How To Disavow Toxic Backlinks

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how to disavow backlinksHas your website experienced a drop in search engine rankings or domain authority? Too many toxic backlinks might be to blame. Don’t let outside forces ruin your SEO efforts. Read this blog post to learn how to disavow backlinks.

What is Disavowing?

When you disavow a backlink, you essentially tell search engines to ignore that specific link to your website. This detaches your site from the negative effects of toxic backlinks, such as Google penalties or a drop in rankings.

Note: When you disavow links, you are simply sending Google a request to do so. They won’t necessarily honor this request, but most of the time they do.

Should You Disavow Backlinks?

You should only disavow backlinks as a last resort. This is an advanced SEO technique, and it could negatively impact your site’s performance if you remove the wrong links. Before you attempt this, try to manually remove the link by reaching out to the website owner.

Google understands that most bad backlinks are not within your control. Usually, the algorithm can assess spammy links without you needing to tell them. According to Google, you should only attempt to disavow backlinks if:

  • A high amount of toxic, artificial, or low-quality links point to your site.
  • The links have caused or will likely cause a manual action on your site.

To understand whether or not to disavow a backlink, you should understand the difference between toxic and spammy links.

Spammy vs Toxic Backlinks

Spammy and toxic backlinks might sound like the same thing, making you think you need to remove both types. Some use these terms interchangeably, but there are some key differences:

  • Spammy backlinks come from low-quality or irrelevant sites. They don’t necessarily harm your search engine rankings because Google can tell that they are spam.
  • Toxic backlinks usually come from “black-hat” paid link schemes that go against Google’s quality guidelines. These links are harmful because they come from websites designed for the sole purpose of boosting SEO. In reality, they actually do the opposite.

Toxic backlinks can also come from a negative seo attack. This happens when a competitor uses a paid link scheme. But, they direct all those backlinks to your site in an effort to bring it down. However, these attacks are rarely successful.

We only need to disavow toxic backlinks because they are the ones that actively harm your site’s search engine rankings.

the difference between spammy and toxic backlinks

Spammy and toxic backlinks sound similar, but they are different. Spammy backlinks typically don’t affect your site’s SEO, while toxic backlinks do have a negative effect.

4 Steps To Remove Bad Backlinks

1. Identify the links to remove

The first step in disavowing toxic links is to identify them. Thankfully, there are several tools that can perform a comprehensive backlink audit. Some of the more popular backlink audit tools include:

  • Google Search Console
  • Ahrefs
  • SEMrush
  • Majestic
  • Moz Pro

Then, assess the quality of each backlink by looking at the page’s authority. Check to see if the site’s content is relevant to your own, and watch for any signs of spam. Prioritize high-risk links that come from questionable sources, such as link farms, and add them to your disavow list of links.

2.Reach out to the website owner

Once you know the links you have to remove, try reaching out to the website owners of those links. Ask them to manually remove the link before you go forward with the disavowal process. Disavowing the wrong links can negatively affect your SEO. So, you want to make sure you have tried other options before you begin.

3. Create your list in a TXT file

After you identify the toxic backlinks that you can not manually remove, compile a list of these URLs in a text (TXT) file. Use these tips to create the file:

  • Format the TXT file correctly by listing each URL to disavow on a new line. To remove an entire domain, type
  • Organize the file thoughtfully. You may want to categorize the links by the reason for disavowal. This doesn’t affect the process, but it helps you with record keeping.
  • To write any comments, start the link with ‘#’ so that Google will ignore it.

4. Upload the TXT file to the Google Disavow Tool 

Next, you need to upload your text file to the Google Disavow Tool. Follow these steps:

  • Visit the Google Disavow Tool page and select your website. You must verify your site in Google Search Console to access this tool.
  • Submit your disavow request by uploading your prepared text file. If you already have a previous file, this new file will replace the old one. Always include previous disavows unless you want to restore those links.
  • Wait a few weeks for Google to process the information and impact your link profile.
Google Disavow Tool

To start the disavow process, go to the Google Disavow Tool. Select your property and then continue to upload your TXT file.

5.Monitor and make changes as necessary

After you submit your disavow text file, it may take a few weeks for Google to process the information. During this time, make sure to monitor your site’s performance. Your site’s backlink profile is dynamic, so new unwanted links can appear while old links may change.

Can you undo a disavow?

Yes, you can cancel the disavows if you change your mind. To do this, simply go to Google’s disavow links tool and select a property from the list. Then, click “Cancel Disavowals” to remove the list. Keep in mind that it can take Google a couple of weeks to process the information.

How To Avoid Toxic Backlinks In The Future

After you disavow toxic links, you should take proactive measures to avoid accumulating more in the first place. You can’t completely control who links to your site, but you can minimize the risk of bad backlinks. Use these tips:

Know the difference between quality links and toxic ones

When developing a link-building strategy, it is important to know the difference between good and bad links. Quality backlinks boost your SEO, while low-quality ones detract from it.

Look for these signs to identify a high-quality backlink:

  • The site’s content is relevant to your own website.
  • The site is credible and has built authority in their niche. Examples include major news outlets, educational institutions, and leading industry blogs.
  • The link fits naturally within the content and adds value. It should not feel forced or out of place.

On the flip-side, look out for these signs to identify a low-quality, toxic backlink:

  • The website has little to no relevance to your own website’s content.
  • The website has intrusive ads, poor design, or plagiarized content.
  • The link is part of a paid link scheme designed to manipulate search engine rankings.
  • It has over-optimized or unnatural anchor text.
  • Google penalized the website for engaging in black-hat SEO tactics.
  • Your website receives a sudden, unnatural spike in backlinks from low-quality sources.

Regularly monitor your site

Keep a close eye on your backlink profile. Use SEO tools like Google Search Console, Ahrefs, SEMrush, or Moz to make the monitoring process easier. This will help you identify suspicious links and address them before they impact your site’s SEO health.

Additionally, you can set up a Google Alert to monitor mentions of your brand. Google Alerts emails you whenever a new result about you appears. This can help you check whether new mentions include backlinks so you can assess their quality.

Use SEO best practices

Using best SEO practices is the best way to avoid bad backlinks. (That is, unless your site is the victim of a negative SEO attack, but again this is rare.) Use these SEO tips to prevent bad links:

  • Avoid black-hat SEO techniques like link farming. This is a scheme where multiple sites link to each other to artificially boost their search engine rankings. These generally involve websites created just to generate links.
  • Focus on creating high-quality, relevant content that naturally attracts links. Good content will encourage organic linking from reputable sources, which benefits your SEO.
  • When you do reach out for backlinks, look for websites that are relevant to your niche.
  • Use the “Nofollow” attribute for links coming from sponsored content. This tag tells search engines not to pass on link equity.
  • Develop a robust strategy to acquire new, high-quality links from reputable sites. More good links can help dilute the impact of any potential bad links. Legitimate link-building activities include guest blogging, collaborations, and public relations campaigns.
  • Make sure your website’s technical SEO is strong enough to withstand SEO attacks. This includes regular updates, secure hosting, and implementing HTTPS.

Educate your team

Make sure that anyone involved with your site’s SEO understands ethical link-building practices. If you work with external partners, make sure they also understand your guidelines. Educating your team and partners can prevent well-intentioned efforts from leading to acquiring toxic links.

Additionally, create a set of clear SEO guidelines that outline both best practices and strategies to avoid. Make sure everyone can easily access these, and regularly update them with current standards.

Closing Out: Disavowing Links

Link-building is a vital part of any robust SEO strategy. However, the wrong backlinks can do serious damage to your website. Follow these steps to disavow toxic backlinks and get your site back on track.

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