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Joanna Swartwood, Director of Marketing and Revenue GrowthWed, Jan 23, 2013 10 min read

The Ultimate Guide to Using Google’s Disavow Links Tool

The Ultimate Guide to Using Google’s Disavow Links Tool

Did Google's Penguin update slap your website across the face? Do you have spammy links you just can't quite ditch? Well unlike the smelly kid who followed you around in high school, Google is making it possible to ditch of those smelly, spammy links with their new Google Disavow Link tool.

Now before you start submitting links all willy-nilly, there are some critical things to consider and some key steps to take when using Google's new tool. In this blog we will examine how to effectively use the Google disavow link tool in an effort to clean up and improve your link profile.

The Ultimate Guide to Using Google’s Disavow Links Tool

Let me first start off by saying the disavow link tool is not a cure all answer and comes with a great deal of warning from Google's head of web-spam, Matt Cutts. If you haven't already watched Matt's 10 minute introduction and warning message on Google's disavow link tool, you need to watch this first:

In the video, Matt gives a few big considerations to understand before using this tool:

1. The majority of websites will never need this tool
If you are the average website owner, you follow good guidelines or a simple mom-and-pop shop, there's a good chance that you will not need this tool. This tool will only be used by those who participate in SEO efforts and have spammy link profiles that they would like to clean up.

2. Clean up as many links as possible directly with the website first
Google always recommends to work directly with the website to get all the spammy links taken down before using this tool. They suggest only using this tool as a last resort if you cannot get a hold of the website or cannot get it taken down.

3. Take your time, do research and be cautious when using this tool
You must really take your time to use this tool correctly, if you don't, you may be doing more harm than good. Use Google webmaster and Open Site Explorer to download your inbound links and carefully research all the spammy links.


Be cautious when adding them to your .txt file you're submitting to the disavow link tool because once they are submitted they will be MUCH harder and take MUCH more time to get changed back, if even possible.

Before deciding if you should use the Google disavow link tool, you must first do an analysis on your website's link profile to determine if you even have spammy links that you'd like to get rid of. You can do this in one, or both, of two ways.

Method One: Download Your Link Profile in Google Webmaster Tools
Link Matt suggested in the above video, you can easily login and download a full link profile directly from your Google webmaster area. To do this, simply...

  1. Login to your Google Webmaster account
  2. Choose the website you'd like to download the link profile of


  3. Under the "Who Links Most" section, click the more


  4. Now there are two options you can choose
    • "Download this table" – which downloads ALL your links
    • "Download Latest Links" – which downloads all recent links


If this is your first time reviewing your link profile, I would recommend downloading the entire table. If you have been already been monitoring your profile, you may just want to download the latest links

OPTION 2: For those of you who have access to SEOMoz's Open Site Explorer, you can use this tool to download your link profile. This method can give you some better filtering and targeting methods for creating link lists to manage. Additionally, once exported, the CSV file will give you must more data that you can use in evaluating your links.

Here's a step by step guide on how to download your link profile from Open Site Explorer

  1. Login to your SEOmoz Pro Account
  2. Visit account
  3. Search for your website


  4. Under the "Inbound Links" tab, you can use the filters to more effectively narrow down the types of links you want to examine.
  5. On the right side, click the "Export to CSV" option

No matter which option you choose, they will spit out a CSV file that you can then open in either Google Docs or Excel. Once open, you can start filtering and examining the results. If you used Open Site Explorer, they will provide much more information for you to use to sort and view your links to make it easier to determine if they are spammy or legit.


After you have spent a great deal of time effectively reviewing your downloaded CSV link profile and have identified if you in-fact have any spammy links, the next step is to work on contacting those websites directly to try and have them take down the link.

This is the preferred method because it makes it much easier for Google to update and process the request when the link is completely removed. Secondly, even if you use Google's disavow link tool, the actual link will still be on the website and users can still click on it. This can cause user confusion and high bounce rate.

So before you get excited to submit your links to the Disavow tool, take the time and effort to get these links completely removed directly from website.

Alright, at this point you were able to review your link profile and did identify spammy links. Then you worked to get as many of those spammy links taken off the websites directly, but you still have a list of links you can't quite seem to ditch. At this point, you can finally start thinking about using the Google disavow link tool.
Here is the process to take for submitting links to the tool.

1. Create a .txt document that you will be submitting to the tool

2. Copy the spammy links from your exported CSV file that you couldn't get removed

3. Paste them into your .txt file, one link per line. You can use special language to disavow links from entire domains much like you do in the robot.txt file


4. Once you have a saved .txt file, do one last check to double check all the links on this file you 100% want cleared. If you submit a link and then want to get it added back to your link profile at a later date, it's a nightmare and will take forever. Only submit links that you are 100% sure you want off your link profile.

5. Visit the Google Disavow Link page and choose the website you'd like to disavow links from


6. Read Google's little warning message and click "Disavow Links"

google-disavow-link-upload-txt7. Select the .txt file of the links you'd like cleared and upload


And you're done!
Now in the future if you want to make edits, Google keeps this .txt file available for download. You can download the file, add another link to ignore and then re-upload the .txt file for Google to process.

Keep in mind, this is simply a highly weighted suggestion to Google and they still reserve the right to make changes or deny any requests. Additionally, it can take 2-4 weeks (or more) for your changes to take effect because Google must go back and re-crawl those linking pages to add in the correct link attribute to disavow that link.

I would also recommend taking a look at these helpful links BEFORE submitting your Google Disavow Links .txt file. They have some useful information to take into consideration.

I'd encourage you to leave comments with any questions you have, more information you have on this topic or if you think this new Google Disavow Link tools is good or not. Let me hear it! Also, if you liked my article, please thumbs up it and share on twitter. :-)

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