Beginners Guide to Disavowing Backlinks for Penalty Protection

A solid backlink profile is the foundation of successful SEO. Backlinks are important strategies that firms must use to increase their online presence in the SEO sector. Your SEO strategy depends on backlinks, thus you must be cautious while purchasing all of them. A bad backlink investment might cause more harm than good, while a successful one can increase traffic to your website and bring in a significant profit.

A recent Semrush analysis found that in 2021, more than 55% of websites disavowed backlinks. The third most common link-building strategy, according to the report, is disavowing backlinks.

Therefore, it’s time to realize the power of disavowing backlinks if you want to up your SEO game and maintain the health and strength of your website’s link profile. We’ll examine the ins and outs of disavowing backlinks in this post, as well as the reasons why and situations in which it’s required. We’ll also discuss best practices to help you make the most of this effective tool.

What is Backlink Disavowal?

Disavowing backlinks is an SEO procedure that involves using an internet application called a disavow tool to reduce the impact that one or more backlinks have on the search engine rankings of your website.  This is often done to reduce the negative impacts of backlinks that may have been produced by unaffiliated third-party websites that are spammy, low-quality, or irrelevant.

Backlinks that are disavowed won’t disappear from the internet, but they won’t have an impact on how well your website ranks. When you are hit with a manual Google penalty because of spammy backlinks, disavowing links is also crucial.

What are Harmful Backlinks?

Let’s define a poor backlink before we proceed with disavowing them. Backlinks from spammy, unreliable, or low-quality websites are considered negative backlinks. These links may cause your website to rank lower in search results because search engines may see your website as having low-quality material.

You must identify these spammy connections in order to protect your website:

Spammy connections

1. Paid Links

These are links that you have either directly or indirectly purchased. If you sell or acquire pay-per-click (PPC) links that don’t provide the buyer PageRank, you won’t face Google penalties. But if you buy or pay for links that pass PageRank, you risk getting into trouble.

Although it may be challenging to spot some paid links, there are a few warning signs:

  • Exact-match anchor text site-wide connections
  • Links from unrelated sites or content
  • Links from pages with prominent footer markings like “Sponsored Post” all qualify as dofollow links.

2. Private Blogging Networks (PBNs)

As of 2014, Google has started eliminating PBNs from its index or database. PBNs are a collection of websites used to create backlinks for a single website, for those of you who are unaware of what they are.

Even though they are still there, these connections are no longer regarded as being a part of any white-hat link-building strategies.

3. Irrelevant Links

If your website has links from websites that are unrelated to the subject or industry of your website, Google may take notice. You don’t want to cross paths with them they’re kind of like the renowned villains of the digital world.

4. Low-Quality Directories

Your SEO may be harmed if your links come from low-quality directories that only exist to build backlinks. Many websites now use nofollow links, which eliminate the need to disavow, so low-quality directory submissions are no longer effective, despite some unethical SEOs’ claims to the contrary when pitching their “services” to trusting website owners.

Although this strategy is ineffective in increasing site authority, it might be worth the cost for a few select high-quality or niche-specific directories.

5. Comment and Forum Spam

Google not only permits but encourages you to leave comments on important, reliable websites and forums and to link back to relevant articles on your website.

Process scaling or automation is the issue. There is probably minimal risk or profit because many comment systems now make all links nofollow by default.

6. Negative SEO

Backlink spamming intentionally directing traffic from hundreds or thousands of low-quality websites to a competitor is the most prevalent kind of bad SEO.

However, Google will become suspicious and penalize you if you receive a large number of spammy links in a short period of time.

Tools for Identifying Harmful Links

There are various tools available to assist in locating harmful links on a website:


1. Google Search Console

A free tool provided by Google called Google Search Console enables website owners to track the visibility of their websites in Google search results. You may use it to find any negative links that can be harming the ranking of your website.

2. Semrush

You may more quickly and completely analyze your website with this software bundle. Semrush is an efficient tool that helps you understand your website’s operations and the outcomes of your digital marketing campaigns and strategies.

This tool aids in locating harmful connections on your website and offers a thorough backlink analysis and can warn you about any unethical or spammy links.

3. Ahrefs

Ahrefs is a popular SEO tool used by website owners and link builders to track their competitors and find broken connections. It can assist you in locating harmful links on your website by analyzing your backlink profile.

Ahrefs may be used to check for broken external links. You may start making repairs for these connections with the information provided in these reports, removing what some web SEO strategists refer to as “link rot” from your website.

4. Moz Link Explorer

An integrated SEO tool called  Moz has a backlink analyzer. It can assist you in identifying dangerous links on your website and offer advice on how to take them down.

5. Ubersuggest

Ubersuggest is a flexible SEO sidekick that aids in identifying both backlinks that are valuable to maintain and those that should be removed.

When to Disavow Links?

Search engines can be advised not to include certain links referring to your website when determining their rankings by disavowing them. Disavowing links may be a helpful tactic if your website has links from spammy or low-quality websites that could harm your search engine results. According to Google, most websites won’t need to disavow links, and only in specific situations should they be done so.

Here are some examples of when you can disavow links.


1. When your traffic is impacted

You may have a problem with poor backlinks if your rankings have abruptly and noticeably dropped, in this instance, you should find and remove them.

2. When negative SEO has affected your website

Black hat practices known as negative SEO are employed by websites on other websites to penalize them and lower their ranks.

Unfortunately, competitors may attempt to harm your website’s ranking by generating spammy backlinks. Disavow these connections immediately if you believe this has occurred.

3. When Google imposes a manual penalty on you

Disavowing the links on your website is essential if Google has penalized it for having unnatural links. By doing this, you can improve your rankings and stay out of trouble in the future.

4. When your site received an algorithmic penalty

An algorithmic penalty occurs when your rankings are impacted by an algorithmic change, yet this is still not as harsh as a manual penalty.  You need to disavow any harmful backlinks that may be there as an outcome.

5. When you have received a lot of low-quality links

If you have obtained a high number of low-quality links from spammy websites or link directories, you should disavow those connections to prevent being penalized by search engines.

What Happens When You Disavow A Backlink?

If you disavow one or more backlinks, what happens next?

Disavowing a backlink simply instructs search engines like Google to disregard it when analyzing your website. Disavowing a link doesn’t, however, take it from the internet, so keep that in mind. Simply put, it implies that search engines will no longer take it into account when deciding the rating of your website.

But every website owner needs to keep in mind that Google is under no obligation to accept your request for backlink disavowal. As a result, it has stated in its documentation that when you submit a disavowal file, you are only expressing a recommendation.

In order to remove backlinks, you must prepare a disavow file, a plain text file listing the domains or URLs you wish search engines to disregard. Using Google’s Disavow Links tool, submit your list after it has been created.


It’s important to remember that disavowing backlinks should be done cautiously. It’s an effective technique, but if utilized improperly, it might lower the ranks of your website. Always double-check your disavow file before submitting it, and keep in mind that the procedure might take a few weeks to take effect.

How To Disavow Backlinks?

Maintaining a strong backlink profile for your website involves disavowing backlinks on a regular basis. It might assist you in avoiding search engine penalties for spammy or low-quality links.

When you disavow harmful connections to your website, you are informing Google that you are aware of these links and are requesting that they be ignored. Following these steps will show you how to disavow backlinks that may be harming your SEO.

1. Identify Which Links Need To Be Disavowed


Identifying the harmful backlinks is the first step towards disavowing them. A number of tools, such as Google Search Console, Ahrefs, and SEMrush, are available to help you find backlinks to your website. Google Search Console may be used to find spammy backlinks in the following ways:

  • Open Google Search Console and log in.
  • Select the website you want to remove backlinks from by clicking it.
  • Select “Links” from the menu on the left.
  • Then select “External Links.”
  • Look for any spammy or poor-quality links in the list of external links.

2. Create a Disavow File


It’s time to make a Disavow file now that you know how to identify a poor backlink. All the links you want to disavow are listed in this plain text file. Here’s how to make a disavow file:

  • Open a plain text editor, such as TextEdit or Notepad.
  • On the file’s first line, type “# Disavow file”
  • Enter the domain name of the website whose backlinks you wish to remove. such as “”
  • List each URL you wish to retract on a separate line.
  • Save the document as a “.txt” file.

3. Upload the disavow file to Google


The disavowed file must then be uploaded to Google. This is how you do it:

  • Open Google Search Console and log in.
  • Select the website you want to remove backlinks from by clicking it.
  • Select “Disavow Links” from the “Links” menu.
  • Click “Disavow Links” once more.
  • Select the disavow file you created in Step 2 by clicking “Choose File” and doing so.
  • Then click ‘submit’

4. Monitor the Results


After uploading your disavow file, keep an eye on your website’s rating and traffic to see if there are any changes. If not, you may need to keep working on enhancing your website’s backlink profile.


Disavowing backlinks may be a useful method for protecting your website from penalties caused by low-quality or spammy connections. However, disavowing should be approached with caution and a thorough analysis of your backlink profile. You should always check your links before disavowing them. Make sure you aren’t removing your high-quality links. If you don’t, your SEO might suffer greatly.

Following the steps outlined in this guide and using tools such as Google Search Console, you can identify harmful links and submit a disavow file to Google to ensure that they are not taken into account in your website’s ranking. To enhance the search engine optimization of your website, keep an eye on your backlink profile on a regular basis and keep building high-quality links.

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