It might be common knowledge among webmasters and site owners that a substantial backlink profile is a key to ranking. So, they build link after link that point to their website, hoping that their SEO would shine and their ranking will go up.

Yet, it’s a real head-scratcher for some people when they realise their dismal ranking despite the fact the so many links are pointing to their site.

What Might Cause That?

Some links might be doing more harm to your ranking than good. And that’s not us saying, but Google itself.

Google says that a backlink is determinant of the quality of your site. And that’s usually determined based on Domain Authority and Page Authority, which ultimately influences ranking.

So, if your backlink consists of good backlinks, then your site’s Page Authority and Domain Authority will fare well, and that improves SERP rank.

But, when there are some bad apples mixed with the good ones, they usually overwhelm your SEO and leads to poor ranking.

You might also have a manual action taken against your site by Google, which might result in your sites getting off the search engine. It happens when a human reviewer realises a series of links that route back to your site are simply there to manipulate ranking.

And that’s why people disavow links.

But, what’s disavowing links? Essentially, it is when you inform a search engine like Google that, “Hey, don’t consider this backlink when crawling through my site.”

That way, you disassociate your website with links that harm your ranking and eliminate it from your backlink profile.

And that’s precisely the reason why you should regularly audit your backlink profile for links to sniff out the bad apples.

Which Links to Disavow?

Deciding to eliminate unrelated links that bring down your site’s ranking is not the big decision, but a necessary one, nonetheless. However, where most webmasters struggle is in deciding the links which need to go for improving site ranking.

Now, you might be wondering why that is such a struggle. It’s simple, right? Choose the spammy links, not linked to my site anymore, and anything unnecessary and irrelevant?

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. You cannot just go about disavowing backlinks left and right and expect that it will improve your site’s ranking.

In fact, you might just end up on the wrong side of the deal for indiscriminatory disavowing. That means random disavowing can lead to rank demotion in search engine. And again, it’s not us saying but Google.

Google says that its Disavow tool shall only be used by observing the strictest caution. Any misstep or inappropriate usage can reflect negatively on your site’s performance. The search engine giant also adds that in most cases, it will not need any additional assistance in figuring out which sites to trust when determining your site’s quality.

Here, you might wonder if Google’s already doing the assessment why would I need to go through the trouble of disavowing links.

Google’s algorithm is indeed pretty robust, but some bad links can bypass that and affect your ranking.

So, now comes the million-dollar question, which links to disavow?

Put simply, you should disassociate your site from links that are low-quality, spammy, and artificial. Some common categories include:

  • Websites simply for hosting backlinks.
  • Backlinks from non-target countries’ sites.
  • Spam comments with links.

However, the question really should be which links you should not disavow because of the reasons mentioned above.

If there are backlinks to your site that are not relevant anymore but once was, and if it belongs to a well-established website, you should keep it. That’s because your site’s ranking depends on the quality of backlinks.

How to Disavow Links?

You first need a list of links that point back to your website. Where to get that?

  1. Visit Google’s Webmaster Tools homepage and click on the site you want.
  2. Then, on the Search Console Dashboard, you will find “Search Traffic”; click on that.
  3. Under “Search Traffic” select “Links to your site”.
  4. A “Who clicks the section most” section will appear; click on “More”.
  5. Click on “Download more sample links” or “Download latest links”, or both

Now, you have the entire directory of your backlink profile. So, what now?

This is a tricky and tedious part. Now, you have to sieve through the links to see which URLs do not seem credible or look like spam. You might use a tool for convenience. But, it’s always critical to double-check that such a tool is not delisting any link that might actually be good for your site.

So, if there are only a few backlinks, you might want to visit each and see for yourself if it’s any good. For instance, if you run a restaurant chain and there’s a backlink to your site on a tyre website, that is a red flag and should be absolutely disavowed. Similarly, if you find websites that look shady, it’s better to do away with it.

Next comes, links with unusual domains, which are also red flags. So, if you come across a domain like “click”, then steer clear from those. These domains are links of spammy sites, and association with the same will definitely lead to rank demotion or manual action from Google.

A side note: when you visit shady and suspicious links, ensure that your device’s antivirus software is activated.

Now you have a list of links that you need to eliminate from your backlink profile. But, before you move to disavow, try manually removing the backlink by requesting the site owner. You can write a mail or contact them in some other way and ask them to put down the link. Disavowing a link shall be your last option.

If you see that they have heeded your words, well and good, there’s nothing to worry about. You do not need to disavow that link anymore.

However, not all will respond. We suggest at least three attempts of contacting a webmaster and asking them to remove your link before you decide to disavow a link.

Then –

  1. Collate all the bad links that you need to disavow and save them in a document with the .txt extension.
  2. Visit the Disavow tool, select the site you’d like to use and click on “Disavow links”.
  • A warning will appear, and if you’re confident about the bad links, click on “Disavow links”.
  1. In the next page, upload the .txt file and submit.


Your job’s done. Next, Google will process your request. This, however, might take some time.

Nevertheless, disavowing bad links like the ones mentioned above is critical. But, if you’re new to this, it might benefit you to seek expert help from a Manchester SEO agency, since disassociating the wrong links can hurt your ranking.