What is the Disavow Tool and When Should You Use It?

The more relevant sites that link back to your website, the higher your ranking will be – or so we think. The problem comes when irrelevant sites keep linking to you, or you start getting links from dangerous websites with bad reputations. These links can have a serious impact on your ranking, which is why Google released the “Disavow” tool as a method for helping you to tell Google which links it shouldn’t count as being connected to your site.

Basically, the Google Disavow tool is your way to save your rankings from disaster, and even undo past SEO mistakes. However, that doesn’t make it a cure-all for any SEO problems you might have. Here, we’re going to look at when you should use the Disavow tool for your website.

When to Use the Disavow Tool

Using the disavow tool won’t be necessary for every situation. However, there are some circumstances that will make “disavowing” links more appropriate. For instance:

  • When you receive a penalty warning: If Google believes that there are unnatural links pointing to your website, you’ll need to disavow them. Unnatural links could be spammy links that you bought in the past, or malicious attempts to damage your ranking from a competitor.
  • You took a hit with an algorithm update: An algorithmic penalty can have a serious impact on your website. If you’ve experienced a significant drop in traffic due to a change in algorithm, there’s a good chance that dangerous backlinks are to blame.
  • If you have an authority website: If you’ve earned an authority reputation for your website, then you should be looking at the Disavow tool whenever someone that could damage your reputation starts linking back to you. If you have an authority website, there’s a good chance that you’ll end up with a lot of low-quality links from people trying to piggy-back on your authority.
  • You’ve had problems in the past: If you’ve been naughty with your linking practices in the past, Google is going to find out at some point. Using the Disavow tool will help you to remove dangerous links before you end up with an algorithmic hit or manual warning.

Request Removal, then Disavow

Perhaps the most important rule in using Google Disavow, is that you shouldn’t use the tool unless you’ve already tried to remove the link first. This is the only way you should go about doing things. First, begin by removing the links by requesting a removal from the offending webmaster. If you’ve attempted this and have been unsuccessful, you can go through the disavow process.

Be sure you keep a record of the disavow process. We recommend using a service for the removal request, or creating a detailed record of information on every piece of webmaster contact information you might gather. This is what the process should look like:

  • Find the offending link by going into Google Webmaster Tools > Search Traffic > Links> Who Links Most and “download more sample links”.
  • Look into the link and find contact information for the webmaster.
  • Contact the webmaster and request removal.
  • Wait for a reasonable degree of time
  • Reach out again to request removal
  • If there’s no response, start the disavow process.
  • The Disavow file should be .txt file
  • It should be coded using 7-bit ASCII or UTF-8
  • Each line should contain a single domain or link

Closing Thoughts on the Disavow Process

Importantly, it’s worth remembering that the Disavow tool isn’t a cure-all for all your SEO problems. It’s not going to give you all the ranking you’ve ever dreamed of, but it is one of the tools that you should definitely use to improve site SEO.

While it’s always more exciting to see backlinks appear from content marketing, there will always be a chance that you end up with backlinks that you’d rather not have. If you end up with links that are damaging your website, then the Disavow tool is what you need.


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