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How To Disavow Backlinks Correctly In 2022

A strong backlink profile is the backbone of good SEO.

If you don’t have one, it’s not going to be easy to rank for high-value keywords.

But to maintain a strong backlink profile you need to keep the bad links out. While Google’s algorithm is generally pretty good at ignoring bad backlinks, it’s not perfect.

Sometimes you just have to take matters into your own hands, so I will show you how to disavow backlinks the right way!

What Is A ‘Bad Backlink’?

The way I describe a bad backlink is simple…

A bad backlink is any link that Google believes you have built in order to purposely manipulate the Google search rankings.

If you receive that gruelling message from Google about unnatural backlinks – you have been penalised whether you were complicit in actively building the links or not.

All link building is against Google’s policies.

Building links is against Google guidelines

If they think you are building links to manipulate their algorithm, you could end up with a Google penalty. And, trust me, that’s not a place you want to be.

So how do you know which links Google will think are bad?

While there is no 100% way to know if a backlink is bad, there are some signs to look for.

How To Recognise A Bad Link

Just by looking at where a link is coming from, you can get an idea of its quality.

Bad links are:

  • Low domain authority
  • Site has explicit content
  • Spammy websites
  • Site is unrelated to the topic
  • Comes from a link farm
  • Too many links in the content

good links vs bad links

When it comes to link building, you need to err on the side of caution. That’s why my team uses a link building checklist to qualify every link before we even build it.

link building checklist

The checklist is a quality control measure to ensure that we only ever build high-quality links. But you can also use it to review every link in your backlink profile.

Download Link Building Checklist here.

It’s the easiest way to quickly see if any backlinks in your site’s profile are harmful or not.

3x Reasons To Disavow A Bad Backlink

Bad backlinks can cause real problems for your site.

You don’t want to end up with any of these issues crushing your SEO.

1. Avoid Traffic (And Rankings) Drop

Millions of websites are affected by bad backlinks.

In some cases, they are easy to identify but in other cases – not so much.

Here’s what I mean:

Good external backlinks help create trust with Google.

A quality backlink from a well-known site tells Google that you are trustworthy and you naturally start to gain higher rankings in the SERPs.

Bad backlinks have the opposite effect.

If you have lots of bad and spammy backlinks pointing at your site, Google may start to believe that your website is also spammy.

This will lower the:

  • Authority
  • Trust

…of your site in Google’s eyes. That’s why you need to know how to disavow backlinks.

Google may not hand you a penalty for having lots of spammy links, but they may stop ranking some of your content in the SERPs.

This could lead to an overall drop in traffic or your traffic may start to plateau.

google penalty recovery graph

Either way, bad backlinks can affect your website growth. Disavowing removes the links that could damage your online reputation and prevents them from affecting your rankings.

Remember:

When it comes to links…

You need to err on the side of caution. Remove and disavow links that are bad and you’re steps ahead in protecting your site rankings.

2. Avoid Google Penalties

Take it from me…

Google penalty recovery is hard work.

Once Google penalises your site, it can take months of continuous SEO work to bounce back from it. This is a difficult and time-consuming process.

Your best bet is to avoid Google penalties altogether.

Bad and dodgy backlinks can cause two types of penalties:

  1. Manual penalties
  2. Algorithmic penalties

Manual penalties result from a member of the Google webspam team reviewing your website and manually choosing to hand out a penalty.

Google Penalty Illustration

This is usually done after the team member reviews your link acquisition habits.

Algorithmic penalties automatically come from Google’s algorithm.

The algorithm looks at your:

  • Link profile
  • Anchor text
  • Recent links
  • Sites that link you
  • Link acquisition history

If it thinks you are building links to manipulate the algorithm, you could be hit with a penalty. So, to avoid link penalties, you need to remove bad backlinks.

Your goal is to have a clean backlink profile that only contains relevant, high-quality links that look natural in the eyes of Google.

Disavowing the bad links and only keeping good links is the best way to avoid Google penalties altogether.

3. Address A Google Penalty

The last reason to disavow backlinks is to remove a link penalty.

If you have been hit with a manual link penalty from the Google webspam team, you’ll get a notification inside of Google Search Console like this:

google search console manual action message

The notification will tell you-

  1. Why you received the penalty
  2. What the penalty means

You should also be able to determine what you need to do to remove the penalty. If it’s a link penalty, removing specific links can help.

Algorithmic penalties are different.

You don’t receive any notifications. The only way to determine you have been hit with an algorithmic penalty is by the symptoms it causes.

The symptoms usually include a drop in search traffic and rankings-

search traffic drop example

One of the first things you’ll need to do is a complete backlink audit to identify any backlinks that could be causing a penalty.

Sometimes that even includes removing backlinks that you might have paid link building services to build for you.

Building dodgy or unnatural links is one of the biggest causes of algorithmic penalties.

If you are using a link building service, ensure that they have a strong reputation for building only high-quality links like LinksThat Rank.

Otherwise, you can end up in the painful world of Google penalties.

What Happens When You Disavow A Backlink?

What exactly does a link disavow do?

Disavowing a backlink is done in Google Search Console.

Think of it like a request you make to Google to ignore certain links. You are basically asking Google NOT to associate your site with the link.

If your disavow request is successful, the backlink won’t be counted for or against your site when the algorithm determines your site’s rankings in the search result.

But be aware…

Google is NOT obligated to honour your request for a link to be disavowed.

Submitting links to be disavowed are treated as suggestions. Google may agree with your suggestion or not.

That’s just the way it is.

In saying that, Google also describes the disavow links tool within Google Search Console as a way to fix bad link practices or undo poor SEO work.

So in most cases, you expect Google to honour your disavow request.

Is It Possible To Undo A Link Disavow?

Yes, it is possible to undo a link disavow.

You can go into Google Search Console and delete the link from the disavow file that you previously uploaded.

Google’s Search Advocate, John Mueller has said publicly that this will work.

john mueller tweets

But it’s not clear whether Google holds onto a copy of your disavow file – even if you delete it on Google Search Console.

The point is that when you submit a link disavow, you are notifying Google of a potential problem. You are placing it in their hands to deal with the situation.

If you come back later and try to undo the disavow, Google will again treat it as a suggestion. There is no guarantee that removing the link from the disavow file will reinstate the link as a factor in your rankings.

That’s why you need to be careful with the links you choose to disavow.

How To Disavow Backlinks For Free?

Ready to get rid of the bad backlinks from your link profile?

This 3 step process will show you exactly how to disavow backlinks that could be hurting your SEO.

Step 1: Define Which Links Need To Be Disavowed

Before I show you how to disavow backlinks…

You first need to know which links you should be removing. You must be absolutely positive about the links you are disavowing before starting the process.

Why?

If you disavow a link that is helping your website SEO, you could see a significant drop in traffic and search rankings.

Bottom line – Define which links need to be disavowed and get it right the first time.

So what makes a bad backlink?

Lower domain rating links tend to be the most spammy. You should be able to see bad links just by the domain and URL they are coming from.

Look for backlinks that are low-quality or suspicious such as:

  • Anything you don’t recognise
  • Foreign-language websites (e.g. .ru, .dk domains, etc)
  • .xyz domains
  • Low-quality wiki pages
  • Article directories
  • Backlinks with [empty anchors]

russian language filter ahrefs

But remember… Even if a link looks super-dodgy, always check it out manually before making a judgment call.

Use the link building checklist as an aid to help you define and identify the bad backlinks in your link profile.

Step 2: Create Your List Of Links To Disavow

Now you know how to identify a bad backlink, it’s time to create a list of links to disavow.

While you can manually review every backlink your website has, this will take a long time. You need to take advantage of SEO tools to speed up the process.

There are two tools that I use for this job:

The Backlink Blacklist is a database made up of over 60,000+ blacklisted domains.

Simply copy and paste all of your backlinks into the tool and it will tell you if any of them are blacklisted.

backlink blacklist

You can even see the reason why it was blacklisted with proof!

Next is Monitor Backlinks. Signup for the Monitor Backlinks free trial and get Monitor Backlinks to crawl your backlink profile.

monitor backlinks

This is the best tool for creating a list of links to disavow.

1. Disavow Backlinks That Aren’t In Google’s Index

If a backlink isn’t in Google’s index, it could be a brand new site or has been banned due to a Google penalty.

Either way…

You don’t want these links pointing at your website.

In Monitor Backlinks, click on ‘Filters’ and click “Domain and Page not indexed”.

domains not indexed

This will bring up all of your backlinks from websites that aren’t in the Google index.

Add a tag to these links by clicking on the settings icon on the right side. Use a tag like “remove” to easily find them later.

2. Disavow Backlinks With Low Page Rank Or No Domain Authority

Next, you need to check for links that have no authority.

Click on ‘PR’ and then choose to view only domains with PageRank 0.

domains with pagerank zero

Tag each of these links with the same “remove” tag as before.

Now filter each of your links by domain authority. You want to choose links with a Domain Authority of 10 and below.

domain authority sorting

Tag these as well.

3. Disavow Backlinks From Spammy Blog Networks

There’s no secret that Google hates backlinks from blog networks.

You want to get these out of your backlink profile as quickly as possible. If you have a big site, you may have even experienced a negative SEO attack.

Disavowing links will help protect your SEO and fend off the negative SEO attack.

Find backlinks from blog networks or websites using the same hosting IP by checking the ‘IP’ column.

blog networks

You can see that the number in the image indicates how many backlinks the website has from that unique IP.

This is very likely to be a blog network.

4. Disavow Bad Backlinks By Top Level Domain

A top-level domain (TLD) can be a great way to remove bad backlinks.

If you run a local business website in the UK and have tons of backlinks from sites located in India, Pakistan, or Russia – this could cause a problem. From Google’s perspective, it doesn’t make sense to have these links in your backlink profile.

Use Monitor Backlinks to filter each link by TLD. Tag the links that need to be disavowed.

5. Run Each link Through The Link Building Checklist

If you haven’t already, download the link building checklist.

Ideally, you want to compare each link you tagged with “remove” to this checklist. It’s always a good idea to manually review links before disavowing them.

That way you can be confident that you are only removing bad backlinks.

Step 3: Upload Your Disavow List .txt File To Google Search Console

Monitor Backlinks makes it easy to create a disavow list to upload into Google Search Console.

Select the backlinks you have tagged with “remove” and click “With Selected”, then “Disavow Domains”.

create link disavow report

This will create a disavow report with all the backlinks you have tagged to remove.

Head over to the Google Disavow Tool and select your domain from the property list.

google disavow tool

Now you’ll need to upload the .txt file you created with Monitor Backlinks and wait for Google to process the list.

How Long Does It Take For Google To Process Disavow Links?

It can take Google anywhere from a few days to 2-3 months before they start disavowing links. There are a number of factors that will determine how long it takes.

Generally, you should start to see the effects of link disavow within 1 month.

If you are suffering from negative SEO attacks or spammy links damaging your rankings, it’s worth hiring a specialist SEO agency to handle it for you.

Google Penalty Recovery Service

You can reach out to my SEO team at Search Logistics to help you solve any backlink SEO issues, including Google penalty recovery.

Wrapping It Up

There you have it.

A step-by-step process on how to disavow backlinks.

If your website has a large backlink profile, you must regularly do backlink audits to ensure that you are removing and disavowing bad links.

Use the 3x steps above to quickly disavow links that are hurting your website SEO or could cause some damage in the future.

This will keep you in Google’s good books and your website SEO strong in the long run.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I disavow backlinks?

The way to disavow backlinks is by uploading a disavow file in Google Search Console. You first need to identify which links you are going to disavow. Then create a disavow file containing the links. Login into Google Search Console and upload the file.

Do I need to disavow links?

No, you don’t need to disavow every spammy link that you find. Google is pretty good at identifying dodgy links and not counting them towards your search rankings. But disavowing links is generally recommended if you want to take matters into your own hands. Disavowing bad links ensures that they don’t affect your website in any way.

What does Google’s link disavow tool do?

The Google disavow tool is part of the Google Search Console. It allows website owners to stop backlinks from affecting their SEO and prevent link-based Google penalties. Disavowing a link tells Google that you don’t want to be associated with a specific website.

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