Google uses a feature called “PageRank” in order to determine a website’s importance in comparison to other websites. Essentially, backlinks are the driving force behind what makes a website importance. In theory, it would seem that the more backlinks a website has, the higher it would be ranked in the SERPs (search engine results pages). Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.
Poor quality backlinks can, in fact, hinder a website. Websites are like peers in a way. Websites that associate with too many poor quality websites are deemed to be poor quality as well by most major search engines. In other words, if there are too many poor quality websites linking to yours, your ranking on Google will suffer.
Of course, nobody wants to see their website perform poorly, so the idea is often essentially to break the backlinks between the site in question and the “spammy,” poor quality ones. However, sometimes this isn’t a simple feat. This is especially true if you can’t edit the content that contains your link on the other website, or if your website has been linked to by hundreds or even thousands of bad websites.
In this case, you would need to use the “Disavow Backlinks” tool by Google. Luckily, Google outlines quite clearly how to go about doing this. Disavowing backlinks using this tool basically tells the search engine not to take the links you list into account when it assesses your site. You should only use this tool if you are completely certain that certain links are hindering your website.
Disavowing Bad Backlinks
Omitting certain backlinks from the search engine’s assessment of your site requires two steps. You’ll need to download a list of all links pointing to your website. You’ll find the links that you want disavowed, and these will be placed into their own document and re-uploaded to Google.
Download the list of all backlinks pointing to your site.
Navigating from the home page of Webmaster Tools, choose the site in question. From the dashboard, navigate to Search Traffic > Links to Your Site. Look for “Who links the most,” and click “More.” Click “Download latest links” to get a complete list of all backlinks, as well as their dates.
Choose the links you want to disavow.
Search the list for these links and paste them into another .txt document encoded with 7-bit ASCII or UTF-8. All you need to include is one link per line. A great example of what the text file should look like is located here. Ignoring links from entire domains would require that you type “domain:example.com” (without exclamation marks) rather than a link.
Upload the list of links you want disavowed.
Use the “Disavow backlinks” tool to upload the new list.
Keep in mind that it will likely take a considerable amount of time for the search engine to analyze your request. If there are errors in the document you uploaded, it will need to be fixed and re-uploaded in the future. This is why it’s important to ensure the accuracy of the document before uploading it.
Whenever the search engine re-crawls your website, the file will be taken into account. This process can take up to multiple weeks depending on how long it takes for the search engine to crawl and index your website. Keep in mind that the links will also continue to show up in the inbound links area of your Webmaster Tools. Once you’ve submitted a file for the search engine to use for disavowing your selected backlinks, the only thing left to do is wait for your ranking to improve!