Article first appeared on Search Engine Journal: https://www.searchenginejournal.com/disavow-links-syndicated-content/391426/#close.
What should you do when another site is outranking your site for your own content? Learn whether you should use the disavow tool and why.
Canonicalization Over Disavow
To answer the question specifically, I have to make a few assumptions.
I’m assuming that the site in question is outranking the site where the syndicated content is originating.
I’m also assuming that the site where the content is syndicated has permission to publish the content in question.
In this case, the answer is pretty clear-cut.
As I’ve outlined in previous Ask an SEO columns, Google wants to rank the original content when the content is syndicated.
If you have the authority to require that the site in question place a canonical tag on all content syndicated from your site, you should do so.
Especially if the site in question is outranking your site for your own content.
It would not be appropriate to disavow links from a site that is republishing your original content – unless that site was toxic and actually harming your rankings.
I have a hard time envisioning a scenario where one site republishing your content would cause enough concern to take out the chainsaw of disavowing.
The Purpose of Disavow
Again, the disavow tool is not something to be used lightly.
The disavow tool should only be used if you know you have sketchy links pointing at your site.
The original purpose of the disavow tool was to fight negative SEO.
I’ll be the first to tell you that negative SEO is real, although true cases of negative SEO are rare.
I’ve had countless prospects approach me with suspicion of negative SEO.
I’ve only found a handful of actual negative SEO and even fewer cases where attempted negative SEO has actually caused damage to a site.
But it does happen.
And when it happens, the disavow tool is an absolute necessity for recovery.
The disavow tool is also commonly used for sites that have done some sketchy link building in the past and are looking to change their ways.
In fact, in most cases, you must use the disavow tool when you submit a reconsideration request to Google to attempt to get out of a manual penalty.
But the disavow tool is not meant to keep your competitors from ranking for your syndicated content.
Other tools, such as canonicalization and overall link building, are much more appropriate for outranking your competitors.