How to Disavow Backlinks That Are Hurting Your SEO

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In the world of online marketing and improving how your website shows up on Google, backlinks are super important. Backlinks are like endorsements from other websites, showing that they trust and like your content. When good-quality websites link to yours, it helps your site rank higher on search engines, which means more people can find it. 

But here’s the catch: bad or spammy backlinks can hurt your website’s ranking and make it look bad. That’s where disavowing backlinks comes in. In this guide, we’ll explain why backlinks matter, how they can help or hurt your website, and how to get rid of the bad ones to make your site perform better online. 

Let’s get started on the path to improving your online presence, step by step.

Identifying Harmful Backlinks

Identifying Harmful Backlinks​

There are a few approaches you may take to identify toxic backlinks that lower your site’s authority and search engine rankings. Google’s Search Console is a great place to start because it provides data on your site’s traffic and links.


It could warn you about potentially dangerous websites. Tools like Ahrefs, Moz, and SEMrush provide in-depth information on your backlinks and can highlight the problematic ones for you. Last but not least, you can examine each inbound link individually to determine its quality, relevance, and potential for spamminess. You may improve your website’s search engine optimisation and reputation by identifying the problematic backlinks utilising these techniques.

Why Disavow Is Necessary

Disavowing harmful backlinks is absolutely necessary to keep your website in good shape in the world of online search. If you ignore these bad backlinks, it can lead to some serious problems. Google, the big boss of online visibility, cares a lot about the quality of the websites that link to yours. 


If you don’t take action against those harmful backlinks, Google might punish your website, causing it to drop in search rankings. This means fewer people will find your site, which can hurt your business or your audience. 


Toxic backlinks can also damage your website’s reputation, making both users and other trustworthy websites hesitant to connect with you. So, disavowing these harmful links is crucial to protect your website and keep it on the right track for online success.

Here is a graph showing the top reasons for disavowing links.

top reasons for disavowing links

This graph shows that spammy links are the most common reason for disavowing links, followed by unnatural link profiles and negative SEO.

Google's Disavow Tool

Google's Disavow Tool​

Google’s Disavow Tool is one of the most important tools that any SEO expert or website owner can have. The main goal of this tool is to give users the power to take charge of their backlink profile by removing damaging or toxic backlinks. By using Google Search Console, website owners can tell Google which backlinks they don’t want to count toward their site’s image and ranking. 


In cases where you’ve found low-quality or fake backlinks that could hurt your website’s SEO, this is especially important. You can restore control over your website’s backlink profile by using the Disavow Tool wisely. 


This helps protect its integrity and improve its search engine performance. It is an important tool for anyone who wants to have a healthy and successful online profile.

Creating a Disavow File

Creating a disavow file is a fundamental step in the process of managing harmful backlinks and safeguarding your website’s SEO health. The disavow file serves as your official list of URLs or domains that you want to disavow or disassociate from your website. To create one, follow these steps:


1. Open a Text Editor: Start by opening a plain text editor like Notepad (Windows) or TextEdit (Mac). Avoid using word processors like Microsoft Word, as they may add formatting that’s not compatible with the disavow tool.


2. Specify the Domain or URL: In the text file, you’ll list the specific URLs or domains you want to disavow. Each entry should be on a separate line.


3. Use the Proper Syntax: To disavow a specific URL, simply list the full URL, like this: To disavow an entire domain and all its subdomains, use this format: This will disavow all links from that domain.


4. Add Comments (Optional): You can also add comments to your disavow file to provide context or notes for yourself or others who may review it later. Comments start with a “#” symbol, like this: # This is a comment explaining why this link is disavowed.


5. Save in .txt Format: When you’ve listed all the URLs or domains you want to disavow and added any necessary comments, save the file with a .txt extension. For example, you could name it disavow-file.txt.


6. Upload to Google Search Console: After creating the disavow file, log in to your Google Search Console account and navigate to the “Disavow Links” tool. Follow the prompts to upload your disavow file. Google will then use this file as a reference when assessing your backlink profile.


Remember, it’s crucial to be cautious and selective when disavowing backlinks. Only disavow links that are genuinely harmful or spammy. Overusing the disavow tool or incorrectly formatting your disavow file can have unintended consequences. Regularly monitor your backlinks and update your disavow file as needed to ensure the continued health of your website’s SEO.

Uploading the Disavow File

Uploading the disavow file to Google Search Console is a crucial step in managing your website’s backlink profile effectively. 


Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you through the process:


  • Log in to your Google Search Console account. Ensure that you have already added and verified the website for which you want to disavow backlinks.
  • From the dashboard, choose the specific property (website) you want to work on. It’s important to select the correct property to ensure the disavow file is applied to the right website.
  • In the left-hand menu, click on “Security & Manual Actions” and then select “Disavow Links.” This will take you to the Disavow Links tool.
  • If you have multiple properties, you’ll see a dropdown menu at the top of the page. Select the website you want to work with.
  • In the Disavow Links tool, you’ll find a button that says “Disavow Links.” Click on it to proceed.
  • You’ll now have the option to upload your disavow file. Click on the “Choose file” button, locate your disavow file (in .txt format), and select it.
  • After selecting your file, click on the “Submit” button. Google will then process your disavow file and apply the disavowals to your website’s backlink profile.
  • Once the file is submitted, you’ll receive a confirmation message indicating that your disavow file has been successfully uploaded.
  • Keep an eye on the “Disavow Links” tool to ensure that your disavowals are correctly applied. It may take some time for Google to process the changes.

Valid Reasons for Disavowing

Disavowing backlinks is a strategic move that should be grounded in valid and well-justified reasons. There are several instances where disavowing becomes not just prudent but essential for maintaining your website’s SEO health. 


One common reason is when you’re dealing with low-quality directories that serve no real value to users and are primarily intended for link manipulation. Similarly, spammy forums that inundate your site with irrelevant or unrelated links can be detrimental, as they tarnish your online reputation and provide no meaningful engagement. Additionally, backlinks from irrelevant websites that have no thematic connection to your content can dilute your website’s authority and confuse search engines. 


Also, links from potentially penalized or suspicious sources demand disavowal to avoid being associated with unscrupulous practices. In essence, the key to effective disavowal lies in identifying these valid reasons and taking decisive action to protect and enhance your website’s SEO standing.

Documentation and Records

Maintaining meticulous documentation and records of disavowed backlinks is an often underestimated but critical aspect of effective backlink management. These records should include not only the list of disavowed URLs or domains but also the dates on which the disavowals were made and clear, concise reasons for each disavowal. 


This documentation serves as a robust safeguard, primarily in scenarios where reconsideration requests become necessary. If, for any reason, Google flags your website or imposes a manual penalty, having a well-organized record of disavowed links can be immensely valuable. It provides transparency and evidence of your proactive efforts to rectify any past issues. 


This transparency can strengthen your case when seeking reconsideration and help expedite the process of reinstating your website’s SEO rankings and reputation. 


In summary, maintaining comprehensive records of disavowed backlinks is a prudent practice that can save you time and trouble in the long run, ensuring your website remains in good standing in the ever-evolving landscape of SEO.

Reconsideration Requests


If Google has manually penalized your website owing to problems with your backlink profile, you have the option of submitting a reconsideration request. Restoring your website’s standing in the search engines and credibility may depend on this procedure.


Here are the key steps involved in crafting a compelling reconsideration request:


  • Acknowledge the Issue: Start by acknowledging the penalty and demonstrating your understanding of the problem. Google appreciates honesty and transparency, so admit to any mistakes or shortcomings.
  • Identify the Problem: Clearly specify the issues that led to the penalty. Explain which backlinks or practices violated Google’s guidelines and why they were problematic.
  • Document Your Actions: Describe the actions you’ve taken to rectify the issues. This could include efforts to remove or disavow harmful backlinks, improve content quality, or enhance your website’s overall user experience.
  • Provide Evidence: Back up your claims with evidence. Offer details of your disavow file, show email correspondence with website owners requesting link removals, or highlight changes made to your website.
  • Prevent Future Violations: Outline the measures you’ve implemented to prevent similar violations in the future. This could involve setting up ongoing monitoring of your backlink profile or implementing stricter content guidelines.
  • Express Commitment: Reiterate your commitment to adhering to Google’s guidelines moving forward. Show your dedication to maintaining a clean and compliant website.
  • Be Concise and Polite: Keep your request concise and to the point. Avoid unnecessary details or long explanations. Maintain a polite and professional tone throughout.
  • Submit through Google Search Console: Use Google Search Console to submit your reconsideration request. Provide all the necessary information and submit your request.
  • Monitor Progress: After submission, monitor your Google Search Console account for updates on your request. Google will review your case and communicate its decision.

It’s important to remember that Google takes reconsideration requests seriously, so it’s crucial to be thorough and honest in your submission. Keep in mind that the process may take some time, but a well-crafted request can significantly increase your chances of having the penalty lifted and restoring your website’s SEO standing.

Seeking Professional Assistance

Seeking professional assistance for backlink analysis and disavowal can be a wise move if you find the process too complex or overwhelming. Professional SEO experts, specialized in backlink management, can offer valuable insights, experience, and expertise to navigate the intricacies of disavowing harmful backlinks effectively. 


They have the tools, knowledge, and resources to identify toxic backlinks, assess their impact, and craft a disavow strategy tailored to your specific needs. This not only saves you time and effort but also ensures that the disavow process is executed accurately, reducing the risk of unintended consequences. 


So, if you’re grappling with the complexities of managing your backlink profile, don’t hesitate to reach out to seasoned professionals who can help safeguard your website’s SEO health and performance.


In conclusion, removing damaging backlinks is not only a good idea, it’s also an important part of modern SEO management. We’ve talked about what backlinks are and how they can help or hurt your website’s results. We’ve also talked about how to find and remove links that are hurting your site. As we’ve seen, these steps are very important for protecting the integrity, image, and search engine performance of your website. 


You can protect your online presence and set yourself up for continued growth and success by constantly managing your backlink profile and keeping an eye out for harmful links. Remember that disavowal is your friend when it comes to keeping your website healthy and running well in the ever-changing world of SEO.

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