Remove Unnatural Links With The Google Disavow Tool

Matt Cutts, head of the Web Spam team at Google, announced today the release of a new feature in Google Webmaster Tools, the Disavow Links tool, now being progressively rolled out across the Google realm.

Struggling with your rankings post-Panda and Penguin? This could be your silver lining…

After recent Google updates and algorithm shifts (e.g. Panda and in particular Penguin updates), webmasters around the world have been battling with the challenge of how to have any “unnatural links” pointing to their website removed, sometimes resulting in mass-email campaigns, pleading emails and even bribes to other webmasters requesting them to remove a dodgy link.

However, not every webmaster is as receptive as you would like them to be, often resulting in the offending links not being removed… very frustrating!

Stress no more (or less)! Matt Cutts, head of the Web Spam team at Google, announced today the release of a new feature in Google Webmaster Tools, the Disavow Links tool, now being progressively rolled out across the Google realm.

What Is It For?

The tool’s main target is webmasters whose sites received that “unnatural links” message in Google Webmaster Tools (you know, the one that starts with “Google Webmaster Tools notice of detected unnatural links to…” that instantly raises your heart rate to 200 beats per minute).

As per Google’s official blog post:

If you’ve ever been caught up in linkspam, you may have seen a message in Webmaster Tools about “unnatural links” pointing to your site. We send you this message when we see evidence of paid links, link exchanges, or other link schemes that violate our quality guidelines. If you get this message, we recommend that you remove from the web as many spammy or low-quality links to your site as possible. This is the best approach because it addresses the problem at the root. By removing the bad links directly, you’re helping to prevent Google (and other search engines) from taking action again in the future. You’re also helping to protect your site’s image, since people will no longer find spammy links pointing to your site on the web and jump to conclusions about your website or business.”

So, if you have ever received one of these “unnatural links” notices and have done all you can to try and get these links removed, including, trying to reach the webmasters from the offending websites, the new disavow tool gives you the ability to let Google know that you don’t want certain links, or even entire websites that link to you, to be included in Google’s assessment of your site.

How Does It Work

Within your Google Webmaster Tools account you will soon find the new Disavow Links section which will ask you to select the website in question from the drop down menu.

Google Disavow Tool- improve backlink profile

The next step is straight forward, you are requested to upload a file that contain the URL’s or domains of the links that you want removed.

All that is required is a plain text file with one URL per line and allows for URL specific considerations and domain wide considerations.

Use the ‘#’ to add comments before a URL to explain and add comments regarding previous efforts in having these links removed.

Use “” to have all links from a domain disavowed.

Google has given the example of a disavow link text file below.

You Need To Be Careful

Matt Cutts has said that whenever this file is submitted it could take weeks before all the actual links are actually excluded from your websites assessment as Google requires to reindex and re-evaluate the links specified in your document.

As the disavowing process takes several weeks, if you make a mistake and accidentally list sites that should not be disavowed, you are required to download your current disavow list, update the list and re-submit the list, which in turn will again take several weeks to be reassessed.

Google also noted that it will take the disavow file as a strong suggestion only but will make its own judgment as to whether or not a link should be disavowed.

In the Q&A, Cutts said that the disavow tool is much like the “nofollow” attribute, the attribute which allows sites to link to one another without passing credit.

For more frequently asked questions you can visit the official Google Webmaster Central blog post here

We Can Help

If your website is affected by “unnatural links” or by questionable SEO techniques, contact seoWorks today. Our experienced Business Analysts will analyze your site and identify the links that are holding your website back and then recommend and implement the best SEO strategy to resolve your situation.