Dan Taylor is an award winning digital marketer and he’s got many strings to his bow. One of them is SEO, and he’s taken the time to share with us his SEO tips for disavowing bad links to your website. If you want to maximise the Google organic search traffic your website takes per month, you need to read this blog post. Afterall, you can never be short of SEO tips, can you?

The more links you have to your site from other relevant sites, the higher your rankings will be (especially if the Anchor text used is optimised and targeted). But what happens if you keep getting links from a site that isn’t relevant, or even worse, you keep getting links from online pharmaceutical sites, adult sites or gambling sites? These irrelevant links could have a negative impact on your rankings and undo all the hard SEO and link building work you’ve undergone.

This is why Google released the Disavow Tool as your way of fighting back and telling Google to ignore certain links. This tool is invaluable, especially if someone decides to target your site with negative SEO. You simply create a .txt file with a list of the linking domains or URLs and submit it to Google.

However Google does provide a very stern warning about using the tool:

This is an advanced feature and should only be used with caution. If used incorrectly, this feature can potentially harm your sites performance in Googles search results. We recommend that you only disavow backlinks if you believe that there are a considerable number of spammy, artificial, or low-quality links pointing to your site, and if you are confident that the links are causing issues for you.

This tool should only be considered after you have made an attempt to remove the bad links first, Google doesn’t want people disavowing all links straight away in case they inflict further damage to their site.

So why should you look at disavowing bad links to your site/blog?

2 Key SEO tips for using the disavow tool you need

1: Your Site Receives A Manual Penalty

Manual penalties are the SEO equivalent of monsters hiding under the bed, and can be the source of nightmares. When it comes down to links, there are two types of manual action that Google can take.

The first type is where Google messages you through your Webmaster Tools/Search Console account and acknowledges that they have identified a number of links that are both unnatural and out of your control – they therefore don’t penalise your site (and damage your rankings). Instead they advise you that they have “detected a pattern of unnatural artificial, deceptive, or manipulative links pointing to pages on this site” and because “some links may be outside of the webmaster’s control” they don’t take action on the site’s ranking, but instead on these links, so any benefit you may have received from them will be lost.

The second type is where Google believes you have been actively involved in black hat SEO. Link schemes and deceptive/manipulative practices, this one will lead to Google taking action against your site’s rankings. If your website receives this type of manual action, it may be a long and difficult road to recovery. You will have to show Google over a period of time that you have made considerable effort to remove as many unnatural links to your site as you can and provide a good reason as to why some couldn’t be removed (if any).

2: Your Site Receives An Algorithm Penalty

Algorithm penalties are not as bad as manual penalties, but they can still cause considerable damage. In your analytics if you notice a significant drop in Organic traffic that can’t be explained by seasonality or technical issues such as no-indexing a number of pages or removing them, then it’s quite possible that bad links are to blame.

Google updates it’s algorithms usually on a yearly basis, however there are a number of phantom updates that do take place and Google never confirms them.

Once you’ve submitted a disavow file, you need to bear in mind that it will take a while for it to take full effect. Google’s Matt Cutts has said that it can potentially take months as there is a time delay for data to be taken into account in the indexing process, as well as a time delay for data to be refreshed in Google’s various algorithms. Algorithms are set to play a big role in content marketing in 2016, so now is a great time to audit your own link profile.

So how do you know if your site has received a penalty? If you receive a message from Google via Webmaster Tools then that is a clear giveaway. Other than that, you’re reliant on monitoring your rankings and organic traffic and understanding your analytics dashboard. If you have any doubt or suspicion there are free tools online that can identify if your site has been penalised.

What did you think of my SEO tips on disavowing bad links? Let me know in the comments. Also share this post on social media to help your colleagues and connections.