11 Signs Your Website Could Use Google’s Disavow Tool

Published May 01, 2014 by Dan Virgillito in SEO
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Last year Google announced its disavow tool that allowed webmasters to remove links that harmed their ranking in search results. After Google’s Penguin 2.0 update last year, more attention was placed on removing backlinks that could hurt a site’s linking profile. As part of link audits, the disavow tool became an important step to making sure that you avoided penalties from the big search engine. The purpose was simple. If you have bad links in your link profile, the disavow tool allowed you to quickly clean them up. However, many webmasters realized that it wasn’t a cure for bad links, and it could even hurt sites that had legitimate links being removed with the disavow tool in order to avoid penalties. If you think that your site may be suffering from bad links, these are some signs to look for in case you want to use disavow to clean up your profile.

1. You Received a Manual Action

Google revealed that over 400,000 manual web spam actions are taken every month. While some manual actions can be appealed, it’s best to take action as quickly as possible. There are two types of penalties. One is manual, and the other is algorithmic. If you are hit by a manual penalty, the best way to remove links is through the disavow tool. Typically you’ll receive a message on your Webmaster Tools account when bad links have caused you to be penalized.

2. Your Webmaster Won’t Remove Bad Links For You

If you hired a webmsater to look after your site, you may think that they are in charge of removing your bad links, but if they won’t do it, the quickest way to get rid of these links is through the disavow tool. In addition, if you contact the webmaster of a site hosting your bad link, and they won’t remove that link, you should use the disavow tool.

3. You’ve Been Hit by Negative SEO

Negative SEO attacks are a real scare for any site owner. If you notice that your rankings have gone down and know that you haven’t put any bad links out there, then you may be the subject of a negative SEO attack. Google created the disavow tool to help prevent these kinds of attacks from taking over. It can be difficult to understand why another site wants to destroy your ranking, but chances are that it’s a competitor paying a company to attack your site with bad links.

4. You Find Links Pointing to Your Site That You Don’t Like

There are a few tools out there that you can use to spot bad links like Remove ‘Em. If you have a WordPress site, you can install a plugin like All in One SEO or Yoast’s SEO plugin tool to see what sites are linking to your site actively. If you don’t like these links or think they may get you pinged for spam, you should remove them as quickly as possible.

5. You Suffered a Link Bomb Attack


Link bomb attacks cause unnatural inbound link activity, which are typically enough to cause a penalty from Google. In addition, link bombs create duplicate pages to incur another penalty for duplicate content. You can quickly add these links to your disavow list, and if Google has already tried to penalize your site, you can appeal and show proof of the link bomb attack to have your site reviewed.

6. You’re Scared of Getting a Spam Report Against You

If you know that some of your links haven’t been all that innocent, it’s in your best interest to start removing spam links as soon as possible. You definitely don’t want to get a penalty if you can prevent it, but you also want to make sure that a link will be considered spam. You can use your Webmaster Tool account to get a list of links. It’s under “Search tools” and “Links to Your Site.” Open “Who Links Most,” and then click “Download Latest Links.” Any links that you don’t like in this list should be removed via the disavow tool.

7. Your Rankings Suddenly Dropped After Penguin

Following your traffic and ranking is important to understanding when you have been targeted by Google for bad links. If you notice that your ranking has dropped, then you should look at your link report to see if you have bad links. If you didn’t receive a penalty email, you can contact Google first to see if you are being targeted for penalties. Before you do that, you should remove any questionable links to show that you are following Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

8. You Placed Links on Spam Guest Blogs

Guest blogging isn’t a good idea anymore for many reasons, but one of the most obvious is because the practice allows for paid links. Google hates paid links and will penalize sites posting on guest blogs and paying for backlinks. If you have posted links on spam guest blogs in the past, you should definitely consider removing these backlinks before Google penalizes those blogs and finds your links on those sites.

9. A Site Auditor Told You to Remove Them

Site audits for links are a great idea if you don’t know how to find bad links or if your ranking has suddenly dropped. However, if a site auditor gives you a list of links that you should remove, you should check each one out individually and decide if you should remove them first. In some cases, a bad link may actually be a good link that gives you a decent amount of traffic. A site audit should provide you with reasons why certain links should be rather disavowed rather than kept.

10. You Removed Links But They Still Show Up In Your Profile


If you have used the disavow tool or requested that links be removed from sites and they are still appearing in your link report, then you may have to use the disavow tool again. It can take up to two weeks or more in some cases for links to be removed. If you have trouble using the disavow tool, the best practice is to talk to Google through live chat on your Webmaster Tools account.
11. Your Bad Links Are Keeping You Awake At Night

Everyone makes mistakes, and if you’re not sure about links in your company’s profile that you put out there, you can always have them quickly removed with the disavow tool. If any links are on your mind that much for their quality, they should be removed anyway. This is the best way to stay away from penalties and ensure that you are getting high quality traffic from good links that Google approves of.

The Google disavow tool is a great way to disassociate with spam and ensure that your site stays on top of search results. If you act quickly enough, you won’t receive penalties if you have become the victim of negative SEO attacks and bad backlinks. However, you should also consider each link that you disavow and know the difference between a spam link and a link that is just popular naturally.


Written by Dan Virgillito

Dan Virgillito

Dan Virgillito is a freelance content strategist with a passion for good storytelling and all things digital. He lived in the Netherlands, Poland, England and Sicily. Say hi on Twitter.

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