Can Disavowing Links that Google Doesn’t Report Hurt Your Site?

Published Mar 10, 2014 by Eric Sornoso in SEO
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After some of the latest Google updates, webmasters are taking a closer look at their backlink profile. In some cases, a full link audit is performed, but some webmasters aren’t looking that deep into their link profile.

A new tool has been released by Google, and webmasters can use it to tell Google to ignore certain links that point to their website. These links could be the result of a negative SEO campaign, or they could be a bunch of links from low-quality websites. Unfortunately, the Disavow tool is surrounded by a lot of misinformation.

The Danger

Webmasters need to understand the dangers of using the disavow tool. Although it was created and offered to webmasters with good intentions, it has the potential to destroy a website’s search engine rankings.

Many webmasters have used the disavow tool while knowing very little about links and SEO, and as a result, they’ve caused their website to lose massive visibility in Google. If a webmaster doesn’t know what links are bad or good, then it’s best to avoid using the disavow tool.

However, when used with adequate knowledge of links and SEO, the disavow tool has the potential to remove algorithmic penalties and safeguard search engine rankings.

A Look At the Disavow Tool

Before even thinking about using the disavow tool, it’s crucial that webmasters understand what the tool is, and they must also understand how it works. Fortunately, it’s very easy to understand why the tool should be used. Put simply, it can be used to clean up a website’s link profile.

When filled out and submitted correctly, the tool can tell Google to ignore undesirable links. For example, webmasters can use the tool to tell Google to ignore links from shady websites. Since we all know that backlinks impact search engine rankings, it only makes sense to monitor your website’s link profile.

With all of the latest Google updates, it has become painfully clear just how much damage can be caused by too many low-quality backlinks. However, webmasters need to understand that the disavow tool is not a magic bullet, and it must be used with extreme caution. Google has said that the disavow tool should be used as a last resort.

Why Webmasters Should Use the Disavow Tool


There are several reasons why webmasters might want to use the tool. One of the major reasons to use the tool is for preventive maintenance.

Many of the recent Google updates have penalized websites that have inorganic links. Put simply, these are links that are not considered to be natural, and they’re usually low-quality links. For example, these links can consist of blog comment spam, blog network links, links from low-quality article directories, footer link spam and paid links.

There is no doubt that inorganic links can harm a website’s search engine rankings, which is why they need to be disavowed. The disavow tool can be used for preventive maintenance because it can be used to tell Google to ignore inorganic links. By using the tool, webmasters can prevent their website from getting hit with a manual or algorithmic penalty.

Recovering From Penalties

Another major reason why webmasters might need to use the disavow tool is to recover from a penalty. Over time, thousands of websites have been hit with an algorithmic or manual penalty, which has devastating effects of search engine rankings.

The disavow tool can be used to tell Google to ignore links that are causing a penalty. In most cases, the disavow tool is most effective when used to disavow links that are causing an algorithmic penalty.

Google has said that the disavow tool should only need to be used by a small percentage of webmasters, and they also said that the tool should only be used by experienced webmasters because the average website owner could use the disavow tool and unintentionally cause serious harm to their website’s rankings.

How Many Links Does Google Report

For quite some time, Google has given webmasters a way to see how many links they have. Unfortunately, this method for checking links is very unreliable. In the past, it had even less accuracy than it has now.


One of the best backlink reporting tools that webmasters have is webmaster tools, which is a Google product. There is no doubt that Google has been trying to make their reporting more accurate, and the link reporting has certainly gotten better.

However, it’s still very inaccurate, and it will leave most webmasters scratching their head. Currently, webmaster tools can show a portion of backlinks that are pointing to a particular website. It’s true that Google has improved their services, and currently, webmaster tools shows significantly more incoming links than it used to show.

The problem is that it just doesn’t show the full picture. Google has even said that they only show a portion of the backlinks that they’ve found, and to this day, this fact remains true. Even with the existing link reporting tools, it’s nearly impossible to find every single backlink.

Can Disavowing Unseen Links Hurt My Site?

The main problem with the disavow tool is that Google doesn’t report all of the backlinks they’ve found. Webmasters want to know if disavowing unseen links will hurt their website.

It’s crucial to understand that Google doesn’t show all of the backlinks they’ve found, but that doesn’t mean that the hidden links are not affecting a website’s search engine rankings.

Put simply, Google usually knows about far more links than they care to share with webmasters, so although webmasters might think they know of links that Google doesn’t know about, it’s a real possibility that disavowing these links could harm a website’s search engine rankings.

Back To the Basics

We’ve established that disavowing links that Google doesn’t show has the potential to harm your website’s rankings, but it’s important to go back to the basics.

Webmasters need to understand that the disavow tool should only be used to remove toxic links, so if you’re using the tool for the purpose that it was intended for, you shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not disavowing unseen links is going to affect your search engine rankings.

The primary purpose of the tool is to remove links that could be harming your website’s rankings, so it doesn’t really matter if Google is reporting the toxic links or not. At the end of the day, webmasters shouldn’t fear the disavow tool.

When used correctly, it can be an extremely useful tool, and many SEO agencies have used the tool successfully to get penalties lifted from client websites.


Unfortunately, a lot of webmasters have made the mistake of hiring an unknowledgeable SEO company, which resulted in a campaign filled with hundreds of toxic links. The disavow tool is perfect for removing toxic links. Inexperienced webmasters should not attempt to use the tool if they don’t know what they’re doing.

There are many case studies that show the disavow tools being used to lift an algorithmic penalty, which was caused by an abundance of toxic incoming links, so there is no doubt that the tool works, but webmasters need to make sure that they know what they’re doing, or they need to hire knowledgeable professionals.

Written by Eric Sornoso

Eric Sornoso

Eric Sornoso is an avid learner and online marketing consulting. He runs Infographic Seeding and Fish Free Media, and is an author for several major SEO publications, including

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