SEO Question – Do you have any advice around compiling a disavow file?

Following on from the recent Penguin update (which I believe is still being tweaked), I was asked:

Do you have any advice around compiling a disavow file?

This is a great question and one I can answer well.

What is the disavow tool?

In short the disavow tool is a way of telling Google to ignore links, typical backlinks to avoid and disavow include:

  • low level directory sites
  • links with optimised anchor text
  • excessive footer links
  • comment spam
  • mass forum links
  • links in embedded widgets

More information can be found on the Google link scheme page here.

Google states:

“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.”

I’d always advise that a backlink audit is completed every 3 months, retrospective of whether you have a manual action or message in Google Webmaster Tools – its best to be on the safe side, considering sites that scrap content and the like can inflate backlinks which would look unnatural.

The above link types have been artificially built, not earn’t – Google wants to see online business earn mentions and links back to a site.

How I compile a disavow file…

There are two ways to compile a disavow file:

  1. You can tell Google to ignore a link on an individual page
  2. You can tell Google to ignore a whole domain

From experience, I have found that disavowing a whole domain is the best option. This is because when links are placed on low level sites, they typically appear within other sections on that site so its far easier to target the whole domain to be on the safe side.

Also in the disavow file, it best to add notes around your actions. Google wants to know what you have been doing and the actions you have took. Ideally you’ll want to get the links removed before you process a disavow, this shows Google you have made an effort towards cleaning up your back link profile.

To summerise…

So to summerise what I do:

  • Complete a backlink audit every 3 months
  • Request link removals first
  • Disavow the whole domain over individual pages
  • Give details within the disavow file

Pro tip…

Sub-domains are treated differently to domains when it comes to disavow files, what you’ll need to do is disavow both the domain and sub-domain.

Also, don’t forget to disavow these links in Bing Webmaster Tools.

To find out more and watch a video from Google, please visit the following link.

Credit: Image from unsplash.com

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