Glossary | 3 mins
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Disavowing is the act of asking Google to ignore backlinks which may be having a negative impact on a site’s search rankings (toxic backlinks). This is done through the Disavow Search Console tool, and is an SEO housekeeping task.
Disavowed links tend to come from low authority referring domains, and often show crossover with black hat SEO techniques. Some of the more common types of links that are flagged for disavowal include links from spammy, low quality sites, bought links, and links from sites identified as being part of a PBN.
Because these kinds of links can hurt your rankings and limit the effects of any SEO work you carry out, it’s essential for SEOs to keep a close eye on the state of their backlink profile.
How to Disavow Backlinks
The first step in disavowing backlinks is to carry out a backlink audit. Most good SEO tools like Ahrefs and SEMRush have tools that will automatically review any links pointing to your domain and flag them for signs of toxicity.
You may also want to check your backlink profile manually and target certain links that are being missed by your audit tool, such as links from referring domains with very low authority or with a vague topical relationship to your site’s content.
Once you’ve got a list of the links you’d like to disavow, you’ll need to arrange these links in a .txt file formatted for submission through Google Search Console’s Disavow Tool.
These .txt files need to be written according to two simple, but important rules:
- Every address listed needs to appear on a separate line.
- Every address listed should be preceded by “domain:”
An example entry in a .txt disavow file might look like this:
- Domain: domain:spamdirectory.com
Once your file is complete (and double-checked!), you can navigate to the Disavow Tool in Google Search Console and select the domain that you wish to disavow links for. This will show you a button saying “upload disavow list”, or, if Google already has a disavow file on your site, “Replace”. In the latter instance, be sure to save a copy of the old disavow file for reference and backup.
Once these links are successfully disavowed on Google, they’ll cease to have any impact on your site’s organic rankings, whether positive or negative.
What does disavowing backlinks do?
When you disavow backlinks, it sends a signal to Google that you no longer want to have links from certain pages or domains to influence your rankings. After a successful disavowal, Google will stop using the disavowed links in its ranking algorithm, and any influence they have on your rankings (whether positive or negative) will be negated.
Is it worth disavowing backlinks?
In recent years, Google’s algorithm has been developed to become better at recognising black hat SEO tactics and toxic backlinks. Though Google will automatically discount many of these harmful links anyway, it’s still good practice to proactively manage your backlink profile and to manually remove links that could be dragging down your potential to rank.
Questions to ask your link builder