What are common mistakes you see from people using the “disavow links” tool?

What are common mistakes you see from people using the “disavow links” tool? - answered by Matt Cutts

Matt's answer:

OK. For today’s video, we wanted to talk about what are the common mistakes that we see when people try to use the Disavow Links Tool. We jotted down a few thoughts, and so we thought we’d sort of work through them and mention some of the mistakes that we see. The first one is the file that you upload is supposed to be just a regular text file. So expect something like either a comment on its own line, a domain, so it starts with domain colon or a URL. Everything else is weird syntax and, in theory, could cause the parser to reject the file. What we see is people sometimes uploading Word files, so .doc, Excel spreadsheets, and that’s the sort of thing that our parser is not built to handle. It’s expecting just a text file. So if you upload something really strange, that can cause the parser to throw that file out, and then the reconsideration request would not go through. The other thing that we see is, a lot of the times, the first attempt at a reconsideration request, you see people really trying to take a scalpel and pick out individual bad links in a very granular way. And for better or worse, sometimes when you got a really bad link profile, rather than a scalpel, you might be thinking more of a machete sort of thing. You need to go a little bit deeper, in terms of getting rid of the really bad links. So for example, if you’ve got links from some very spammy forum, or something like that, rather than trying to identify the individual pages, that might be the opportunity to do a domain colon. So if you’ve got a lot of links that you think are bad from a particular site, just go ahead and do domain colon and the name of that domain. Don’t, maybe, try to pick out the individual links because you might be missing a lot more links. So a lot of the times people try to pick out the individual URLs, when they should start thinking about domain colon, at least for the first cut. The other thing that we see is the domain colon needs to have the right syntax. So domain colon and then a domain name. Don’t do domain colon and then HTTP, you know, or www. or something like that. An actual domain like example.com or mattcutts.com is what we’re looking for there. A bunch of people, we sometimes see them putting context, or the story, or the documentation for the reconsideration request in the Disavow Links text file that they try to upload. And that’s really not the right place for it. The right place to give us the context or to describe what’s going on is in the reconsideration request, not in the Disavow Links text file. And a corollary to that is sometimes people will have a whole story up at the top, and they might have the first line commented, but then if they paste multiple lines of stuff, maybe there’s some other line there that isn’t commented. So if that’s the case, then the parser might again say this looks like a bad file and throw it out, in an abundance of caution, and then that might cause the reconsideration request to not go through. So you probably don’t need a lot of comments. If they’re there, I’d keep them short. I wouldn’t make them multiple lines and all that sort of stuff, because it increases the likelihood that you might make a copy and paste error, and then we would not trust that particular file. The other thing that we see is sometimes people think that Disavow is the be all end all, the panacea that’s going to cure all their ills. And yet, we do want, if you’ve been doing some bad SEO and you’re trying to cure it, in an ideal world you would actually clean up as many links as you can off the actual web. That’s just a really helpful way for us to see, when you’re doing a reconsideration request, that you’re putting in the effort to try to make sure that things have been corrected and cleaned up and are not going to happen again. So those are the common things that we see going on with Disavow Link requests. By far the biggest one is people submitting like a Microsoft Word or a doc file, instead of a text file. But if you look through all of those, I hope you can sort of do a little checklist and make sure that you’re submitting a file that will pass by the parser and make sure that you put any context in the reconsideration request, all those sorts of things. And that just increases your odds that the Disavow and, thus, the reconsideration request process will go well.

by Matt Cutts - Google's Head of Search Quality Team


Original video: