Disavow is a word of common English, however a Google images search for ‘disavow’ will bombard you with images relating to Google Disavow tool only. So what’s the Google disavow tool? And how can it aid you in your SEO efforts?


I have used the tool myself to disavow a number of links, and from my personal experience, yes the tool works. But it’s no magic wand.

Why do I need the Google Disavow tool?

Google keeps updating its ranking algorithm on a continuous basis. A major part of this ranking algorithm is evaluation of the inbounds links flowing into each website. Although there are 200 different factors that decide the ranking of a website on Google SERP, inbound links and their quality is a relatively major factor. Many a times you might end up with an inbound link to your website, that’s of a poor quality as per Google. In this case, when Google discovers such poor quality links, it might penalize you either via a manual or algorithmic penalty. If you are penalized due to poor quality inbound links disavow tool is what can help you.

How does it work? 

You submit a list of inbounds links which you would like disavow, to Google. Google goes through this list manually, if it feels you have done your part right, it might accept your submission and inform you of the same.  In case of manual penalty, Google will inform you if it accepts your disavow submission and lifts the penalty. In case of an algorithmic penalty, Google may/may not inform you of acceptance of the disavow submission, however if Google has accepted and processed the request, your website will be able to notice ranking change in the next algorithmic update.

When should I use Google Disavow Tool?

  • If you have received a manual penalty notice in your Google webmaster account
  • If you have received unnatural links warning
  • If your website has been hit by Penguin update
  • You are  a victim of ‘Negative SEO’


  1. Get your Backlink Profile

Google recommends downloading your Latest Links report directly from Webmaster Tools. However the number of backlinks you will get from this report are limited. In order to ensure a more comprehensive backlink profile for your website you can use one or many tools from amongst; ahrefs, majestic seo, opensiteexplorer, Screamingfrog and many more. Download your backlinks data from as many avenues as possible.

2.  Find the Rouge Links:

Collect all the downloaded backlinks into 1 excel sheet, clean them for duplicates. Now finally you are looking at your websites backlinks profile. To find the bad/rouge links from amongst these you can either do a manual analysis or use one of the link removal research tools like Link Detox, Remove’em, etc. Finally as an end product you should have a list of the bad links linking to your website.

3.  Get your Mailer working:

Collect contact information of webmasters of the website which are hosting the bad link coming in to your website. Design a link removal request mail and get sending it to all the webmaster whose website are sending you the bad links. Some of the webmasters (approx 5- 10%) might comply with your request, others might either turn it down or ignore your mail.

4.  Reorganize:

Review your bad links list, and segregate from amongst them the links which the webmasters have removed after you sent them the removal request mail. Now the links that are still in place, is the list of links that’s you need to put up in the Google Disavow tool

5. The moment has arrived – Google Disavow Tool:

Log onto your Google Webmasters account and go to the disavow tool.  Once here, you will be greeted by this screen. In case you use this Google webmaster account for more than 1 site, you can select the site for which you want to disavow links from the drop down menu. Next click on disavow links


Now comes up the page for uploading your disavow links file. 

google_disavowBefore uploading ensure that your file:

  • Is in .txt format only
  • Is encoded in either UTF-8 or 7-bit ASCII only
  • Contains only one link per line
  • If you want Google to ignore all links from an entire domain (like example.com), add the line “domain:example.com”
  • Any extra information besides the links/domains to be disavowed should begin with # character
  • Contains only the links to be disavowed

Sample of Valid Disavow file:

goolge_disavow_file_validAdvice: In case you have too many bad links from a domain, disavow the entire domain. Do not nitpick for the very bad links from bad links, such tactic will not help your cleanup efforts.


Google Disavow Tool is a useful addition by Google. Use it to aid your SEO efforts. do not rely on it alone to clean up your act for you and get you back to your former glory.

Use it, and then work yourself to build relevant and quality links, with the requisite link diversity. These will build your website trust and send right signals to Google.

Infographic – Google disavow tool

Google_disavow_toolFAQs on Google Disavow Tool

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