4542105
 9:09 pm on Feb 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

what source of backlinks to look at for disavow candidates

Offhand I can think of four main categories of backlinks for which the disavow tool might be used:

1. "Unnatural" backlinks that you purchased or created yourself, especially those with targeted high-volume keywords in the anchor text

2. Backlinks that are natural but which the Google algorithm might mis-identify as "unnatural"

3. Backlinks that a competitor might have created to try to sabotage your rankings

4. Auto-generated spam backlinks from bad neighborhoods

1script




msg:4542106
 9:13 pm on Feb 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

what source of backlinks to look at for disavow candidates
He was simply talking about where to get the list of links to see which ones to disavow (i.e. WMT, Ahrefs, OSE, Blekko ... - that sort of the source) nothing more complicated or deep than that. So, the word is "just use what WMT tells you"
aristotle




msg:4542129
 10:29 pm on Feb 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

Hmm So if a backlink isn't listed in WebmasterTools on the day you prepare your disavow list, then you don't need to include it in the list, even if it's a link you purchased and has your targeted anchor text. I find that rather puzzling.

fathom




msg:4542187
 7:10 am on Feb 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

I would ask one more question (although I'm pretty confident I know the answer)

Is there any reason to disavow anything if you only got devalued by PENGUIN?

I say NO! ...PENGUIN already disavowed them for you.

SEchecker




msg:4542189
 7:13 am on Feb 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

"I would concentrate on the links reported in the Webmaster Tools on Google"

Google said:

If there are links to your site that cannot be removed, you can use the disavow links tool. Please note that simply disavowing links will not be enough to make a reconsideration request successful; we will also need to see good-faith efforts to get inorganic links removed from the web wherever possible. Make sure that your disavow link file is correctly formatted, for example, be sure to use the "domain:" keyword if you wish to disavow all the links from a particular domain.

Hope that helps as it is very clear said what they want!

BeeDeeDubbleU




msg:4542197
 8:48 am on Feb 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

After using the disavow tool is it necessary to raise a reconsideration request?

pontifex




msg:4542235
 11:43 am on Feb 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

BeeDee: yes, but on that I saw no definite feedback yet! Rumor is, that the disavow tool could need up to 6 weeks to be calculated into your backlink profile and a reconsideration request will fail until the profile is clean.

ZydoSEO




msg:4542253
 1:43 pm on Feb 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

I don't think Uli was saying to "only" use WMT. But it's a great place to start IMO. These are links that Google definitely knows about and therefore could be affecting your rankings. And it's something that every webmaster has at their disposal for free.

Of course, if you have access to other paid tools like Majestic, OSE, etc. then by all means you should supplement the WMT list with data from those sources as well. But links shown in Majestic, OSE, and other tools that crawl the web independently might not be included in Google's link graph and might have zero affect on your rankings at the moment (though they could in the future).

For most sites, WMT gives you a decent sample of linking domains on the "Who links the most" page plus it tells you the number of links they know about from that domain ("Links") and how many different URLs on your site they are linking to ("Linked pages"). By sorting the WMT list by "Links" descending, sites linking to your site using site wide links (blogrolls, footer links, etc.) are easily identified since they float to the top of the list.

A quick visit to the home page of each of those domains with multiple links to your site is typically all it takes to find and evaluate the links. If you're selling DVDs online and your site's link is in a blogroll next to links for "Online Poker", "Hot Asian Girls", etc. then that is not the kind of link placement you want to keep (regardless of whether you paid for it, your competitor did to set you up, or it was a natural link). If you can't get such links taken down then they are candidates for the disavow tool. Specifically, these are candidates where you might want to use the domain: directive since you don't want to have to identify and disavow possibly hundreds or thousands of URLs from a single linking site.

Jez123




msg:4542298
 5:07 pm on Feb 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

I would ask one more question (although I'm pretty confident I know the answer)

Is there any reason to disavow anything if you only got devalued by PENGUIN?

I say NO! ...PENGUIN already disavowed them for you.


Google is such a waste of time. I think they just laugh at us! Why can't they just say what they mean and what they want? Webmasters are panicking, removing all and sundry links, most of which probably are not an issue. And what's the point? How many sites have returned after using it? I don't know of any. Maybe a couple of high profile ones have returned but I have not heard of any Penguin recoveries where the site was hit and no WMT "inorganic links" notice was served.

I know for a fact that I have removed too many links and there is no way that my site will rank even if Penguin gets lifted. We would all have been better scrapping our sites and starting again - but no, google gives us hope by dangling carrots. This is our livelihoods and mortgages they are messing about with.

incrediBILL




msg:4542318
 6:53 pm on Feb 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

Webmasters are panicking, removing all and sundry links, most of which probably are not an issue.


Only webmasters that got caught with their hand in the paid link cookie jar or some other linking scheme are panicking. Many webmasters that never played games with questionable link schemes will probably never use the disavow tool.

I've yet to use it and have no intention to do so unless I see links coming from some really bad neighborhoods via the actions of scrapers which is highly unlikely due to the high level of prophylactic anti-scraper prevention being used.

BeeDeeDubbleU




msg:4542342
 8:24 pm on Feb 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

I have ten year old sites, which were punished big time that did not use paid links. This is not as clear cut as you suggest.

Balle




msg:4542345
 8:37 pm on Feb 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

"Be aware of the site-wide disavow possibility, it will make your life easier"


That's very useful information, thank you for sharing this.

I have been working on putting together a harakiri file for the disavow links tool for some time now.

Anyone know if both www and non www should be used or perhaps just one or the other? What about "http://" ? In most examples i don't see www mentioned ?

domain:websiteA.com
domain:www.websiteA.com
domain:http://www.websiteA.com


What about this one:
domain:someblog.blogspot.com
I presume the one above will disavow all links from this particular subdomain?

How about this one:
domain:blogspot.com
Will the one above disavow any link from blogspot.com including all links from subdomains such as links from someblog.blogspot.com ?

Thanks in advance for any input on the above.

incrediBILL




msg:4542346
 8:37 pm on Feb 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

This is not as clear cut as you suggest.


I never claimed it was clear cut, just responding to a wide sweeping generalization which was also not so clear cut.

Considering Google isn't the only dog and pony show in town, physically removing links could have wide sweeping ramifications in all search engines vs. disavowing them in Google. Given the option, I would certainly test by disavowing the linke before having a link physically removed considering they're often not all that easy to get in the first place.

BeeDeeDubbleU




msg:4542347
 8:47 pm on Feb 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

Delivering 95% of my search traffic it's the only dog and pony in my town. In the UK there is only one search engine AFAIAC.

moxie




msg:4542349
 9:10 pm on Feb 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

Personally, the only way I'd ever use this tool is if I got one of those dreaded notices.

Sgt_Kickaxe




msg:4542415
 3:19 am on Feb 5, 2013 (gmt 0)

I was under the impression that links reported in GWT were actually approved by Google and counted as being OK. This report suggests that just because a link appears in GWT doesn't mean it's a good one.

I wish I could see a complete list of links that Google knows about that point to my site because, as with many webmasters, It's extremely hard and likely futile to build a comprehensive list ourselves.

ZydoSEO




msg:4542420
 4:03 am on Feb 5, 2013 (gmt 0)

Google has always shown links in WMT as well as the output of their LINK: operator that likely have zero influence on rankings. They often include NOFOLLOW links as well as links from URLs known to be under penalty. Both WMT and the LINK: operator display a sample of links known to Google, but that's about as much as you can infer from their existence in either place.

Just because they appear in WMT doesn't mean they "count". It's just another way that they keep webmasters/SEO guessing so they can't reverse engineer link related portions of their algo.

Jez123




msg:4542472
 9:12 am on Feb 5, 2013 (gmt 0)

I've yet to use it and have no intention

I think "yet" is the most significant thing you said.

My site is 12 years old and has never engaged in buying or selling links. It's my business and I sell from it and it's my livelihood and my baby that I have built from nothing at all. I would never risk doing anything I thought was risky and have always been very very careful where links are concerned. In fact I wonder if this was not the issue. This is not as clear cut as you and Matt Cutts imply. If you look in what was my SERP, all bar 1 of the sites that I have competed against over the last 12 years have all gone from the 1st page and for the most part replaced by the real spammers and the big authority sites all selling the same product (who incidentally are made by the site now at #1). Were they all spammers as your suggestion as well?

Only webmasters that got caught with their hand in the paid link cookie jar or some other linking scheme are panicking.


That's just inflammatory. I would report the message if you weren't a moderator - there is little point as you are.

Sgt_Kickaxe




msg:4542511
 1:19 pm on Feb 5, 2013 (gmt 0)

"Do not worry about damaging other people, that does not happen"


Negative SEO is a myth?

fathom




msg:4542514
 1:24 pm on Feb 5, 2013 (gmt 0)

After using the disavow tool is it necessary to raise a reconsideration request?


YES!

However there is a huge CAVEAT tied to that... if you didn't get notified by Google that you have a manual review for inorganic link violations - DON'T USE THE TOOL!

If you have a PENGUIN issue and you send a reconsideration request you are forcing the Webspam Team to review you (in other words you are sending them a spam report) and if you have lots of webspam issues you will attract a Manual Review.

fathom




msg:4542518
 1:31 pm on Feb 5, 2013 (gmt 0)

Negative SEO is a myth?

If you have webspam pointing to your domain and that created your ranks it doesn't matter what a competitor does to destroy your ranks. They could report you as webspam much more easier than adding more webspam to enhance your current ration of webspam to push you over the edge.

So no Negative SEO does not work in the manner people pretend it does.

Jez123




msg:4542527
 1:38 pm on Feb 5, 2013 (gmt 0)


However there is a huge CAVEAT tied to that... if you didn't get notified by Google that you have a manual review for inorganic link violations - DON'T USE THE TOOL!


Do you have any documentation to back that up? What are you basing that on?

If you have a PENGUIN issue and you send a reconsideration request you are forcing the Webspam Team to review you (in other words you are sending them a spam report) and if you have lots of webspam issues you will attract a Manual Review.


I have a penguin issue and I didn't get a google notification. Are you saying that I should not have used the tool?

fathom




msg:4542528
 1:39 pm on Feb 5, 2013 (gmt 0)

I was under the impression that links reported in GWT were actually approved by Google and counted as being OK. This report suggests that just because a link appears in GWT doesn't mean it's a good one.

Google merely suggests it is a private sampling of your links used to rank your domain... as a matter of disclosure if you have a problem with PENGUIN or a Manual Review involving links you can be 100% sure your problem links are included in your WMT sample.

I wish I could see a complete list of links that Google knows about that point to my site because, as with many webmasters, It's extremely hard and likely futile to build a comprehensive list ourselves.

If you had a comprehensive list you would likely have 10 times to links to sort through if you have an issue... so being careful what you wish for.

jojy




msg:4542533
 1:58 pm on Feb 5, 2013 (gmt 0)

Many webmasters that never played games with questionable link schemes will probably never use the disavow tool.


You are wrong! I never played with any link exchange scheme. Thousands websites have scraped my contents and they are ranking top on MY CONTENTS! so who played game them or me?

fathom




msg:4542535
 2:03 pm on Feb 5, 2013 (gmt 0)


However there is a huge CAVEAT tied to that... if you didn't get notified by Google that you have a manual review for inorganic link violations - DON'T USE THE TOOL!

Do you have any documentation to back that up? What are you basing that on?


Ya... Google's.

They don't mention PENGUIN in their posted information what-so-ever.

FAQ is YOU (loosely) asking a dumb question and not Google providing you instructions... I also love the "If you think"... loosely saying people will do whatever they wish even when Google says you should not.

If you have a PENGUIN issue and you send a reconsideration request you are forcing the Webspam Team to review you (in other words you are sending them a spam report) and if you have lots of webspam issues you will attract a Manual Review.

I have a penguin issue and I didn't get a google notification. Are you saying that I should not have used the tool?


In my experience PENGUIN and the Disavow tool are the same thing. PENGUIN is the automated use of the tool and you can also use PENGUIN (renamed) manually.

The disavow tool was purpose-built with devaluation recovery providers in mind that cannot possibly make sense of a historical link profile because they didn't have anything to do with promotional decisions for any domain (other than their own domain).

PENGUIN-issues... do nothing (with the links that is) the best way to explain it... any devalued links have a forced nofollow added to them (which is precisely what the disavow tool does according to Google).

So start getting organic links elsewhere in your domain or links with different anchors to your affected pages and you'll recover.

If you get PENGUINIZED for Blue Stripped Widgets avoid those words in anchors to the affected pages.

<added>Reading between Google's instructions for the tool it is not an automated process so you have to submit a reconsideration request to get Google to activate... [BADLY WORDED] but that's like pulling up to a cop while driving and saying you had 6 beers before driving home... you are in fact, self-webspam-reporting your domain.

So on one hand (for PENGUIN) the tool does nothing and on the other you are simply begging for a Manual Review (if you have being webspam Google).</added>

[edited by: fathom at 2:42 pm (utc) on Feb 5, 2013]

Andy Langton




msg:4542541
 2:23 pm on Feb 5, 2013 (gmt 0)

Reading between Google's instructions for the tool it is not an automated process so you have to submit a reconsideration request to get Google to activate


I would say with a high degree of confidence that this isn't the case. The reason Google suggest reconsideration is because this tool is primarily targeting those who receive link warnings (and hence manual action, in many cases). Disavow has an impact whether you are manually penalised or not, although you cannot remove a manual penalty with disavow alone.

fathom




msg:4542542
 2:28 pm on Feb 5, 2013 (gmt 0)

BTW for fact finding purposes:

From the original post:

"Do not worry about damaging other people, that does not happen"


If you don't need to worry about those links then why would you need to worry about your own links?

PENGUIN-issues... do nothing! (with the links that is)

The former cannot be true if the latter isn't true.

fathom




msg:4542543
 2:38 pm on Feb 5, 2013 (gmt 0)

I would say with a high degree of confidence that this isn't the case. The reason Google suggest reconsideration is because this tool is primarily targeting those who receive link warnings (and hence manual action, in many cases). Disavow has an impact whether you are manually penalised or not, although you cannot remove a manual penalty with disavow alone.


I wasn't refuting why you submit a reconsideration request I was stating you should not use the tool for PENGUIN there is no need to disavow what Google has already disavowed for you.

Andy Langton




msg:4542545
 2:43 pm on Feb 5, 2013 (gmt 0)

I wasn't refuting why you submit a reconsideration request I was stating you should not use the tool for PENGUIN there is no need to disavow what Google has already disavowed for you.


I read your comment as saying that the disavow tool required a reconsideration request to be 'active', I was just clarifying that I do not believe this to be the case.

This 55 message thread spans 2 pages: 55 ( [1] 2 > >
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