Remove Bad Links With Google’s New Disavow Links Tool

Let’s start with a short history of linkbuilding and SEO strategy:

  • September 4, 1998 – Larry Page and Sergey Brin found Google on the principle of ranking websites based on the quality and quantity of backlinks (links from other websites to yours), known as the PageRank algorithm.
  • September 5, 1998 – Webmasters and developers begin looking for ways to exploit backlinks
  • 1998-2012 – Google constantly battles webmasters and SEO companies who try to fight their way to the top with underhanded SEO and linkbuilding tactics. I covered a number of these bad SEO techniques in a recent post.
  • April 24, 2012 – In its first major victory against spammy links, Google’s Penguin update punishes websites for unnatural backlinks.
  • September 29, 2012 – Google emails webmasters, warning them that their unnatural links could lead to penalties or even blacklisting. Spammy webmasters panic at the notion of having drawn the attention of the Google overlords.
  • October 16, 2012 – Google releases a tool that allows webmasters to disavow spammy links to their websites.
In short, people have been trying to use links to improve their web presence for as long as Google has been around. Don’t get me wrong, not all links are bad! In fact, great links are still the cornerstone of an effective SEO campaign. Unfortunately, most sites settle for low-quality links because they’re so much easier to get.

What are Bad Links?

How do you spot a bad link? Let me count the ways…

  • Links from spammy directories with names like – Use a tool like to view links to your site. Are you seeing an unusually high percentage of links coming from non-dot-com domains?
    This is an actual screenshot from a company that got blacklisted and wanted our help. Most of their links came from spammy .info directories – no wonder they got banned!
  • Links that appear to be totally out of context – the site is an online furniture business, and it links to your insurance business. What..? Why? Again, using AHrefs, click the “External” tab and look for sites that have no reason to link to you.
  • Links in blog comments – if you run a blog, you have undoubtedly received dozens (hundreds?) of comments along these lines: “This is a great and insightful post! I have bookmarked and will sharing this wonderful knowledge with the world.” The only reason this comment was left is for the link that points back to their website – this is a terrible and pointless approach to building links.

This video goes into a bit more detail about linkbuilding techniques to avoid:

Why Disavow Bad Links?

Google is cracking down on bad links and the spammers who use them to inflate their rankings. With this new Disavow tool, Google is giving website owners a way to save face:

  • “I hired an SEO company that promised to improve my rankings, and they bought a bunch of spammy links.”
  • “It was 2002, I was young and stupid, and my friends and I were experimenting. I didn’t know that my bad decisions in college count come back to haunt me 10 years later.”

Whatever your story, Google is giving you a way to save face, to confess your sins, and to sever all ties to the linkbuilding mistakes of your past:

If you have worked with an SEO company in the past, I highly encourage you to look into the types of links pointing to your site. There’s a good chance you’ll find some links like those described above. If you have enough bad links, your site is a ticking time-bomb – use the Disavow Links tool, confess to your crimes, and Google will let you off the hook.

Not sure if you’ve got bad links? Need some help telling good links from bad? Contact us and we’ll provide a free web strategy audit.

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  1. Mat May 28, 2013 at 7:30 pm - Reply

    We got hit really badly by Penguin and then Penguin 2.0. We were using an SEO company but having looked into my backlinks it is pretty obvious that all they were doing was submitting us to really dodgy directories. Should I just delete all my low quality backlinks?


    • Kyle Claypool May 28, 2013 at 8:30 pm - Reply

      Mat – sorry to hear that! I hate to see good businesses get hurt by shady SEO consultants. I took a quick look at the sites linking to yours. Yikes… Here’s a prime example.

      Yes, I would start by getting links removed from the directory sites if possible (easier said than done). Then, I would use the Disavow tools provided by both Google and Bing. The Google link can be found in the post above. Here’s a link to Bing’s Disavow Links tool.

      After removing what you can and disavowing all other questionable links, you’ll want to apply for reconsideration. That may allow you to have any penalty lifted. Unfortunately, you may have to wait until the next update to Penguin before you can recover!

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