5 Common Disavow Mistakes

The Disavow tool launched late last year and I am still seeing companies, webmaster’s and others making mistakes when submitting a Disavow file. Here I’ll quickly list the 5 common mistakes that I see when users have submitted a Disavow file.

Disavow file is asking Google to ignore links to your site.

  1. Incorrect file format. The file format should be a txt file and encoded in encoded in UTF-8 or 7-bit ASCII. I’ve seen users submitting Word documents and other formats! The Disavow will now display an error message to ensure you submit the correct format. I use an Excel file to build the Disavow file and then copy to TextEdit (Mac user) or Notepad.
  2. You have two options to list links by, you can choose to submit the whole domain, asking the Google to ignore links from ‘domain: example.com’ or you can list an individual address. If you have multiple links (e.g sitewides) from the same sites then use the ‘domain:’ option.
  3. Often I’ve seen users download their backlinks from Google Webmaster Tools, Open Site Explorer and Majestic SEO and not do any kind of an audit. You want to find the good links (the natural links) and take these out of the file otherwise you will be asking Google to ignore all your links, not a good option! Make sure you take out the genuine links.
  4. I would advise using comments (start with #) in the file to track any attempts to manually take down the links before you submit the Disavow file. It is recommended that you try and manually take down the links and then use the Disavow file for any link that you were unable to take down.
  5. Were you hit by a Penguin penalty, did your organic traffic drop on a certain date, check Mozcast to see if there was any kind of update. It could be that you have been hit by a penalty (check Webmaster Tools for a message from Google about unnatural links) then it is advised that you submit a Reconsideration request in addition to the Disavow file.

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