30 second summary:
- In early November, Google made a UI update for its Disavow Links tool.
- The core functionality hasn’t changed, which means some SEO practitioners continue to misuse it.
- Disavow still does nothing to fix negative SEOs and often doesn’t make your website perform better in searches.
- However, doing so can reduce the likelihood of manual actions being taken based on your backlink profile.
Once upon a time, Google’s Disavow Links tool was a godsend for SEO practitioners everywhere. Disavow links were hailed as the search engine’s “best spam reporting tool to date” when they launched in 2012 – not long after the Penguin algorithm was updated – and enabled webmasters to instruct Google to ignore all links from certain domains.
Looking eight years ahead and the feature, which has been fairly controversial, has been incorporated into Google’s updated search console. In the words of Google analyst John Mueller,
“The core functionality has not changed. It is a UI update.”
However, the redesigned Disavow tool includes some new features, such as: B. the ability to download your prohibited links as a TXT file, as well as improved support.
The response from SEO practitioners has been a bit lukewarm, be it because it doesn’t change the way the tool has been misused up to this point, or simply because there are other, more pressing matters that Google could have done first . Here, we’ll go over the pros and cons of Google’s Disavow Links tool, and see if these new changes are worth it.
How Webmasters Misused the Disavow Links Tool
As after the Penguin update, many people saw rejection as an easy way to remove spam backlinks from their website’s profile and encouraged the revamped algorithm to make their websites look friendlier. Even so, there were still some inherent issues with the way many website owners tended to use it. The disavow tool should only be used in exceptional cases, when all other options for removing poor quality links have been exhausted.
Google itself pointed out in its help at the time that “most websites do not need to use this tool” but that did not prevent many from willfully adding all kinds of backlinks to their lists in order to refuse them. However, the tool acts as a guide for the algorithm rather than a way to formally avoid backlink penalties or combat perceived negative SEO.
What has changed in Disavow Links?
The main differences between the updated version and the old version of Disavow are in the location that is now in the search console. There are also some new basic features like downloading your full list of banned links in TXT format and unlimited files for you to see when you request a bug report.
Ultimately, this means that little has changed for SEO practitioners other than further encouragement not to use it to directly improve the ranking of their websites. In fact, this could explain the Twitter response from the public, which, as pointed out in the Search Engine Journal, is apparently more interested in updating the Request Indexing tool, which was discontinued in October 2020. In fact, without the Request Indexing tool, website owners who have requested that some of their backlinks be discontinued will have to wait for the website to be crawled the next time for the changes to take effect, rather than flagging them immediately with Google can.
Is it worth using the new Disavow Links tool?
Simply put, the changes Google made to Disavow Links shouldn’t affect the majority of webmasters enough to warrant another use. However, it could be the overhaul that is preventing more users from misusing the tool, especially since one of the other new features makes it easier to completely remove your list of disallowed links and start over.
When it comes to improving the performance of your website, there are far more important things to focus on before disapproving links. Given how little it is going to help those who believe it is a reliable way to increase their chances with the algorithm – which doesn’t even consider rejections – the best course of action would be to use the tool just as you do it were before the update. That means sparingly and only when absolutely necessary, without misconceptions that it could improve your negative SEO or your overall rankings.