Search engine optimization for small and very small businesses.

How to Disavow Bad Links

LinksWeb sites suffering a significant loss of rankings as a result of the Penguin Update last spring have been scrambling to correct the factors that have hurt them. One main class of factors is on-page keyword stuffing. The other main factor is a bad inbound link profile.

Bad Backlink Profile

If you’re getting too many links with keyword rich anchor text (the clickable text in the link that points to you) and few or none of the more generic type (your URL, your company or website name, or “click here”) that may be taken as another kind of keyword stuffing. Also, if you’ve engaged a company to get you tons of links from non-relevant websites or participated in link farms, those links can hurt you as well. Some inexpensive off-shore outfits promise hundreds or thousands of backlinks to your site from websites they own and control which were set up just for the purpose of providing those links. Others send comment spam to unrelated blogs, hoping those comments will be accepted and provide links back. Some website owners worry that people might point bad links at their sites in an attempt to harm them with “negative SEO.”

All of these bogus or artificial links carry the risk of earning you a Penguin penalty. You need to try to get those links removed or dis-counted so they don’t continue to weigh down your rankings.

Disavowing Links in Google

Google logoIf you’ve contacted the webmasters of sites with bad links to you and have been unsuccessful in getting them to remove those links, Google has a “link disavowal” tool that can tell Google you disapprove of those links and they shouldn’t count toward your link popularity. That will also cause them not to count toward a Penguin penalty as well. Google says this about the tool:

If you’ve done as much work as you can to remove spammy or low-quality links from the web, and are unable to make further progress on getting the links taken down, you can disavow the remaining links. In other words, you can ask Google not to take certain links into account when assessing your site.

Search Engine Land wrote about the process a few weeks ago and their article is worth a read. To go straight to the Google tool, click here. I encourage you also to read Google’s instructions.

Caveat from Google

This is an advanced feature and should only be used with caution. If used incorrectly, this feature can potentially harm your site’s performance in Google’s search results. We recommend that you disavow backlinks only if you believe you have a considerable number of spammy, artificial, or low-quality links pointing to your site, and if you are confident that the links are causing issues for you. In most cases, Google can assess which links to trust without additional guidance, so most normal or typical sites will not need to use this tool.

Bing has a Disavowal Tool, Too

Bing logo

To disavow links in Bing, you can do the same thing via Bing Webmaster Tools. Bing’s instructions are here. I’ve seen no sign of a similar tool from Yahoo, but that may be unnecessary as Yahoo and Bing share the same index.

If you’ve suffered a Penguin Penalty, take a look at your incoming links and see if they may be the cause of your trouble. If you need help with that, Rank Magic can help.


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