How to Disavow Bad Links – The Correct Way (2023)

Reviewed by Zain Awan
Zain Awan

Zain is an SEO Copywriter with around 4 years of experience. He's currently managing his own blogs and offering freelance writing services.

Disavow Bad Backlinks

Link-building is an essential part of the SEO process.

Without it, you have a tough time ranking for competitive, high-volume keywords.

However, keeping your website’s backlink profile safe and clean is super important.

You want to avoid bad backlinks at all costs.

Although Google does a fair enough job at keeping bad backlinks away, its algorithm isn’t equipped to do it perfectly.

In this post, we’ll tell you how to disavow backlinks the right way, helping you keep your site clean.

Let’s dive in.

A bad backlink is a backlink that goes against Google’s guidelines. In other words, if you create a backlink to manipulate your Google rankings, it’d be considered a bad backlink, also known as black hat link-building.

Having said that, according to Google, all link-building is black hat and against the search engine’s policies.

Here’s what Google’s official website says about link-building:

Google Link Spam Policy


This means if you’re found to be violating any of those rules, you can end up getting a big fat Google penalty.

But again, you can’t expect to rank for big keywords without actively working for high-quality, relevant backlinks.

So, how do you go about building safe backlinks to your web pages?

Simple: By avoiding bad backlinks altogether!

Now, there’s no way to filter out bad backlinks 100%, which is okay. But, what you can do is look for some important signs and act quickly.

To recognize a bad backlink, all you need to do is find out where it’s coming from.

While analyzing backlinks may seem simple, it does require some SEO knowledge.

Here’s a list of signs that a backlink is bad for your site’s SEO:

  • It’s coming from a low-authority domain
  • The site it’s coming from has explicit content
  • It’s from a spammy site
  • It’s not relevant to your content
  • There are too many links in the content
  • It’s coming from a link farm

Of course, good backlinks would have all the opposite features.

For instance, the higher the domain authority of a website, the more powerful will be the backlinks coming from it.

Similarly, links from relevant web pages offer more value than links from irrelevant ones.

Before we get into how to disavow backlinks, let’s see why should you disavow bad backlinks.

Avoid Ranking Drops

The obvious first reason to avoid bad backlinks is to avoid ranking drops on Google.

Here’s an SEO fact:

Good backlinks are inarguably one of the most effective ways to boost your organic rankings.

Why? Because they establish your trust with Google.

Bad backlinks tend to have the opposite impact; they damage your trust and authority, which eventually leads to ranking drops.

So, disavowing bad backlinks is important to make sure your rankings and traffic don’t drop.

Avoid Google Penalties

The second important reason to disavow bad backlinks is to avoid Google penalties.

Your site can get hit with two types of Google penalties:

  • Algorithm penalties
  • Manual penalties

As the name suggests, a manual penalty is handed over by one of Google’s webspam team members after evaluating your website.

Algorithm penalties, on the other hand, are controlled by Google’s algorithm.

It looks at things like your:

  • Recent links
  • Link-building history
  • Anchor text
  • Sites linking to you

Address a Penalty

The third reason to disavow a bad backlink is to address an existing Google penalty.

How do you know if your site has been hit by a manual penalty?

You’ll see the following error in your Google Search Console account:

Google Search Console manual penalty

When you disavow a backlink, you’re essentially requesting Google to remove that particular backlink associated with your website.

So, as soon as Google accepts your disavow request, the backlink will be removed. It won’t be considered the next time the Google algorithm analyzes your link profile.

However, keep in mind that requesting a disavow is essentially a suggestion for Google to consider removing the backlink.

So, it’s possible for Google to not honor your request and keep the link intact.

The good thing is that the probability of that happening is low, and Google will almost always honor your suggestion.

If you’re not sure if a link should be disavowed or not, you might be thinking if it’s possible to undo a link disavow request.

Yes, it is. All you’ll have to do is go to your Google Search Console account and delete that particular link from the uploaded file.

With all that out of the way, let’s see how to disavow backlinks.

Of course, the first step is to create a list of backlinks you want to remove from your website.

You need to be sure about the links you’re going to disavow permanently from your site.

That’s because removing a link that was helping your site rank will lead to drops in rankings.

So, make a list of backlinks that look spammy such as:

  • Links from foreign-language sites
  • .xyz domains
  • Article directories
  • Low-quality wiki pages
  • Empty anchor backlinks

Next, you would have to create a .txt file and upload it to your GSC account.

Then, go to Google’s disavow tool, pick the domain from your property list, and upload the .txt file you created in the previous step.

Google disavow backlinks tool

Then, wait for the search engine to process your request.

Depending on a few factors, Google may take anywhere from a few days to 3 months to start the process.

You can expect to start seeing results within a month of disavowing backlinks in GSC.

Google’s algorithm is getting better and better at identifying spammy backlinks. This can lead to manual as well as algorithm penalties. So, if you think your website is attracting some spammy backlinks or you created them yourself in the past, disavowing them would be the right thing to do.

Disavowing a backlink means that you’re suggesting Google remove a particular link or a list of links from your website. To disavow a link, all you need to do is submit it to your Google Search Console account and wait for a few days.

Yes, backlinks pointing to your site can be removed manually. Create a .txt file consisting of the backlinks you want to remove and upload it to Google’s disavow tool. Keep in mind that although your request will mostly be honored by Google, there’s a chance it’ll get rejected.

Backlinks can be permanent if you let them. Spammy backlinks can hurt your site’s SEO, so it’s a good idea to keep a tab on your website’s link profile. Although you can remove any backlink pointing to your site, you’ll have to go through the manual process of disavowing them in your Google Search Console account.

High-quality, relevant backlinks are great for SEO, but bad or toxic backlinks can work against you. You want to get rid of them as soon as possible. The best way to do that is by creating a .txt file of those links and submitting them to Google’s disavow tool.

Should I Disavow URL or Domain?

It depends on how many backlinks are pointing to your site from a single domain. If you’re getting multiple spammy backlinks from one domain, disavow the whole domain. And if there’s a single bad backlink from a domain, disavow the URL. 

How Do I Make a Disavow List?

To create a disavow list, create a new text file and add one domain or URL per line. Make sure the file ends in .txt. The maximum allowed URL length is 2048 characters and the max file size is 2MB. You can even add comments by adding the “#” symbol before a sentence. Google will ignore any lines that start with that symbol.

This was all about how to disavow backlinks the right way.

Now, if your website has a lot of backlinks pointing to it, there’s a good chance some of them are spammy.

So, doing a backlink audit occasionally would be a good idea. There’s no right frequency of a backlink audit though. It depends on your site’s age and the number of backlinks it has generated over that period.

Here’s a quick recap of how to disavow backlinks:

  • Create a list of bad backlinks
  • Create a text file with the .txt extension
  • Add those backlinks (URLs or Domain) one per line
  • Upload the file to the Google Search Console Disavow Tool

After submitting your request, wait for Google to approve your request.  

We hope you’ve found this guide helpful and can now confidently find and disavow bad backlinks and keep your link profile safe.

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