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So You Want to Disavow Another Site

By Bradley Jones

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As your web site grows and gains more traffic, it is likely other sites will be more inclined to link to yours. In a previous article, So You Want Backlinks, I covered tips for getting backlinks along with things you should avoid. While you might work to build backlinks as a part of the search engine optimization (SEO) strategy for your site, at some point you might start getting backlinks from other sites you didn't expect or ask for.

While I presented an article on Tools for Building Backlinks, which presented tools that can help you find and build backlinks. Another simple way to find backlinks is to simply enter your domain name into a search engine and see what is returned!

In this article, the last piece of a backlink strategy is covered, which is how to get rid of backlinks you don't want. As mentioned in the previous articles, backlinks should come from sites related to your own. Backlinks from sites with bad reputations or shady SEO practices can hurt your SEO ranking. For example, if you were to get backlink from a site flagged as adult content by the search engines, then it could hurt your site's rankings and cause your pages to not show up in searches. While the search engines might know these are bad pages, you still will want to do something about that backlink.

How do you get rid of a backlink?

Once you've identified a bad backlink, you will want to get it removed or get it tagged as "nofollow" so the search engines will ignore it.

Ask…

Before going to extreme measures, you should simply ask the offending site to remove the link. When you ask, you should keep a record so that you can show that you asked for the offending link to be removed. In general, you can make this request via an email so that you have a written record. You can generally find an email address by either looking for a contact address on the site. Alternatively, you can check an online domain registry such as the form at https://www.internic.net/whois.html. The online domain registries will generally provide domain information.

After asking for a removal, if you don't receive a response, the next step should be to ask again! It never hurts to ask twice. If you then don't get a response, you can proceed with the next step, which can be to disavow the domain.

How to disavow through the Google Search Console

To disavow a domain from the Google search engine, you can use the tools in the Google Search Console. You can get to the Google Search Console at the following URL:

https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/

More importantly, you can get directly to the disavow links tool by going to:

https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/disavow-links-main

To use Google Search Console and the Disavow tool, you will need a Google account and you will need to have added your site to that account in the Search Console. If you've done this, then going to the disavow site should provide you the option to select the site you are cleaning. In Figure 1, you can see the Search Console Disavow page with the domain jones123.com listed:


Figure 1: The Google Search Console Disavow page

When you click on the Disavow Links button, you will be taken to a second page as shown in Figure 2 that will state that disavowing is an advanced feature and that you should use caution.


Figure 2: Disavowing Links

You will once again need to select the Disavow Link button. This will present you with a third message indicating this is an advanced feature as shown in Figure 3. This time, however, you will also see additional options for choosing a file and submitting that file.


Figure 3: Final Disavow Links dialog

As mentioned, you'll use this dialog to upload a file containing a list of the domains you want removed. This should be a standard text file (UTF-8 or 7-bit ASCII) such as what is created in Notepad. The file should contain a list of the specific links you want disavowed. Each link should be on its own line within the file. Additionally, you should make sure you include the full link. Google will treat ABadLink.com LinkingPage.html different from www.ABadLink.com/LinkingPage.html. The following is an example of what could be included in the file:

http://spam.badsite.com/aSpammyPage.html
http:/paidlinksite.com/badstuff.html
http://spam.badsite.com/aSpammyPage2.html
http:/paidlinksite.com/badstuff2.html
http:/www.paidlinksite.com/badstuff2.html

Note that you can include comments in this text file to help you further describe the links or to simply add information for your own use. This is done by starting a line with a pound or hash tag (#). You can also indicate that all links from a single domain should be ignored by starting a line with "domain:" followed by the domain you want disavowed. The following illustrates both concepts:

# Beginning of list of links to disavow from my domain…
# Contacted badsite.com on 3/3/2018 and 4/3/2018. No response.
http://spam.badsite.com/aSpammyPage.html
# Contacted paidlinksite.com on 3/4/2018 and 4/4/2018. No response.
http:/paidlinksite.com/badstuff.html
http://spam.badsite.com/aSpammyPage2.html
http:/paidlinksite.com/badstuff2.html
http:/www.paidlinksite.com/badstuff2.html
# Contacted following site 4/4/2018 and 5/4/2018. Refused to remove.
domain:pornsite.com
# End of list

After creating your file, you will select the Choose File button from the dialog shown in Figure 3. You can choose one or more files. Once you've selected the files, clicking Submit will send the files to Google. You'll get a response showing that your files have been submitted and how many domains and URLs are being reviewed to be disavowed (Similar to what is shown in Figure 4).


Figure 4: A submitted disavow file.

Once you've submitted your file, you can click done. Google will then process the links and domains the next time it crawls your site. You've completed the process for disavowing!

Note:

While these links will be disavowed, they will still show in the Search Console as links to your site. From a search engine ranking perspective, you are simply asking Google to ignore them.



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