As childish and cruel as it may seem, some companies and individuals are still setting out to destroy their competition not by building quality links to their own site, but by pointing negative links toward the competitors site. Fortunately, Google has taken steps to stop this, called negative SEO, and their biggest step was just announced—the Google links disavow tool. This tool has been long awaited, and now that it has finally been released many small businesses are feverishly trying to take advantage. However, using the disavow tool doesn’t always help. In some cases, finding bad links shouldn’t involve the disavow links tool at all.

Why the Disavow Tool Isn’t Always Your Best Option

Before getting into finding the links you want to disavow, it’s important to understand when and why you should use the tool in the first place. The biggest thing to remember is this: The tool is only to be used when working with links that you haven’t been able to remove on your own. If you see a link you don’t like pointing back to your website, you are to first speak with the website and try to get the link removed. In most cases the website owner won’t even realize the link exists and happily take it down.

If you fail to do this, you could be losing a good link forever. Google has made it clear that their tool is not going to always be 100 percent correct, so it’s crucial that you are able to find and analyze these links on your own. The tool can be used once you find them, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best tool out there to help you identify them. This brings up the simple question: What is?

Different Ways to Identify Bad Links Pointing to Your Site

There are a few different approaches and tools you can use to get started identifying the links that you want to disavow:

  • Open Site Explorer – This is one of the most popular tools that a company can use. The tool comes from the reputable SEOMoz and has been used to identify bad links since what seems like the dawn of time. There is a free option and a paid option, so you never have to get more data than you want (if there is such a thing). It’s easy to use which helps it remain one of the most popular.
  • Google Webmaster Tools – You really can never go wrong with Google when you’re working with Google. They are reliable because they know exactly what a Webmaster should be looking for when it comes to SERP rankings. The Webmaster tools is free and will allow you to perform an analysis of all the links pointing back to your site. Once you have the links, then you can determine if they are “good” or “bad.”
  • CognitiveSEO – This isn’t one of our “go to” tools, but after learning more about it, it seems to be one that really works. This tool is paid because it will do the analysis for you. Although no tool can be one hundred percent correct, this is great for those looking to work with SEO quickly and still effectively.
  • Hire an Agency – This last option is one that many people forget because it isn’t necessarily a tool. However, hiring an SEO agency to work with your SEO is one way to make sure your bad links get found and removed. The agency will likely be working with one of the tools discussed above, but you’ll still get a report!

Using these tools will also help you determine what is going on with the competition. You can analyze your links next to your competitors’ links and determine where negative SEO might be happening.