Google’s Disavow Tool: What to Do Before You Start
Every business owner dreams of seeing their website on top of search engine result pages. Still, sometimes small mistakes may result in harsh penalties that can turn your otherwise successful website into a barren landscape.
Backlinks have been a strong signal of a website’s authority and trustworthiness since the dawn of the World Wide Web, and they are always held as a prominent ranking signal by Google and other search engines.
However, sometimes, people try to trick search engines by adding spammy links that don’t add value. Link penalty can also spell doom for your online business. There are many examples where websites went from boom to doom within a few days because of a Google penalty.
If your website is a crucial part of your business, you must regularly monitor your link profile to avoid unforeseen penalties due to toxic links. If a penalty has accidentally hit you, there is no need to panic, as Google must already work on it.
However, you can manually remove many such toxic links using Google’s Disavow Tool. It will save your website from losing its ranking or traffic.
Link building is considered crucial for SEO and content marketing. Marketing teams celebrate every time they achieve a milestone regarding the number of links added to their websites. These backlinks act as online billboards for your business. The more links you have, the better it is for your website because Google takes it as a sign of trustworthiness and value you offer. Along with quantity, link quality is also crucial for search engine rankings.
There are certain types of links that the search engines really dislike and they need to be removed as soon as possible. As a standard rule, you should invalidate links that look spammy or unnatural because these are the links Google doesn’t perceive as a sign of trustworthiness.
The Occasions When You Should Invalidate a Link
You should quickly invalidate a link that looks potentially damaging for your site’s SEO using Google’s Disavow Tool. If you don’t do that, the algorithm can punish your website by removing it from the search results or dropping your rankings. There can be many types of bad links, such as:
- Links coming from the pages created with the sole purpose of collecting links (link farms)
- Links from spam sites
- Links inserted in spam comments (especially blog comments)
- Links that come from countries other than your target market
Such links should be removed as soon as possible, according to Google. Good backlinks are proof that your website offers quality content and is trusted by many. Good links boost your domain authority and page authority.
Toxic backlinks can negatively impact your site’s SEO, but you need to avoid invalidating every such link pointing to your site. Some of these links can be great for branding.
Google also warns its users on its Disavow Tool’s welcome screen that they should use this tool selectively, and with great caution. Indiscriminately invalidating the links can damage your website’s prospects.
Use this tool only when you are 100% sure that you have identified potentially toxic links that may hurt your website.
If you are still confused about whether to remove a link or not, read on. Google doesn’t tell you to invalidate all the wrong links. So, is it necessary to invalidate a link when Google’s new algorithm is already working on the link penalties? Google launched Google Disavow Tool at a time when it had introduced its Penguin algorithm update.
Here is a helpful illustration from Moz:
It was an intelligent algorithm update that was aimed at ignoring spam links, but it couldn’t do it perfectly. Certain websites are still being penalized because of bad backlinks, which suggests that none of the algorithm updates are perfect. It seems that Google employees impose penalties after a manual review of backlinks. So, Google Disavow Tool is still relevant as it allows you to invalidate specific links.
What to Do Before You Invalidate a Link?
It’s important to know that invalidating a link is not always the right solution. It may seriously damage your SEO. It is your way of telling Google that the link is a serious threat to your website and that it must be removed. So, you have no option but to invalidate the link.
Before declaring a link invalid, the logical step would be to contact the source website and request them to remove the link. In most cases, you can easily find the site owner’s contact details on the site itself. You can check the footer and sidebar if it is not available in the Contact Us section.
It would be best to write an email or call on their phone number and politely ask them to remove the particular link. A professional approach, polite demeanor, and clarity of purpose will help you achieve your objectives.
Here is a sample email:
Alternatively, you can contact them on social media or leave a comment on their blog post. You can also search for the website owner’s name on Google and LinkedIn and reach them at a given contact address.
If the webmaster is still untraceable, you may invalidate the link using Google’s Disavow Tool.
How to Detect Toxic Links?
For an ambitious business owner, content creation and website promotion is an ongoing phenomenon. As a result, they build numerous backlinks every day— some of these links are engineered or earned by them, but many are entirely unwanted and uncalled for.
Differentiating toxic links from standard links can be tricky. Before you decide to use Google’s tool for disavowing harmful links, you should first try to determine whether a link is good or bad using Neil Patel’s backlink tool.
Here are some ways to check the quality of a link to determine whether the backlink is beneficial or harmful for your website.
1. Is the Link Coming From a Page That Is Black-listed or Banned?
Run Link Detox to audit the link, or use the new Link Simulator to find out. If these tools detect it as a banned page, disavow the link.
2. Is the Link Coming From a Dangerous Page?
If a site is flagged for possible malware, malicious activity, or a virus in it, disavow it instantly. If it got black-listed after being the victim of such an attack, it should inform Google. When Google detects such virus or malware in a website, it notifies the site owner via Google Search Console. From your backlink profile, you can use link Detox to detect such domains.
3. Is the Link Coming From a Page of a Weak Domain?
Use a backlink profiler report. You can use the metric LRT Power*Trust metric to find out weak links. A Power Trust™ value of 0 and a Power Trust™ domain value of less than 5 indicates a weak link. The tool offers you a reliable and easy way to measure the trustworthiness and power of any link.
4. Is the Link Coming From a Domain That is Penalized?
If you have a backlink coming from a site that has been penalized by Google, there is no way but to disavow it. The same is the case with a domain that is not indexed by Google and a page that doesn’t rank for its own title in the first 30 pages of SERPs.
Finding Toxic Links Using Neil Patel’s Backlink Checker and SEMrush
Here is an easy and quick walkthrough of how to use Neil Patel’s backlink checker:
Step 1: Go to the backlinks page and enter your URL
Step 2: Get a detailed backlink report for your website
The report offers you a list of web pages pointing links to your website.
But, this list contains both good and bad links, and you need to filter the wrong links from it.
You can also use SEMrush’s backlink audit tool to check for toxic links. The software uses 30 “Toxic Factors” to detect such links.
You can quickly invalidate the links from the SEMrush interface, but the best practice is to do it manually, so everything goes fine.
Make a list of all the toxic links gathered from SEMrush and other tools. From SEMrush, you can export it by following these steps:
A. Click on the “Toxic” tab and select all the toxic links
B. You can export the list as a *.csv file that contains terrible links
Combine this list with the lists extracted through other tools mentioned above.
Now, this final vital master list contains all the toxic links that you can invalidate. Save them separately. You can use this doc on Google’s Disavow Tool later.
Double Check the Links You Want to Invalidate
Here is an important tip: Don’t be in a hurry to invalidate a bad link using Google’s Disavow Tool. In case your website has only a few wrong links, audit each link before taking any action.
The idea is not to blindly follow the tools while detecting harmful links. Once you understand the underlying reason for a penalty, you’ll get better insights into what type of links can cause trouble in the future.
However, it doesn’t work when you have numerous toxic links. In that case, just cast a glance on them to find and filter “harmless” links.
Having antivirus software installed will also help, as you can avoid clicking on a link that looks malicious. It will keep your website safe.
Here are a few examples of the backlinks that you should invalidate without a second thought.
If you have a travel website, and your backlinks come from scrap metal sites, casino sites, porn sites, or blockchain sites, it can be a recipe for disaster. Something that doesn’t fit your industry won’t benefit you in any way — be it targeting the audience, attracting quality traffic, or building trust.
You can bring these sites in front of your firing squad, i.e., Google’s Disavow Tool.
The truth is Google hates irrelevance, and it can hurt your brand. It’s better to disavow such links.
The same applies to weird links, TLD (Top-Level Domains) links such as .top, .xyz, and .loan, .google, .localhost, .oracle and .mitsubishi, etc.
An example of a rare TLD: https://www.clix.capital/
This site is a one-stop lending firm, and if it points to a website with a non-financial niche, it makes no sense.
However, there can be a few exceptions too. If a website that doesn’t belong to your niche publishes a listicle that points links to the best sites in a specific domain, it’s an example of good press and not a toxic link. Country-specific TLDs such as .ru and .cn are also not signs of a good reputation, though they are not always bad.
It would help if you always disavowed Links from spam sites. Most sites with .xyz TLDs are spam sites. You can set up a spam filter in Google Analytics to identify spam sites.
You should include all spam sites in the master list mentioned above that should be a text file with a .txt extension.
It’s time now to move to Google Disavow Tool.
How to Use Google’s Disavow Tool to Invalidate Links?
Using Google’s Disavow Tool is not rocket science; however, preparing for the process may be tricky.
First, you will see this warning sign:
We have discussed above that you should disavow a link if you are 100% confident that that particular link is harming your website. Otherwise, the entire exercise may further damage your site’s rankings and traffic.
Google Search Console will first ask you to select the site you want to use to disavow toxic links.
Then there comes the following warning to make sure that you are fully aware of what you are doing.
Click on the tab Choose File and select the .txt file that contains the master list of toxic backlinks.
Click on the Submit button, and Google will take care of the rest. It might take a few days to get the links invalidated.
How to Submit a Disavow File to Google?
We have already described the complete procedure above, but here is the summary of all the steps to simplify things.
Create a master list of links to disavow, which should be in a text file (.txt) format. Make sure only one URL is listed per line. The maximum data in a file shouldn’t exceed 2MB. You can split your file if you have more than 2MB of data. You can upload your list directly on the tool.
You should be very careful while disavowing links. If you end up invalidating some good links instead of the toxic ones, you’ll seriously damage your SEO. So, make sure that you do due diligence while identifying the poisonous links.
It’s, therefore, crucial to familiarize yourselves with this process. Once you know the game, you can easily clean your link profile.
Invalidating toxic links leads to many immediate benefits, such as boosting rankings so that users can find you easily and quickly. With improved SEO, you’ll likely experience more traffic and time on site. But here is a word of caution: don’t invalidate the links in a hurry relying totally on tools. It’s always better to manually identify and invalidate the toxic links. You never know which of the links is sending you traffic and adding value to your site.
Invalidating links should always be the last option. With all these considerations in mind, the idea of disavowing the links can be intimidating. Still, once you get familiar with the process and see the benefits when you do it right, it becomes a lot easier.
Still, if you need an expert to do it for you or your agency, so your clients don’t complain about the loss of traffic, etc., hire the white label SEO services from DashClicks. We have experienced SEO experts on board who will make life easier for you.