Google’s Disavow Links Tool: How to Disavow Links

A Complete Guide to Google’s Disavow Links Tool

Link building is one of the main pillars of search engine optimisation (SEO), but that doesn’t mean it’s straightforward. There are many ‘toxic’ links from spam blogs, low-quality directories and irrelevant web pages that can cause harm to your site.

‘Disavowing links’ gives you a second chance with Google, providing one final attempt to decide if a link should be counted or not based on your opinion. It gives you higher control over who is linking to your website, whether an auto-generated RSS feed or a spammy directory.

Disavowing links may sound like a daunting task but It’s important to recognise that by disavowing the bad links pointing to your site, you will improve your site rankings.

It’s no secret: Google hates spammy links! In this article we will talk you through the ins and outs of disavowing links, including:

  • What is link building?
  • What are toxic links?
  • What does it mean to disavow links?
  • Who is the disavow tool for?
  • How do I know which links to disavow?
  • How do you disavow toxic links?
    • Step 1: Review your links
    • Step 2: Create a disavow file
    • Step 3: Upload your disavow file
  • How long does it take for a disavow tool to work?

What Is Link Building?

Link building is a fundamental aspect of SEO; it’s the process of attracting links to your website from other sites.

The greater quantity and diversity of these inbound links, the more credible your website will appear to search engines, resulting in improved page rankings and visibility.

For backlinks to be valuable, they must hold “authority”, meaning they must generate from a page with high value; the sites must produce relevant and trusted content.

What are Toxic Links?

Toxic links are something every link builder has to take control of at some point, but what are toxic links?

Toxic backlinks are unnatural links that harm your Google search engine rankings, provide no value and can also lead to penalties from search engines.

Google’s link schemes guide states:

Manually removing links can be a tedious process, and it isn’t always possible! Some sites don’t have contact details, while others refuse to respond.

In these cases, Webmasters have been asking for the ability to ‘disown’ certain links; this is where “disavowing” plays its part.

What Does It Mean To Disavow Links?

Google’s disavow links tool is a great way for webmasters to essentially ‘disown’ links pointing back to their website from other sites.

What Does It Mean To Disavow Links?

It allows you to remove toxic links that are damaging your website’s credibility and informs Google that you feel a specific link should not be considered as part of your site’s rankings.

Links that Google does not take into account when determining your website’s ranking are considered “nofollow” links.

Who is the Disavow Tool for?

Google was open in saying that for most people, this tool will be irrelevant. But some people this will be an important tool for:

  • Businesses who were penalised as the result of spammy link building by an SEO agency
  • Businesses and websites who’ve been the victim of negative SEO and have been penalised as a result
  • Businesses who hold their hands up to historic ‘less than savoury’ link building methods and want to just clean up!

How Do I Know Which Links To Disavow?

After you identify the links that Google is telling you to disavow, you need to figure out which bad links are causing your problems. This includes:

  • Sites and content which aren’t topically relevant.
  • Sites that aren’t indexed by Google.
  • Links forced into blog comments.
  • Sites with an excessive quantity of external links.
  • Sites with low traffic and domain authority.

Even if you’re certain that a link is good or bad, it can still be risky. You may be surprised by how many seemingly bad links help your website! Google provides a caution to all disavow tool users:


How To Disavow Toxic Links

Thanks to Google, the process is simple.

Step 1: Review Your Links

There are many software’s you can use to review your backlinks, such as SEMrush, Ahrefs and Moz.

For example, SEMrush has a backlink audit tool that shows all of your backlinks and provides a toxicity score based on a variety of factors. You can then assess the links and determine if they are toxic or not.

Step 2: Create A Disavow File

You must assemble a list of domains you would like to disavow in a text file that can be uploaded to Google Search Console.

Once you have identified a toxic link, you can automatically add it to your disavow list. Once you have completed the review, you can then download the formatted disavow.txt​​ file.

Below are the guidelines from Google when creating your .txt file.

  • The file name must end in .txt
  • File size can be no larger than 2MB and 100,000 lines
  • Each URL should be on its own line
  • If you want to disavow a whole domain you should start the line with domain
  • If you want to disavow a URL you can just enter the URL


If you would like to test your disavow file before uploading it, you can use the Disavow File Testing Tool which was created by former Google Engineer, Fili Wiese.

Step 3: Upload Your Disavow File

Your next step is to upload the disavow .txt file to Google Disavow Tool within Google Search Console.

Below are the easy steps to uploading your disavow.

How to submit your disavow file to Google

If you have previously uploaded a disavow .txt file, the new file will completely override the old file.

How Long Does It Take for a Disavow Tool to Work?

There is no fixed timeframe for results to show. Periods vary from days to weeks.

In a Google Webmaster Office Hours, the question was raised about how long it takes for links to be processed and reflected in an update.

“So if you submit a large disavow file or a disavow file that includes a lot of domain entries or just generally includes a lot of different URLs, then that is something that’s going to take quite a bit of time to kind of recrawl all of those URLs naturally and reprocess all of that information.”

Why Should You Care?

Monitoring your backlinks is a crucial aspect of SEO, and there is no time like the present to disavow your toxic links. While it’s important to attract good links, it’s just as important to remove bad ones, therefore ensuring the backlinks to your site are high-quality and trustworthy will encourage Google to improve your search engine ranking.

Still wary of your disavow links file? Our SEO agency can help turn your backlink profile around. Get In touch to learn more about our link building and technical SEO services.


Amy Jones
Amy Jones
Amy Jones joined Tecmark as an SEO Executive in 2021. She brings 5 years of experience specialising in wide areas of marketing capturing the minds of the audience through blogging, social media and design. A lover of everything digital and a passionate dancer in her spare time.

We create websites with your customer in mind to help you build your brand and grow your business.

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