Remove Unnatural Links with the Disavow Tool

You may find that you have some websites linking to you that appear to be artificial or deceptive. These spammy links can have a negative impact on your rankings. Using the disavow tool you can effectively let Search Engines know which domains or individual URL’s you would like to disavow, making them not count in the eyes of Search Engines.

About the Disavow Tool

The disavow tool is a useful tool found in the Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools. It removes domains or URLs in the eyes of Search Engines as a ranking factor when they index your website. Using a disavow tool is an ideal way to improve your website and remove bad links, however, there are warnings that using this tool can harm your website if used incorrectly.

Google’s Disavow Tool Warning

If used incorrectly, this feature can potentially harm your site’s performance in Google’s search results.”

This warning on Google’s Disavow Tool alone will have users questioning if what they are about to do will benefit their site, or harm it.

A good rule to follow is to only disavow links that were made to manipulate search engine results on purpose. We also recommend you contact the webmasters of the sites pointing bad links to you prior to using the disavow tool. Only disavow links that you have made the effort of contacting the webmaster to remove your link and failed.

How to use the Disavow Tool

Download your Website Links

You will want to start by downloading your links from Google Search Console into a spreadsheet by going to Search Traffic > Links to your site > More.

If you have a backlink checker like ahrefs.com then I recommend using it to download all your links again. The purpose of using more than once source of collecting your backlinks is to ensure that you do not miss any of the bad backlinks, which are impacting your site rankings in a negative way. If you have used more than one resource to find your backlinks then I’d recommend deleting any duplicate links you find using this duplicate line removal tool.

Audit your Website Backlinks

There are tools out there to help decide which links benefit and which harm your ranking on Search Engines. Although this might seem like the easiest way to disavow links, you should be auditing your links manually.

You don’t want a tool to mark a valuable link as a spammy one. When you disavow a link you tell Search Engines not to count that link when assessing your site, which causes obvious problems when you disavow good links. By manually auditing your links one by one it ensures you only choose the spammy links that were clearly intended to manipulate rankings.

Now that you have a list of your backlinks in a spreadsheet, it’s time to manually audit each one. To do this simply enter the link into your browser and review the site.

We usually disavow links if the answer is yes to any of these questions:

  • Does the site feature adult or gambling content?
  • Is the site filled with deceptive and spammy adverts?
  • Was the link made purely for SEO purposes?
  • If an employee from Google saw this, would you be concerned?
  • Is the site completely irrelevant to your own, with no reason to link to you?
  • Is the link an off topic and low-quality site wide link?
  • Does the site appear to be spammed with keywords and links?

Tips when Auditing Backlinks

Auditing all your backlinks is a long and strenuous task, especially if you have thousands of backlinks to work through.

Using these tips will help you to ensure you have chosen the right links to disavow:

  • Beside each link in a separate column, label each link as either “keep”, “recheck” or “disavow”.
  • After you have completed your list, leave it until the next day. This is when you should review all of your links marked “recheck”. You could also review the “disavow” marked links if you want to ensure you haven’t let a valuable link be disavowed.

Make your Disavow File

After you have chosen the links to Disavow, you need to edit the links to only show the domain.

For example: Change “www.example.com/spam” to “example.com”

This is so you disavow at the domain level. A link to your site may be on another page of the domain. You should disavow at domain level to effectively remove any harmful links from that website to your own. If you would only like to add the specific URL of this site then simply leave the URL as it is.

Copy all of the links you have chosen to disavow and paste them in a new sheet so that they are separate.

Add “Domain:” before Domain Level Links

Remember to add “Domain:” before any domain level links you want to disavow.

For example: Change “example.com” to “Domain:example.com”

Create a .txt File

The Google Disavow tool requires a .txt file to be uploaded in UTF-8 format or 7-bit ASCII.

To create a text file with your chosen domains, you need to copy and paste the domains into a text editor. If you are using Windows we recommend using notepad. For MAC users TextEdit is a good choice.

Each domain should be on a new line.

Leave Notes using # for your Own Personal Use

If you would like to leave a note on your .txt file you can do so by entering a “#” then your comment. This is a great way of leaving a note for personal use. It has been mentioned in articles to leave notes to Google employees that may look at your file. No Google employee will view your file as the process is all done by a machine. Remember to only leave notes on the .txt files for personal use.

Submit your .txt File to the Google Disavow Tool

To submit your .txt file, go to the Google Disavow tool.

screen-shot-2016-12-03-at-09-56-44

Select the domain that you would like to disavow links pointing to it. Click on “disavow links”.

You will then be prompted with a warning from Google, if you have followed this tutorial then there is no need to worry. Click on “disavow links” again.

screen-shot-2016-12-03-at-09-55-30

You will be prompted with another warning from Google. Click on “choose file” and select your .txt file, click “submit”.

Ta da! You have successfully submitted your links onto the Google Disavow Tool.

Common Errors and How to Fix Them

  • Make sure to remove the http://www. if submitting a domain level link.
  • Sometimes ports are attached at the end of the link, such as domain:website.com:8080. To fix this, simply remove the “:8080” part.

Helpful Tips

You Need to Submit all Disavowed Links Every Time You Submit

When you submit more spammy links to your disavow tool you need to resubmit all of your other links with it. For example, if you previously had 30 links submitted and add 5 more you will submit 35 links. It is wise to save each .txt file in a safe place where you can locate it in the future.

How to Reavow a Link

If you have added a valuable link to your disavow file, you can reavow that link by simply removing it from the list of links and submitting the new .txt file to the Google Disavow Tool.

About the author:
Jamie Bell operates All-In-One Web Design, a Web Design company in Dumfries. He has worked with a range of companies providing Web Design and other Digital services. In his free time, Jamie enjoys working on his other business, Airsoft Deals