How and Why to Disavow Toxic Links

It’s often said that your backlink profile is the most significant factor in how search engines rank sites. So, what can help more to improve your backlink profile than removing bad or toxic ones?

Well, now Google’s John Mueller is saying something a little different.

While disavowing links is still a significant part of a website’s rank, some ways exist to use the disavow tool more effectively. Knowing which links need to be disavowed is where professional SEO companies can help you. Contact us to analyze which links you should keep and which must go could establish a significant lift for your brand.


During a recent Google announcement, Mueller answered a question about disavowing links. After a user disavowed links to old products on his eCommerce site, he experienced a drop in rankings and traffic. He wanted to know if adding the links back would improve his ranks.

Mueller responded that the user should add them back, saying, “If you are just doing site maintenance, changing things on your website, that wouldn’t be a case where you’d need to disavow your backlinks.” He said, “Disavowing backlinks is mostly for cases where problematic links point to your page.”

But what does he mean by problematic links? Allow us to delve into this more to provide an actionable guide to how you can effectively disavow links to improve your web ranks.

The disavow tool can be a potent tool that Google offers, allowing you to increase your site’s rankings. It can remove tons of toxic links weighing your site’s rankings down from reaching the top.

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It’s easy to get carried away with the disavow tool. Finding links that are only somewhat appropriate for your site and disavowing them could harm your rankings instead of the expected positive affect.

Let’s take, for example, a link on a blog that wasn’t purely spam. The blog contained articles related to your business, yet you felt they included too many links on the page and asked Google to disavow it. This could lead to a drop in rankings.

Conversely, say there was a blog containing spammy topics and links you didn’t want your brand to be associated with, and you asked Google to disavow that link. This would usually lead to increased rankings.

According to Mueller, the disavow tool shouldn’t be used indiscriminately. Links made from content farms or spam pages should be a high priority. They should be removed without hesitation of the benefit that can directly affect your potential to rank or, worse, by getting a penalty. You don’t want to be involved in black hat linking projects at all, no matter how many links you could get. One thing to note is that although a link may be on a page that isn’t directly related to the content on your site if it’s from a trusted source, this doesn’t mean it’s a bad link, and should not be disavowed.

Remember that Google PageRank scores pages based on the quality of the links pointing back to you. That means links from disreputable sources are prime targets for being disavowed.

2. Companies change, but your site’s value should not.

It’s normal for the direction of a company to change over time. As this happens, links that once were related to your site’s content now become outdated. So the question remains, what do I do with these obsolete links?

This is the question Mueller answered above and said NOT to disavow the links. Link juice comes from these unrelated links because they are from trusted sources. So, their value remains even though they are linked to outdated content. They explain the history of your company and build value, so you should leave them alone.

Don’t remove months or years’ worth of value by disavowing old links. It’s normal for companies to “change their focus”, as Mueller put it. If you do disavow the links, you can expect a drop in your rankings.

So we know links that appear to be from black hat sources such as link schemes and content farms should be disavowed and that links from trusted sources, though they may be unrelated to your company’s current focus, should be left.

This means that you need to monitor your backlink profile very carefully. On its Disavow Backlinks page, Google states that you should be “confident that the links are causing issues for you” before disavowing them. The disavow tool should only be used in cases where the links are causing penalties; Google can figure out what to do with the rest of the links.

Now that we know which links need to be removed, let’s get down to how to eliminate them. First, we assess your backlink profile using tools such as Google Webmaster Tools. This gives us a complete list of all the links pointing to your site. Then we look at the links, including their URLs and the anchor text, prioritizing which links should be removed first.

The next step is to contact the site owners with the offending links and ask them to remove or disavow the links. Doing this shows Google that we have already put in some effort to remove the links before creating the disavow request. After we do this, and before we disavow the links, we reach out two more times if they have not gotten back to us. This gives the site owners plenty of time to remove the links.

How to Use the Disavow Tool

Warning: this guide is for web experts only. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you could severely ruin your rankings on Google. We suggest contacting us for a free quote on how we can perform this service.

First, head over to Google Search Console and click links. Click export external links in the top right. Then click on either sample links or the latest links. You want to get as many links as possible, so use other tools such as Majestic, Moz, or ahrefs. is also good

Next, combine the links into one file and go through them individually. If you want to keep a link, you can write, keep next to it. If you want to remove a link, put it in a separate file, and you can even write remove next to it. You’ll want only to write the domain such as without www. replacing it with “domain:” in front of the toxic domains you want to remove. The file must be in plaintext, so you can copy it into Notepad if needed and save it.

To enter your new domain’s file into the disavow tool, select the domain you wish to remove links. Then click disavow links and upload your text file.

You’ll want to save this file because if you wish to add links to your disavow list, you’ll need all the original links, as the disavow file completely rewrites all the disavowed domains in your list.

The disavowing process doesn’t happen instantly. Google needs to recrawl all the URLs for the update to take effect. This process can take up to a year but usually not over a few months.

If you accidentally disavow a URL, you would like to include later, remove it from the disavow file and reupload it. This process takes even longer, with the purpose being to prevent people from cheating the system.

Still unsure how to tell the difference between a bad link and a terrible one?

We have removed over 20 Google manual penalties from our client base, so we have developed a methodology that involves scrutinizing each link to your site to tell whether it’s causing harm to your site’s health.

It can be challenging to tell a useful link from a bad one, so it’s best to leave disavowing links to the experts. Please leave it to SEO Inc.

[qa-schema question=”How do I disavow links?” answer=”While disavowing links is still a major part of a website’s rank, there are still some ways to use the disavow tool more effectively.
Knowing which links need to be removed is where professional SEO companies can come in to help you out. Contacting us to analyze which links you should keep and which ones need to go, could establish a major lift for your brand.”]

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