There are many reasons why webmasters may wish to disavow backlinks. Such a move may be required to rectify the damage caused by a sloppily executed linkbuilding campaign, or they may need to disavow backlinks that have been placed by a competitor as part of a negative SEO attack.  Either way, Google’s disavow tool can help prevent sites from being penalized for poor quality (spammy) inbound links.

When possible it is always preferable to contact site owners and request they remove the offending link(s), but when webmasters are unavailable of unwilling to play ball disavowing the pages that contain the links (or the entire domain) is a good last resort option.


What Does the Disavow Tool Do?

The disavow tool lets webmasters tell Google to ignore links from certain pages or domains. The link will still exists and it will still show in reports generated by Google Webmaster Tools, but Google will treat it in a similar way to a nofollow link; so it will not pass on page rank and therefore cannot be regarded as an attempt to spam the search engine.

How to Disavow Backlinks with Google Webmaster Tools

 Step 1

Log into Google Webmaster tools and select the required site.

Step 2

Look for the “Search Traffic” link at the left of the page. Click it and select “Links to Your Site” from the dropdown menu.

Disavow Backlinks Tutorial: Step 2

Step 3

Look for “Who Links the Most” and click the “more” link.

 Disavow Backlinks Tutorial: Step 3

Step 4

Click the “Download More Sample Links” Button


Step 5

When the pop-up box appears select the “CSV” option and then download the file.

Disavow Backlinks Tutorial: Step 5

Step 6

Open the file with excel, Open Office Calc, or your preferred choice of software then search for the links that need to be disavowed and copy them to a simple text document (must be .txt and be encoded in UTF-8 or 7-bit ASCII).

When single pages need to be disavowed only a list of URLs will be required. If an entire domain needs to be disavowed the word “domain” will be required followed by a colon and the URL of the required domain (as underlined in the picture below). Hash tags are used to provide extra information, but this is useful for personal reference only. Google ignores it.

Disavow Backlinks Tutorial: Step 6

Step 7

Go to the disavow links tool and select the required site from the dropdown menu.

 Disavow Backlinks Tutorial: Step 7

Step 8

Click “disavow links.

Disavow Backlinks Tutorial: Step 8

Step 9

Select the simple text file you have just created and upload it.


Further Considerations

  • There is no need to disavow rel no follow links
  • It can take a while before links are disavowed
  • There is a size limit to the disavow file (2 megabytes)
  • Each time a disavow file is uploaded it replaces any existing file so the old file should be kept as a template and added to as required.
  • Links can be reavowed by removing them from the file and reuploading it.