Have you heard about Google’s disavow tool? It’s an advanced tool, but worth taking the time to understand and have in your repertoire. It’s purpose is to help with cleaning up what Google considers “unnatural links”. What’s an unnatural link you might ask. In general it falls into a category of low quality, paid, or other tactics created to boost Googles’ PageRank. A good example is the purchase of volume of links to artificially boost “importance” (as seen in Google’s eyes).
A Little Background
Google highly values links to a website, called “backlinks”. This is one of the “signals” in Google’s ranking formula which determines placement on the search engine results page (serp). So theoretically the greater the volume the more important the page and the higher the placement. However a number of past SEO practices focused on creating artificially high volume to boost a page’s ranking, while the page itself did not necessarily provide quality content.
Sometimes though a site can become an innocent victim of unnatural backlinks, and thus get hit with a Penguin penalty. This is where the disavow tool can be very useful. If after other recovery techniques(like contacting the backlink site first and requesting link removal) still leave unnatural links, the disavow tool can be used to directly alert Google.
The Disavow Tool
In summary, the disavow tool (part of Google’s Webmaster tool set) allows a site owner to submit a list of backlinks believed to be unnatural. In essence telling Google “hey! these aren’t mine, please remove the association”.
Below is a sample from Google’s site on what a disavow file looks like:
# example.com removed most links, but missed these http://spam.example.com/stuff/comments.html http://spam.example.com/stuff/paid-links.html # Contacted owner of shadyseo.com on 7/1/2012 to # ask for link removal but got no response domain:shadyseo.com
The above would be submitted via the Webmaster Tools site.
In summary, used with discretion and understanding the disavow tool can be a useful advanced tool for managing your site’s SEO.