Google Algorithm

Google’s Disavow Link Tool – All You Need to Know

Who would have ever thought webmasters would want a tool that would disavow a link that is pointing to their site? After all, a link to your site increases its popularity, in turn, increasing its ranking in Google’s search engine.

If anyone “Googles” your site, you want to end up in the number one search results spot. The higher your website’s ranking in search engine results, typically, the more visitors it will receive.

So why would you want to disavow a link to your site? Google sees links as one of many ways to verify the validity and worth of your site. Getting a link from a very trustworthy site, with a lot of traffic, can benefit your site. Whereas, a link from a low quality, spammy, or unrelated site, can actually harm it. Low quality links actually decrease your website’s popularity and search rankings and therefore, number of visitors. The disavow tool can be very helpful for cleaning up low quality links, because manually cleaning them does not always fully work.

There are three reasons why you should use the disavow tool:

Algorithmic Penalty

In April of 2012, Google released Penguin, an updated algorithm aimed at decreasing the search engine rankings of websites that violate their Webmaster Guidelines. Some forms of violations include the use of black-hat SEO techniques such as cloaking, keyword stuffing, duplication of content, and participation in link schemes.

In October, Google released the Google Disavow Link Tool in an attempt to help webmasters clean up any messy or potentially problematic links pointing to their website. You can use the disavow tool for algorithmic penalties.

This video was published on October 16th 2012

Manual Penalty

Manual Penalties are probably the worst situation for most webmasters. According to Matt Cutts, a manual penalty is when a real human being at Google takes a manual penalty against a site, in order to correct them from a spammy technique they are using. This is another area where the tool will probably be of use to you.

Routine Checks

The final way that you can use the disavow tool, is to complete routine checks of your site. If you find any low quality links that are connected with your site, you can make sure that Google’s bots are not considering any of those links by disavowing them.

Not for Everyday Use

Google actually advises the majority of websites to avoid this tool.

According to Google, “If you’ve been notified of a manual spam action based on “unnatural links” pointing to your site, this tool can help you address the issue. If you haven’t gotten this notification, this tool generally isn’t something you need to worry about.”

Prior to using this tool, Google suggested manually cleaning up bad links. In many ways the tool still is a last resort. They suggest that you first request removal of any bad link from the webmaster who placed it.

    • Create a detailed list of all of the links that you need to remove by downloading the file from Google Webmaster Tools, and manually sorting them. You can do this by going to your Webmaster Tools home page and clicking on the site you want. Now, on the Dashboard, click “Traffic” and then click “Links to Your Site” and click “Download.”


  • Research every offending link, and grab emails or a contact form for outreach.
  • Contact the webmaster to request offending link removal.

You can use a simple template, or write your own. If they don’t respond, try one or two more times, and then signal it for the disavow tool.

Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures

In order to access this tool, click on the link. I also found it in Google’s Search right at the top of the SERPs.

Despite how simple the Google Disavow Link Tool is to use, Google advises webmasters not to use it if you do not understand how or why it works. In fact, they go on to suggest that only advanced webmasters should use the tool.

Despite Google’s advice, if you do decide to use this tool, Google suggests you really take your time to do the necessary research in order to use it correctly. Otherwise you may be doing your site more harm than good.

The Process

From the list of unresponsive links, create a .txt file containing only the links (one link per line) that you would like to disavow.

Then upload the list of links you have just created. To do this simply go to the Google Disavow Links Tool page, select your website with the dropdown, click “Disavow Links” and then click “Choose File.”


Google does not guarantee that all disavow requests will be honored. For those that are, it could be several weeks to months before your site is re-indexed in the search engines without these spam links.

Traffic increase = success

If you are using the tool because of the Penguin update, or another algorithm update (mobile perhaps), the sign of the penalty is an obvious decrease in traffic. From there you can investigate in webmaster tools for a drop in SERP ranking as well.

In the opposite regard, the most obvious sign that the disavow and removal requests have worked, is an increase in traffic. If you see that you are heading back to where you were via steady traffic, consider your efforts a success.

Keep in mind, however, that a consistent routine check of your site is a good idea. Keep looking for black hat links, and use the disavow tool when needed.