Google has launched its eagerly anticipated Disavow Links tool.

Featured in Google Webmaster Tools, it has been aimed at site owners who’ve encountered problems with unnatural links – or linkspam – directing traffic towards their websites.

Since unnatural links are one of the things that Google’s algorithms fight to limit the effect of on search rankings, sites with large quantities of such low quality links can find their rankings seriously impeded.

Site owners were previously informed via a message in Webmaster Tools when unnatural links, or links that failed to adhere to Google’s quality guidelines, leading to their site had been detected.

Getting these problematic links removed often proved to be a difficult task.

However, using the Disavow Links tool, site owners can now upload a plain text file featuring the links they wish to recommend Google, as well as other search engines, overlook – or disavow.

The feature is currently limited to one file per site; however, it can be updated relatively easily. There is also a file size limit in place of 2MB.

In a post published on the Google Webmaster Central Blog, Google webmaster trends analyst, Jonathan Simon, wrote: “The tool allows you to indicate to Google which links you would like to disavow, and Google will typically ignore those links. Much like rel=”canonical,” this is a strong suggestion rather than a directive – Google reserves the right to trust our own judgement for corner cases, for example – but we will typically use that indication from you when we assess links.”

Simon added that the tool had primarily been designed to help site owners clean up bad link-buildings efforts carried out either by themselves or by a bad SEO – as part of an Internet marketing initiative gone awry.

The tool can be used against instances of negative SEO too.

“In general, Google works hard to prevent other webmasters from being able to harm your ranking. However, if you’re worried that some backlinks might be affecting your site’s reputation, you can use the Disavow Links tool to indicate to Google that those links should be ignored. Again, we build our algorithms with an eye to preventing negative SEO, so the vast majority of webmasters don’t need to worry about negative SEO at all,” Simon wrote.

However, he warned that it should be used sparingly.

“We would reiterate that we built this tool for advanced webmasters only. We don’t recommend using this tool unless you are sure that you need to disavow some links to your site and you know exactly what you’re doing.”

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