Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A new tool to disavow links

Webmaster level: Advanced

Today we’re introducing a tool that enables you to disavow links to your site. If you’ve been notified of a manual spam action based on “unnatural links” pointing to your site, this tool can help you address the issue. If you haven’t gotten this notification, this tool generally isn’t something you need to worry about.

First, a quick refresher. Links are one of the most well-known signals we use to order search results. By looking at the links between pages, we can get a sense of which pages are reputable and important, and thus more likely to be relevant to our users. This is the basis of PageRank, which is one of more than 200 signals we rely on to determine rankings. Since PageRank is so well-known, it’s also a target for spammers, and we fight linkspam constantly with algorithms and by taking manual action.

If you’ve ever been caught up in linkspam, you may have seen a message in Webmaster Tools about “unnatural links” pointing to your site. We send you this message when we see evidence of paid links, link exchanges, or other link schemes that violate our quality guidelines. If you get this message, we recommend that you remove from the web as many spammy or low-quality links to your site as possible. This is the best approach because it addresses the problem at the root. By removing the bad links directly, you’re helping to prevent Google (and other search engines) from taking action again in the future. You’re also helping to protect your site’s image, since people will no longer find spammy links pointing to your site on the web and jump to conclusions about your website or business.

If you’ve done as much as you can to remove the problematic links, and there are still some links you just can’t seem to get down, that’s a good time to visit our new Disavow links page. When you arrive, you’ll first select your site.


You’ll then be prompted to upload a file containing the links you want to disavow.


The format is straightforward. All you need is a plain text file with one URL per line. An excerpt of a valid file might look like the following:

# Contacted owner of spamdomain1.com on 7/1/2012 to

# ask for link removal but got no response

domain:spamdomain1.com
# Owner of spamdomain2.com removed most links, but missed these
http://www.spamdomain2.com/contentA.html
http://www.spamdomain2.com/contentB.html
http://www.spamdomain2.com/contentC.html

In this example, lines that begin with a pound sign (#) are considered comments and Google ignores them. The “domain:” keyword indicates that you’d like to disavow links from all pages on a particular site (in this case, “spamdomain1.com”). You can also request to disavow links on specific pages (in this case, three individual pages on spamdomain2.com). We currently support one disavowal file per site and the file is shared among site owners in Webmaster Tools. If you want to update the file, you’ll need to download the existing file, modify it, and upload the new one. The file size limit is 2MB.

One great place to start looking for bad links is the “Links to Your Site” feature in Webmaster Tools. From the homepage, select the site you want, navigate to Traffic > Links to Your Site > Who links the most > More, then click one of the download buttons. This file lists pages that link to your site. If you click “Download latest links,” you’ll see dates as well. This can be a great place to start your investigation, but be sure you don’t upload the entire list of links to your site -- you don’t want to disavow all your links!

To learn more about the feature, check out our Help Center, and we’d welcome your comments and questions in our forum. You’ll also find a video about the tool and a quick Q&A below.