How to Perform Disavow Operation For SEO – Definitive Guide

How to Perform Disavow Operation For SEO – Definitive Guide

    In the ever-evolving realm of search engine optimization (SEO), one of the terms that has gained increasing prominence in recent years is “disavow.” This term may sound unfamiliar or daunting to some, but its significance in the SEO world must be balanced. The disavow process shapes the digital landscape for websites and online businesses. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve deep into the concept of “disavow” in SEO, explore its crucial role in link-building campaigns, and underscore the necessity of a definitive guide to navigate this terrain effectively.


    Understanding the Concept of “Disavow” in SEO

    “disavow” in SEO refers to dissociating or disowning specific backlinks that point to a website. In simpler terms, it is a process that allows webmasters and SEO professionals to inform search engines, particularly Google, that certain links should not be considered when assessing a site’s ranking or credibility. This means that when these links are disavowed, they are effectively disregarded by search engine algorithms, preventing them from influencing a website’s search rankings.

    The concept of disavow arises from the necessity of maintaining the quality and authenticity of a website’s backlink profile. Backlinks, also known as inbound or incoming links, are links from external websites that point to a specific webpage on your site. These links are a significant ranking factor in search engine algorithms, and search engines use them to gauge a website’s authority and relevance. While high-quality and relevant backlinks can bolster a site’s SEO efforts, low-quality or spammy links can have the opposite effect, potentially harming a website’s ranking and reputation.

    Disavowing links is a defensive measure to safeguard a website from the adverse impact of unwanted or detrimental backlinks. When webmasters identify links that they believe could harm their site’s SEO performance, they can take action by disavowing those links. By doing so, they request search engines not to consider those specific links when assessing their website’s credibility, thereby protecting them from potential harm.

    To comprehend the role of disavow in link-building campaigns, we must first grasp the broader context of link-building in SEO. Link building is a critical aspect of SEO that focuses on acquiring high-quality and relevant backlinks from authoritative and trustworthy websites. The objective is to increase a website’s authority, enhance its visibility in search results, and ultimately improve its search engine ranking.

    Link-building campaigns are strategic initiatives undertaken to secure these valuable backlinks. They involve various techniques, outreach efforts, and content creation to persuade other websites to link to your site. When executed correctly, these campaigns can yield substantial SEO benefits, improving rankings and increasing organic traffic.

    However, not all links acquired through link-building campaigns are desirable or beneficial. Some links may be low-quality, spammy, or even harmful. These undesirable links can drag down a website’s SEO performance, making the link-building process a double-edged sword. This is where the disavow process steps in as a crucial countermeasure.

    The disavow process allows webmasters to identify and dissociate themselves from harmful links that may have been unintentionally acquired during their link-building campaigns. By disavowing these undesirable links, webmasters can prevent them from adversely affecting their website’s search engine ranking and overall SEO health.

    The Need for a Definitive Guide

    The concept of disavowing SEO is undoubtedly a powerful tool in the hands of webmasters and SEO professionals. However, due to its technical and somewhat complex nature, it can be intimidating and confusing for those who need to be better versed in SEO practices. Many webmasters, especially those new to SEO, may still need guidance with when and how to employ the disavow process effectively.

    Hence, a clear need exists for a definitive guide to illuminate the intricacies of disavowing SEO. This guide provides comprehensive insights into when and why webmasters should consider disavowing links. It will also delve into the practical aspects of initiating the disavow process, including creating a disavow file and using various tools like Google’s Disavow Tool, SEMRUSH, and AHREFS.

    In the following sections of this guide, we will explore the prerequisites for the disavow process, recognizing the right time to disavow links and the step-by-step methods for executing the disavow process using different tools. By the end, readers will be equipped with a clear understanding of disavow in SEO and the confidence to use this powerful tool to safeguard their website’s SEO performance.

    Prerequisites for the Disavow Process

    Google’s Free Disavow Tool

    In the dynamic world of search engine optimization (SEO), staying ahead of the curve often requires webmasters and SEO professionals to employ various tools and strategies to enhance their website’s performance. One of the most critical tools in this arsenal is Google’s free Disavow Tool, a powerful weapon in the ongoing battle to maintain and improve a website’s search engine ranking and online credibility.

    Google’s Disavow Tool is a free service offered directly by the search engine giant, and it is designed to empower webmasters to take control of their website’s backlink profile. This tool allows users to inform Google about links that they believe are harming their website’s SEO performance or overall credibility. It enables webmasters to disown and disassociate their websites from these detrimental links, ensuring they are not factored into Google’s ranking algorithms.

    The utility of Google’s Disavow Tool cannot be understated, as it grants webmasters the ability to influence their website’s ranking directly. By identifying and disavowing harmful links, webmasters can protect their websites from the negative effects that low-quality or spammy backlinks can bring, such as a decline in search engine ranking and credibility. This tool empowers users to effectively manage their website’s backlink profile and maintain its SEO health.

    Empowering Your SEO Campaign

    The Disavow Tool is not just a passive defensive tool but also an active and strategic element of your SEO campaign. While the primary goal is to eradicate low-quality links that can harm your website’s SEO performance, the Disavow Tool is crucial in enhancing your website’s overall health.

    When you employ the Disavow Tool as part of your SEO campaign, you are taking proactive steps to ensure the integrity of your backlink profile. A clean and high-quality backlink profile is fundamental to the success of your website in search engine rankings. By actively identifying and disavowing unwanted links, you are setting the stage for your website to climb the rankings and establish itself as a credible and authoritative source in your niche.

    The core objective of the Disavow Tool is to eradicate low-quality links from your website’s backlink profile. These low-quality links, often referred to as spammy or toxic links, can have detrimental effects on your website’s SEO performance. Such links may come from disreputable sources, link farms, or websites with low authority and relevance, among other origins.

    Low-quality links can undermine your website’s credibility in the eyes of search engines, potentially resulting in ranking penalties or a drop in visibility on search engine results pages (SERPs). They can also diminish the trustworthiness and authority of your website in the eyes of visitors, potentially impacting your online reputation.

    Recognizing low-quality links is a vital step in the disavow process. These links are typically identified through careful analysis of your backlink profile and metrics like domain authority, anchor text relevance, and the source of the links. Once you’ve pinpointed the undesirable links, you can create a disavow file listing them and submit it to Google via the Disavow Tool.

    Significance of a Google Disavow File

    A Google Disavow File is a critical component of the disavow process, and it serves as a communication channel between webmasters and search engines. It is a document that lists the links you want Google to disassociate from your website. When you upload a properly formatted disavow file to Google through the Disavow Tool, you signal to the search engine that these links should be excluded from influencing your website’s ranking and credibility.

    A disavow file is created in a text format, typically with the file extension .txt. Each line in this file contains one URL or domain you wish to disavow. Webmasters must ensure the disavow file is correctly formatted and free from errors, as mistakes or inaccuracies can hinder the disavow process.

    This disavow file acts as a protective shield, guarding your website from the adverse effects of unwanted links. It is a proactive measure that empowers webmasters to take control of their website’s backlink profile and safeguard their SEO efforts. Additionally, the disavow file allows you to maintain the quality and authenticity of your backlinks, contributing to your website’s long-term success and credibility in the competitive SEO world.

    Detecting Potential Threats

    In the ever-evolving landscape of search engine optimization (SEO), understanding when and why to disavow links is essential for maintaining a healthy backlink profile and safeguarding your website’s ranking and credibility. Recognizing the right time to initiate the disavow process involves vigilant monitoring, analysis, and a keen eye for potential threats to your SEO efforts.

    One of the first steps in determining the need to disavow links is closely monitoring your website’s backlink profile. Regularly inspecting the links that point to your site is a proactive way to identify any undesirable elements lurking in your profile. These undesirable elements often manifest as low-quality or spammy links that harm your website’s SEO performance.

    Consider employing various tools and resources to assist in monitoring your backlinks. SEO tools, such as Ahrefs, SEMrush, and Google Search Console, offer valuable insights into the quality, source, and relevance of the links pointing to your website. By utilizing these tools, you can identify potential threats and suspicious links more effectively.

    A clear indicator that it’s time to consider disavowing links is when you receive a notification from Google Search Console regarding unnatural links or potential issues with your backlink profile. These notifications are an early warning sign that Google has detected links that may be problematic and could negatively impact your website’s ranking or credibility.

    Unnatural links often result from various factors, including link schemes, low-quality link sources, or manipulative SEO tactics. Google’s algorithms are designed to recognize patterns and activities that deviate from established quality guidelines. When such activities are detected, Google may issue a notification, prompting webmasters to address the issue promptly.

    Upon receiving a notification from Google Search Console, it is crucial to investigate the specific links or patterns that have triggered the alert. A deeper analysis will help you identify the problematic links and understand the context behind the issue. Once you’ve identified the culprit links, you can use the disavow process to mitigate their potential harm.

    Identifying Vulnerabilities

    Vulnerabilities in your website’s backlink profile can also indicate the need for a disavow operation. These vulnerabilities may stem from various sources, including outdated SEO strategies, your website’s security vulnerabilities, or a lack of vigilance in monitoring your links.

    A comprehensive backlink audit can help identify these vulnerabilities. During the audit, consider several key factors:

    1. Link Diversity: A healthy backlink profile should consist of a diverse range of high-quality links from authoritative sources. A lack of diversity or an overreliance on a particular type of link may leave your profile vulnerable to potential threats.
    1. Anchor Text Manipulation: Excessive keyword-rich anchor text can raise red flags and make your links appear unnatural. If you notice a high concentration of manipulated anchor text, it may be an indication that disavowal is necessary.
    1. Unfamiliar or Spammy Sources: Unusual or spammy domains linking to your site can introduce vulnerabilities. Investigate the credibility and relevance of these sources to determine if they pose a risk to your backlink profile.

    By addressing these vulnerabilities promptly, you can preemptively disavow links that may undermine your SEO campaign’s long-term success.

    Google’s continuous efforts to combat spammy and manipulative SEO tactics have devalued links obtained through link schemes. Link schemes involve artificially inflating a website’s backlink profile, often through unscrupulous means. These schemes can include link exchanges, link farms, or other strategies that contravene Google’s quality guidelines.

    If your backlink profile includes links obtained through link schemes, consider disavowing them. Google’s algorithms are adept at recognizing patterns associated with such schemes, and websites that engage in these practices may face penalties, resulting in ranking drops or visibility issues.

    When evaluating your backlink profile, pay close attention to links in link schemes. These may include reciprocal links, excessive use of exact-match anchor text, or links from irrelevant or low-quality websites. By identifying and disavowing links obtained through link schemes, you can protect your website from potential penalties and safeguard your SEO efforts.

    The Decline of Directory Submission

    In the past, directory submissions were a common practice in SEO, as they provided an avenue for obtaining backlinks from various web directories. However, Google’s evolving algorithms and guidelines have led to a decline in the significance of directory submissions as a link-building strategy.

    The impact of directory submissions on your website’s SEO has shifted over time. While some directories may hold value, others have become repositories of low-quality or spammy links. Links from directories with low authority, relevance, or credibility can threaten your backlink profile.

    When you notice many directory submission links in your profile, it’s an appropriate time to consider disavowing them. Directory submissions are no longer as effective in bolstering SEO efforts as they once were, and disavowing low-quality directory links can help maintain the quality and authenticity of your backlink profile.

    Creating a Disavow File

    The heart of the disavowal process is creating a disavow file, a critical step to signal to Google the specific links or domains you want to disassociate from your website. It’s essential to craft this file correctly to ensure the efficacy of the disavowal process.

    1. Format and Requirements

    When creating a disavow file, adhere to the following format and requirements:

    • The file should be a simple text file with a .txt extension.
    • Each line in the text file should contain either a disavowed link or a disavowed domain.

    Ensure the file uses plain text without formatting, special characters, or additional content. The structure and format are crucial for Google’s understanding so that any deviation can affect the disavowal process.

    2. Ensuring Error-Free Files

    When creating a disavow file, meticulous attention to detail is essential. Even minor errors, such as typos, formatting issues, or incorrect syntax, can prevent Google from processing the file correctly. The consequences of an error-ridden file can be detrimental to your SEO campaign, as links you intended to disavow may remain in your backlink profile.

    To avoid errors, it’s advisable to double-check the file for accuracy. This includes reviewing the URLs and domains, ensuring proper formatting, and verifying no additional lines or content in the file. Maintaining a clean and error-free disavow file is paramount for its successful processing.

    Uploading the Disavow File

    After creating the disavow file, the next step is to upload it to Google Search Console. Google provides webmasters with a dedicated tool to submit and manage disavow files, making it a straightforward process. Follow these steps to upload the file:

    1. Log in to your Google Search Console account.
    2. Select the website property for which you wish to disavow links.
    3. In the left sidebar, navigate to the “Links” section and click “Disavow Links.”

    You’ll be prompted to confirm the website property, as the disavowal process is irreversible, and any errors in the file can impact your SEO. After confirmation, you can upload the disavow file.

    Google Search Console Integration

    Upon successful upload, Google will begin processing the disavow file and start the disavowal process. It’s important to note that repudiation takes time; it may take some time for Google to assess the file’s contents and make the necessary adjustments to your backlink profile.

    While Google processes the disavow file, monitoring your website’s performance, rankings, and link profile is recommended. Google Search Console will provide feedback and updates on the status of your disavowal request, including any issues or errors that may have been encountered during processing.

    As the disavowal process takes effect, you can expect improvements in your backlink profile, with unwanted or problematic links being disassociated from your website. This contributes to the overall health and credibility of your website in the eyes of search engines.

    Utilizing SEMRUSH for Disavow

    Accessing SEMRUSH Dashboard

    SEMrush, a prominent SEO tool, allows webmasters to identify and disavow toxic or harmful backlinks seamlessly. 

    To initiate the disavow process using SEMrush, follow these steps:

    1. Log in to your SEMrush dashboard.
    2. Select the “Backlink Audit” or “Link Building” section in the main menu, depending on your SEMrush plan.
    3. Within the Backlink Audit tool, you can access a list of your website’s backlinks, including valuable insights into each link’s toxicity and quality.

    The success of the disavow process using SEMrush begins with identifying toxic backlinks. SEMrush employs a proprietary algorithm to assess the quality and toxicity of each backlink pointing to your website. It provides a toxicity score for each link, making it easier to pinpoint links that require disavowal.

    To identify toxic backlinks:

    1. In the Backlink Audit tool, you’ll find a list of backlinks and their toxicity scores. Toxic backlinks are usually those with high toxicity scores.
    2. SEMrush also provides insights into the reasons behind a link’s toxicity. These reasons may include spammy anchor text, link farm associations, or low-quality source domains.

    Adding URLs to the Disavow List

    Once you’ve identified toxic backlinks in SEMrush, you can seamlessly add them to your disavow list. SEMrush simplifies this process by providing a feature to export the toxic links directly to a disavow file, streamlining the subsequent disavowal process.

    To add URLs to your disavow list using SEMrush:

    1. Select the toxic backlinks that you wish to disavow.
    2. Utilize SEMrush’s export feature to generate a disavow file that contains the selected links.
    3. Download the disavow file, ensuring it adheres to the format and requirements outlined earlier.

    This file is then ready for upload to Google Search Console, initiating the disavowal process. SEMrush’s integration with the disavowal process simplifies the identification and management of toxic backlinks, enhancing the effectiveness of your SEO efforts.

    disavow tool

    Crafting a Disavow File: Bonus Tips

    Structure of a Disavow File

    Creating an effective disavow file goes beyond simply listing URLs and domains. The file structure plays a significant role in ensuring Google processes it correctly. When crafting a disavow file, consider the following elements:

    1. Clear Formatting: Maintain a clear and concise format within the file. Avoid additional characters, special formatting, or unnecessary spacing.
    2. Comments for Clarity: Consider including comments within the file to provide context for each entry. Comments can help you and Google understand why disavow a particular link or domain.
    3. Regular Updates: As your SEO campaign progresses, update your disavow file to include new links or domains requiring disavowal.

    Listing disavowed links in your file should be precise and well-documented. Each link should be included on a separate line, following the established format:

    When listing disavowed links, maintain a clear naming convention and consider categorizing them for better organization. For instance, you might group links with spammy anchor text under one section and low-quality directories under another.

    Handling Disavowed Domains

    Disavowing entire domains is another strategy that can help streamline the disavowal process. This is especially useful when dealing with link networks or source domains with multiple problematic links. To disavow a domain:

    Disavowing domains is an efficient way to tackle numerous problematic links associated with a single source.

    By following these bonus tips for crafting a disavow file, you ensure that your disavowal efforts are well-structured, organized, and aligned with the objectives of your SEO campaign.

    Leveraging AHREFS for the Disavow Process

    As an essential step in the disavow process, conducting a high-level link audit helps assess your backlinks’ quality and potential toxicity. AHREFS is a valuable tool for this purpose, offering a comprehensive backlink analysis.

    To conduct a high-level link audit using AHREFS:

    1. Log in to your AHREFS account.
    2. Access the “Site Explorer” tool.
    3. Enter your domain or URL to initiate the analysis.
    4. Explore the backlink profile, which provides insights into referring domains, domain ratings (DR), and the overall health of your backlink portfolio.

    Link quality is a pivotal factor in your link-building strategy. It’s crucial to monitor the quality of your backlinks continuously. To identify links that may require disavowal, focus on the following aspects:

    • Low DR: Referring domains with a low domain rating are potential candidates for disavowal.
    • Unusual TLDs: Links from unusual or spammy top-level domains should be assessed for toxicity.

    AHREFS provides valuable insights into potential link spam and manipulative techniques employed by certain backlinks. Identifying link spam is crucial in recognizing links that may harm your SEO campaign.

    To recognize link spam using AHREFS:

    1. Filter your backlinks to display links from specific referring domains.
    2. Look for patterns of link spam, such as excessive and unrelated links pointing to your site.

    Identifying Low DR and Unusual TLDs

    Low domain ratings (DR) indicate that the referring domains may not contribute positively to your link profile. Furthermore, backlinks from domains with unusual top-level domains (TLDs) can be a sign of spam or low-quality links.

    To identify low DR and unusual TLDs using AHREFS:

    1. Filter your backlinks by domain rating.
    2. Filter your backlinks by TLDs to spot any unusual or potentially spammy domains.

    Flagging Domains for Disavowing

    Once you’ve identified domains that meet the criteria for self-denial, you can flag them in AHREFS for easy reference. This is a helpful organizational step to keep track of the domains that need disavowing.

    To flag domains for disavowing in AHREFS:

    1. Select the domains that require disavowal.
    2. Use AHREFS’ built-in features to label or categorize these domains for future reference.

    The Disavow Process in AHREFS

    AHREFS streamlines the disavow process by facilitating the creation of a disavow file. Once you’ve identified and flagged the domains or links for disavowal, AHREFS provides an export feature that generates a disavow file in the necessary format.

    This disavow file can then be downloaded and uploaded directly to Google Search Console, initiating the disavowal process as per Google’s guidelines.

    Combining AHREFS with Google’s Disavow Tool

    The synergy between AHREFS and Google’s Disavow Tool enhances the efficiency of your disavowal process. AHREFS’ comprehensive backlink analysis capabilities and integration with the disavowal process allow you to identify and manage problematic links seamlessly.

    To maximize the effectiveness of the disavowal process, consider combining the insights and data from AHREFS with the management tools provided by Google Search Console. This collaborative approach ensures that you clearly understand your backlink profile and can take decisive action to disavow links that may harm your SEO efforts.

    Here’s How We Do It At ThatWare:

    Disavow Process Using Google Tool:

    Firstly, you need to create a.txt file list containing all low-quality links that you want to disavow with the disavow tool. Make sure to keep the file size in between 2MB. And each line should contain one URL per line. Once you have the list built up for disavowing then upload the file into the respective search console property as shown below:

    While uploading makes sure the file should be error-free. Or else the file will not be processed properly in Google Search Console.

    Disavow Using Semrush Tool

    Log on to the SEMRUSH dashboard to get started.

    semrush dashboard

    Then, move onto the next segment and select from the most toxic backlinks list as shown below:

    seo dashboard

    Finally, you can select your desired URL which you want to add into a disavow list as shown below:

    toxicity score disavow

    Generally, we use these types of methods in terms of disavowing low-quality links in order to make any kind of site free from a low toxicity score.

    How To Create A Disavow File (Bonus Tips)

    A disavow file is generally just a text (.txt or .csv) file. Each line in the text file must be one of the following:

    • A disavowed link, e.g.
    • A disavowed domain (each of the links for this domain will be disavowed), e.g.

    Disavow Using Ahrefs Tool

    Do a high-level link audit in ahrefs.

    Constant link monitoring is effective to find out when a deep analysis is required. The benefit of these reports is that they provide a relative rather than an absolute assessment.

    Referring domains graph: The referring domains graph can identify a spike in links, which is often caused by link spam as shown below.

    Go to Site Explorer -> Enter your domain -> Backlink Profile -> Referring Domains -> Filter for dofollow links -> Sort by DR (low to high)

    Now, two metrics are to be considered to commence link evaluation:

    • Low DR;
    • Unusual TLDs.

    You can flag domains for disavowing in your spreadsheet according to the low DR or directly do the process in Ahrefs. Check the boxes and click “Disavow Domains” next to any domains you want to add to your list:

    And once you have the list of low-quality domains then you can directly disavow the list from ahrefs or can take the help of the Google Disavow tool.