How to Disavow Links and Save Your Website From Google Penalty?

May 5, 2023 | Advanced SEO

“All that glitters is not gold-” This proverb completely matches the context of what we will discuss today: backlinks. Not just any backlinks: toxic links.

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Ya, ya, we know that getting a backlink is a cause for celebration, but not all of them are good, right? And how can you confirm that a particular backlink is negatively affecting your SEO instead of increasing your traffic rate?

If you have not yet done a link audit for your website, you need to buckle up, as there are high chances of toxic links feeding off your website traffic.

Besides, Google hates spammy websites as it shows that you use black hat SEO techniques to get ahead in SERP rankings and gain traffic. That’s why Google launched the Penguin algorithm back in 2012 to pick out all untrustworthy links from web pages.

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Though the name might sound cute, believe us, Google Penguin is a merciless algorithm. Let’s say you were getting 2000 monthly visits on your website, but there was a single spammy backlink that Penguin detected and levied a penalty. What’s next? Your website traffic falls to zero.

Yes, that’s right! Your website is now completely lost in the pool of SERP rankings, counting days to get at least a single visitor.

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However, Google also understands that most of the time, you have no idea of such links, due to which it created the “ Disavow backlinks” feature. 

With the Google Disavow feature, you can easily perform Google penalty recovery for your site and save it from further harmful links.

Moreover, the Google Disavow tool will be your best friend. But beware, as it is a dangerous feature and not a child’s play. That’s why we are here to guide you throughout the disavow backlinks process so you don’t get a penalty.

How To Find Toxic Links for Google Disavow Process?

picking out bad links

The first major step of the link disavow process is identifying the toxic links. 

You cannot simply go ahead and conduct backlinks disavow for all links pointing to your website, as it would damage your entire off-page SEO efforts and give a low blow to your rankings.

That’s why you must be careful while finding toxic links, as one small mistake can bring everything down. There are several ways through which you can find these spammy links, but the most effective ones are stated below. Besides, our online SEO tool will make the entire process easier.

1. Domain Quality

One of the best methods we suggest to webmasters is identifying spammy domains from where your website gets backlinks.

RankWatch’s Link Explorer can help you separate toxic domains from good ones within seconds.

RankWatch add new project dashboard

Once you have added a new project, you just need to visit the link explorer page, and all backlink-related data of your website will be in front of you.

RankWatch link explorer dashboard

You need to click on the “Referring domains” in the overview tab. A new page showing all the domains, along with the number of backlinks from each of them, will appear on your screen.

Now, select “domain quality” from the drop-down menu and “1-star” from the condition filter.

RankWatch domain quality dashboard

The tool will analyze all the domains linking back to you and present the ones with low domain quality. Download this report, or export it directly to an Excel sheet for the disavow backlinks Google process.

Besides, if you still have doubts about the domain quality, you can use our online backlink checker for assurance.

RankWatch backlink analyzer dashboard

If the domain’s trust score is less than its citation score, you must put it immediately in the disavow file. 

2. TLD Distribution

Let’s say the domain quality is really good and has tons of visitors every month, but, and that’s a big BUT, the domain genre does not match your website content. Now, would you consider such domains referring to your website?

Or let’s say the domain quality is really good, but the TLD is quite suspicious as you have never heard of or seen it. Would getting backlinks from such domains be useful for your website?

We don’t think so. Instead, such domains will negatively affect your site’s traffic by increasing the bounce rate.

To ensure that such domains do not link to your website, separate them using the TLD distribution zone.

RankWatch link center’s TLD distribution graph

Link Explorer’s TLD zone shows the total number of backlinks you get from different TLDs. If you are suspicious of any TLD zone, click on that, verify the links by visiting them, and see if they are somehow relevant to your content.

RankWatch link center filter by TLD

Besides, if you don’t have time or if there are too many links, just get an overview of the TLD and its meaning by Googling it. However, we always suggest you manually check such links to avoid missing out on any toxic links during the disavow link process.

3. By Country

Let’s be honest here; anyone in the world can find your website content useful and link back to you. Yes, it’s good, but what if the backlinking is rising at an alarming rate and that too, it’s not from your targeted country?

Sounds suspicious? Well then, you should check your link profile right away. 

Link Explorer distributes the links based on the country from which the domains are referring to you so that you get a better idea.

RankWatch link center country distribution chart

If you find suspicious activities, like increasing referrals to your site from countries you have not targeted, select the country from Link Explorer, and visit the domains yourself.

RankWatch link center filter by country

There might be a chance that some high-quality domains are linking to your content as they find it useful. However, there’s also a chance that some domains are suspicious or do not have any relevant content to refer you to.

Group such links and export the list so that you can properly conduct the disavow link process.

4. Through Anchor Texts

Another effective way to identify bad links from your link profile is by looking at their anchor texts. Most of the time, link spammers use random words as anchor texts and link to your website.

Simply put, the anchor texts and the linked content do not match. You can easily view these anchor texts with RankWatch’s backlink analyzer.

RankWatch backlink analyzer anchor text distribution

It shows you the total number of anchor texts used for linking to your site, along with their trust and citation score, so you can verify whether they are relevant and trustworthy.

RankWatch backlink analyzer anchor text category graph

The overview graph shows you the basic genre of the anchor texts and the percentage of links coming from them so that you can verify whether the said genre matches your content or not.

How To Disavow Backlinks?

You got your list of bad, toxic, blood-sucking links ready?? Now, let’s start with the hard part, shall we?

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Follow these steps carefully so that Google doesn’t remove good links from your website during the link disavow process.

Step 1: Separate Links and Domains

Now that you have a list of spammy links, you need to separate them into domains and URLs. 

Why? That’s because there are chances you only have a few spammy links coming from a good domain.

Now you don’t want to remove the good links from your website, do you?

Besides, you might also have spammy domains whose only job is to feed off your content through toxic referrals.

Create an Excel sheet with different columns for URLs and domains. We know it might take some time, but it’s worth the hard work.

Step 2: Create a .txt File

Separated the links? Now, let’s move on to the next step.

Create a Word file and start writing the spammy domains and URLs in this format:

For disavow links:

For disavowing domains:

However, there are certain rules that you need to follow so that Google properly disavow links from your site.

  1. Write only one URL or domain in one line. You cannot simply disavow an entire subpath.
  2. A single file can only contain 100,000 lines, including all blank lines and comments. If your file length is more than that, you need to reduce it or create another file for the remaining and eliminate them afterward.
  3. Ensure that the file size is no more than 2MB
  4. Make sure that the file is encoded in 7-bit ASCII or UTF-8.

Step 3: Upload the Disavow Link File

Once you are ready with the link disavow file, download it in .txt format. Now follow these steps to smoothly upload the disavow link file.

  1. Open the disavow links page in Google Search Console
  2. Select the property (website) for which you want to remove the links
  3. Click on the “Upload disavow list” option
  4. Upload the .txt file, and you are good to go

Now, relax for a bit, as Google will take some weeks to process your request and completely disavow links from your website.

How To Stop Link Disavow?

STOP sign

To err is to human- and who better than Google knows this? So, if you have made the mistake of eliminating useful links from your website, you still have a chance to save your off-page SEO efforts.

  1. Visit the disavow links Google Search Console page
  2. Select your property from the menu
  3. Click on the “Cancel disavowals” option

Remember that Google will take a few weeks to consider your request and then work on it. Besides, if you have mistakenly added a good link amongst the disavowed links file, then you need to start the entire link disavow process after canceling the request.

So, it will be tiring. That’s why make sure you give the best shot in the first try.

When Should You Conduct Link Disavow?

One of the major questions that webmasters face is when is the correct time to disavow backlinks. Should you disavow links after getting a penalty? But won’t that be too late?

Well, here are some signs based on which you can decide whether backlinks disavow would be a good option for your site.

Negative SEO Drop

There have been cases where websites bombard their competitors with spammy links and anchor texts to tank their rankings.

RankWatch Analytics dashboard

If you see a sudden negative change in your rankings, traffic, dwell and bounce rates, immediately conduct a backlink audit for your website.

Besides, our backlink checker free online can give you a quick overview of any toxic links along with their last activity, trust and citation score, anchor texts, etc. Download this report and start the Google disavow links process immediately.

Spam from the Past

Running away from past spam links

We have all heard about “Throwback Thursdays,” where we revel in happy memories from the past. However, in “Spam from the past,” we shiver from the toxic links built in the past era.

There might be toxic links on your website about which you don’t have any information. This might happen due to past attacks, sudden changes in formats, and as such.

Whatever the case, these spammy links from the past have the caliber to destroy your off-page efforts and hit you where it hurts the most: your website’s rankings.

So, before Google gets a hold on such links, conduct an audit and start the link disavow process to eliminate them from your site immediately.

Spammy Link Building

Let’s say the webmaster before you or your client used a spammy link builder tool or hired someone to get spammy backlinks so that their website’s ranking could improve.

However, as per the current scenario, you cannot use such black hat techniques to get better rankings. 

That’s why, if you get a whiff of spammy link building that has been done in the past, confirm the same with your client, and then start with the link disavow process.

Summing Up…

So, the book has been uncovered, and all the secrets are out in the open. Now that you know all about toxic links, their side effects, and how to disavow them, what are you waiting for?

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Go ahead and disavow those bad guys from your website right away. And don’t worry, RankWatch is always here to save you from drowning in the quicksand of toxic links, Google penalty, and all things that are harmful to your site.

Hope this blog was helpful to you.

See you soon!


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