The Ultimate Guide to Disavowing Links

Backlinks are undoubtedly one of the most important ranking factors, and this contributes to the typical feeling of uncertainty that encompasses the management of backlinks. Skip the discussion over the morality of obtaining backlinks. What about getting rid of them? Should SEO professionals bother about disavowing links?

Contrary to some topics, Google has been quite open about their views on disavowing backlinks and its place in your SEO toolkit.

Why Disavow Links?

Google prescribes to use link disavowal in one case – to address penalties charged against your website. If you receive an ”unnatural links” message in your Webmaster Tools from Google, it means the search engine is penalizing you whether or not you are consciously complicit.

Being a webmaster involves addressing Google penalties as soon as they show up, and this should not be a problem if you stick to white hat SEO. However, knowing how to maintain a clean backlink profile is crucial to your long-term SEO strategy. Let’s understand what makes up a good backlink profile.

What Are Bad Backlinks?

An enormous majority of organic backlinks are good backlinks, which represent the kind of Internet that Google is aspiring for – the one where good content is freely and frequently cited. Although most of them won’t make much difference to your website instantly, they are gradually building your reputation as an authentic and credible source.

On the other hand, bad backlinks are almost always inorganic, but there might be exceptions sometimes. Purchasing links altogether from shady SEO websites and using a Private Backlink Network (PBN) for intentional backlinking schemes are the two biggest offenders of Google guidelines.

However, it is also possible to acquire links organically from those spammy websites that just have lists of products and links with no actual content. Probably this link was not placed by a human and is not profiting your site in any way, so these are safe to discard as well.

Negative SEO Attack

Bad backlinks are also the content of a primarily unethical strategy known as Negative SEO Attack. By now, even a person with the slightest knowledge of SEO must be knowing that buying hundreds or thousands of backlinks will result in a penalty on your web property.

But sometimes people attack their competitors by buying all those backlinks and targeting them at their rival website, ensuring a penalty on their domain. Now the one and the only alternative for a Negative SEO Attack victim is to disavow all these links pointing to their site.

When to Disavow Links?

Well, if it is not clear already, disavowing links is not something you do impulsively. It is a rather serious action that can impact your search rankings significantly for good or for worse.

For that reason, Google regards it as a last resort option. This is why it is stashed away under Webmaster tools>Advanced, and you actually have to click through three warning screens before you finally upload the disavowal file.

In a nutshell, you should only disavow a link or links that you are sure is bringing your site down. Also, remember that a backlink from a low traffic or domain authority website is not a bad backlink at all. Although it might not be contributing much to your site individually, Google takes every backlink into account, which acts as a vote of confidence in your website.

What Does a Backlink Disavow Do?

Link disavow is a request for Google to neglect those links pointing to your website. If you successfully disavow the links, they will not be counted for or against you while determining your search engine rankings.

Note: Google isn’t indebted to honor your link disavowal request. They explicitly state that submitting the disavowal file is a mere ”suggestion.” Although they do mention it as a tool to resolve bad linking techniques or to undo the work of a poor SEO professional, therefore you can expect Google to honor your link disavowal request instead of being penal.

Can we undo a link disavow?

Probably yes. It is possible to delete a previously uploaded link disavowal file. But it is unclear whether Google keeps a copy of the list or put back the links and their impact on your site rankings immediately. This is why manipulating search rankings by experimenting with link disavowal is not a good idea.

How to Disavow Links in Google Search Console?

Everyone using Google Analytics to track their website has access to Google Search Console too. It stores information about the linking structure of your website.

Perform a link audit from the Link Report Page of Search Console. Click on the ”Export External Links” button present on the top-right of your screen and select ”More Sample Links.” Export the file in your preferable type.

Once you decide which backlinks you want to disavow, you will have to list them in a .txt file to submit to the Google Disavow Tool. You need to follow a specific but very simple format :

  • Each entry should be on a different line.
  • Each entry should start with domain:
  • The filename is not essential.

Following these rules your entry will look something like this:

Blacklisting the whole domain will save you from the boredom of listing each URL individually. Although there are some instances when you would want to disavow a specific link from a website while allowing other backlinks from the same domain.

Go to the Google Disavow Tool and click through all the warning pop-ups until you reach the dialogue box that lets you browse your folders and select a file to upload. Choose the file you created and click ”open” to upload. Within a day or two, Google will stop considering the listed links while determining your site ranking in the search results.


With this, we would like to wrap up our blog. This was all that you needed to know about Link Disavowal. We hope this information is helpful to you. Let us know how it works out for your site rankings in the comments below.