How to disavow backlinks
It is important to regularly audit inbound links to your websites as those from sites with a poor quality score can have a detrimental effect on your website ranking. Here I look at how to disavow backlinks that may do more harm than good.
Identifying poor quality backlinks
My favoured tool is Moz’s Link Explorer. You’ll need to sign up for an account however the free version allows you to perform 10 searches per month without charge.
Once you have signed in, enter your domain in the search bar. An analysis is performed and you will then be presented with an overview of your website:
Now, select the ‘Inbound Links’ option from the left-hand menu bar. You can then sort by Spam Score…
You can now decide which urls / domains you wish to disavow.
Creating a disavow backlinks file
Once you have identified the backlinks that you do not wish to be associated with, they need to be added to a .txt file in UTF-8 format or 7-bit ASCII. You can do this manually or use an online disavow backlinks.txt generator such as this one.
You can choose to exclude a single url or an entire domain. If just the single url then you’d add that to the file (minus https://www.). If you want to disavow the entire domain you would need to add ‘domain:’ prior. For example:
The screenshot above includes a line to disavow one particular url (clook.net/wp-admin). The line below disavows the entire website (clook.net).
I have seen disavow files that include comments but these are not required – nobody at Google will ever read your file. Comments are there just for your own use.
Tell Google to disavow backlinks
To submit your disavow file, navigate to the disavow tool within Google Webmaster Tools, and select your site from the dropdown list.
Click the Disavow Links option in the new page. This prompts a pop up asking you to submit your disavow backlinks file…
On successful submission you will be presented with:
You will also be emailed confirmation that your disavow links file has been updated.
Common errors when submitting your file
Error messages generally present themselves when the formatting inside the .txt file is incorrect. Check whether:
If you have included https://www.thespamdomain.com you will need to remove https://www.
The ‘domains:’ has been replicated ie: domains: domains:thespamdomain.com
The domain should not have a slash ( / ) at the end – ie: spamdomain.com/
Modifying the disavow file
It’s worth remembering that when you upload your disavow file it rewrites what was already uploaded.
If you already have a disavow file in place and wish to add to it, you will need to download the existing file, add the new urls and then re-upload.
You can see what is already included in your uploaded file by going to the disavow tool, selecting your site, ‘disavow links’ and again, ‘disavow links’, then ‘download’.
How long before the disavow takes effect?
Once you have uploaded your disavow file, Google will begin to apply the instructions as they crawl the web. The next time a link / domain you have set to be disavowed is crawled, a ‘no-follow’ tag is added to any url that points to your website.