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Using the Google Disavow tool to remove poor quality backlinks

Published on 1st May 2013

For many years backlinks have been very important for your sites authority and therefore it’s search ranking position.  However many SEO practitioners have used poor quality directories in the past as a way to drive search ranking up with minimum effort. Quite rightly Google has taken action, eventually, to stop this practice and if your site is unlucky enough to have had this work done in the past it will be causing your some ranking issues on Google.

Undoing this work is simple enough.  Here’s what to do:

  1. Find all your inbound links.  There are many tools to do this, some free but the best tools are paid for. You might even want to outsource this to someone with the software as it’s a one time task.
  2. Create a spreadsheet and start running through the links to see where they go.
  3. I create two spreadsheets, the original links list and a bad links list.
  4. I then run through the main list moving bad links over to the bad links spreadsheet.

Now you’ve got a list of the links you want to remove here’s what’s next:

  • Firstly try and get in touch with the link site owner and request to be removed.  Many will assist, especially if they are a current site, but many won’t.  Once you’ve exhausted this option continue with point 2.
  • Log into your Google account. This has to be the account where the analytics and webmaster tools have been setup for your domain.
  • If you haven’t setup Webmaster Tools then do so now.
  • Go to https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/disavow-links-main?pli=1 using the same browser you are logged into Google with.
  • From the dropdown select the site your are removing the links for.
Google disavow tool screenshot
  • Click on DISAVOW LINKS
  • Read the disclaimer and click on DISAVOW LINKS
  • You need the links you want to ask Google to ignore for your site in a .txt file with one link or one domain on each line.  Here’s an example of the content for your text file. You can disavow a complete domain or individual links. Do not use a word processor for this, use a simple text editor. Create a text file with all your links.




  • Use the CHOOSE FILE button to find the text file from the location you’re stored it in and then click SUBMIT.
  • Job done.

Here’s Matt Cutts of Google video advising on the use of the Google Disavow tool:

Here a link to the Google Help area for the disavow tool.

Categories: Online Reputation, SEO

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