New tool lets webmasters ‘disavow’ links

With Google cracking down on dodgy links, many reputable sites have suffered as links outside their control damage their search rankings. Now, though, the company’s introducing a tool designed to let webmasters avoid this happening.

It’s aimed at sites that have already received notice from Google that ‘unnatural links’ are leading to spam, and allows them to ‘disavow’ links that aren’t doing them any favors.

Most such links come from unscrupulous or incompetent attempts to game Google’s search rankings, or sometimes from competitors trying to make their rivals look dodgy.

“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,” says webmaster trends analyst Jonathan Simon.

“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.”

The new tool comes in where this isn’t possible, allowing the site to alert Google to the problem and ask for the links to be ignored for the purposes of page ranking.

Google’s keen to stress that most sites shouldn’t ever need to resort to the tool.

“The vast, vast majority of sites do not need to use this tool in any way,” says Simon. “If you’re not sure what the tool does or whether you need to use it, you probably shouldn’t use it.”