By Annie Ellicott

Natural links = Good. Unnatural/Artificial/Paid links = Bad.

In mid October, Google finally released (after BING interestingly), their new Disavow tool. This tool allows site owners (and yes, you must be at the admin level of “site owner” in Webmaster Tools), to effectively disallow links from poor quality sites which could have resulted in a penalty from one of Google’s Penguin algorithm updates. This is significant because (as everyone knows), it is extremely time consuming and difficult to call site owners and have old links taken down. And let’s face it, the race to increase search ranking levels, led many a site owner to aggressively post content with backlinks back to their sites from many sites – not all of them relevant or high quality…before this practice changed from gray hat to black hat SEO.

So the Disavow tool comes as a welcome relief for many, right? Well yes…and no. As it was released, the experts in the SEO field cautioned that webmasters and site owners should not to use the tool unless they are sure they need to.


Once you have disavowed a link, you will not be able to regain any value of that link from an SEO standpoint. In other words, if you over disavow links which are not causing you any harm, you may actually do yourself more SEO harm than good.

And there are new risks inherent in releasing this tool to all, for example, “negative SEO” where a competitor buys links on poor quality/spammy sites, then point them at your site to make you look links-farmy in Google’s eyes.


If you have received a message from Google in Webmaster Tools that you have “unnatural links”, you should try to eliminate these manually (first). Only if you are unable to contact or get links partners to cooperate (for whatever reason), should you proceed forward with the disavow tool. Many sites (particularly those hit by the Penguin algorithm update) will welcome the opportunity to use this tool in advance of then requesting Google reconsideration of their sites.

Google’s disavow tool allows you to upload a simple text file containing specific url’s (one per line) that you want to “disavow” (block) as well as any full domains you want to exclude inbound links from. The total file size limit is 2MG.

Once you have submitted your .txt file, you can update this file (adding links) at any time. And a good practice is to (following a disavow submission via Webmaster Tools) then ask for reconsideration of your site by Google. Matt Cutts has recently released a helpful video describing expected results from a reconsideration request to Google.

Worried about using Google’s disavow tool and identifying exactly which links are “bad links”? Just contact us and we’re happy to help!