Google's Matt Cutts: Disavow Can Help With Penguin

Jul 1, 2013 • 9:18 am | comments (67) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

Disavow PenguinJust in case anyone had any questions about Google's disavow tool being able to help those hit by Penguin, Matt Cutts said the tool can help with Penguin.

In a tweet, Matt responded to another tweet by @joshbachynski saying, "do you have doubts the disavow would help for penguin? there is a rumor going around a googler said it wouldn't."

Matt responded directly to that saying:

@joshbachynski disavows can help for Penguin.

Here is the tweet:

For most, this was not a question but it is good to have on record for Matt Cutts.

Forum discussion at Twitter.

Image credit to BigStockPhoto for ninja penguin

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Pawel Gontarek

07/01/2013 01:22 pm

"Can help" is sth different to "Surely help" ;)


07/01/2013 02:11 pm

Question is, will it help after the next penguin update (maybe another 6 months to wait)? Or can it help directly a few days/weeks after disavowing links? At least for me, it worked only after the penguin 2.0 but only came back on site 6-7 and so on.


07/01/2013 02:30 pm

What he means is disavows help Google understand which sites to hit next penguin ;)

Andrea Moro

07/01/2013 03:24 pm

And having a time frame on how fast the disavowed site will impact on the link graph would that definitely beneficial

Murat Erdogan

07/01/2013 04:06 pm

"Just in case anyone had any questions about Google's disavow tool being able to help those hit by Penguin, Matt Cutts said the tool can help with Penguin" I haz question about matt cutt honesty. In fct I haz answerz, no truste him. he lie


07/01/2013 05:22 pm

I have no idea if it works personally. I've had my disavow file on record since May 1st. Then I updated it on May 27th. I know they said it takes a few weeks but is that from when you first submit it or does updating your disavow push the date up to that of the day you update your file. Either way it has been a month and nothing. There is also no information on when penguin will be updated again if that is what I have to wait for. Yet I am not on the first page of my main subject area where as my site had been there the longest. We are directly relevant. It is amazing that Google rather send people to sites talking about what to go get or useless articles vs. sending them to the actual product that the people are looking for. Even more sad is before my partner did some articles on ezines - we were already number one in our terms. Then after Penguin - we totally get taken off first page. There is too much variation going on to truly understand Penguin. Is it a punishment that keeps you out of top 10 results despite the good links you still have. And if google has already removed those links that were giving you extra rank but then after removing them - you still have enough good ones to keep you in top ten - yet they still don't put you there telling you some lame excuse now about 200 ranking factors. Google is not clear about their mess period.


07/01/2013 05:54 pm

I can't believe there are still so many people confused by this. If we take what Cutts says at face value (and there's no reason not to at this point), anything you disavow is only going to have an effect AFTER your page is crawled and AFTER it is re-indexed by Google and AFTER the Penguin algorithm filter is run again. In Mike's case, anything you had in place on the first of May MIGHT have been fixed with the May 25th Penguin update, assuming your site is frequently crawled and that it was re-indexed BEFORE the filter was run on the 25th. The changes you made on the 27th will do absolutely nothing for you until they run the Penguin algorithm filter again. Hopefully, they don't wait more than six months to run it again like they did this last time. On the other hand, if you were using the disavow tool because of a manual penalty that Google notified you about via Webmaster tools and you submitted a reconsideration request that was accepted by Google (i.e. they said that they had lifted the manual penalty), then you SHOULD see results within a week. Of course, frequently sites have both a Penguin and a manual penalty (and maybe even Panda) so lifting a manual penalty still may not help if there are other links that are being affected by the algorithm (i.e. Panda or Penguin). Additionally, when a major tweak to an algorithm (or algorithm filter) is made, links that used to be beneficial to your website's rankings, don't help anymore. Simply disavowing them does not magically propel your website in the rankings because they are now considered bad or worthless links. The only way you might be able to regain prominence is by building new, relevant authority links that Google trusts.

Marie Haynes

07/01/2013 06:41 pm

I don't think the issue was ever whether or not the disavow tool should be used for Penguin hit sites. Google has said in several places that it is a good idea to disavow your bad links (or remove them) if you have been affected by Penguin. The confusion about whether or not disavowing actually helps a Penguin hit site has probably come about because there are many sites that have disavowed their bad links, waited months for Penguin to refresh and then saw no improvement. IMO, the bad links have already been devalued by Penguin so, disavowing them is not going to cause your site to pop back up to top rankings again once the algo refreshes. However, disavowing the bad links can cause the Penguin filter to be removed from your site so that once you get good links to the site it can start to rank again. The problem is that the majority of sites who got into Penguin trouble did so because they (or their SEO) knew how to *build* links but not *earn* links. Also, it's hard to earn links with the strong ranking power that huge numbers of those bad links used to have. So, even if a site has disavowed properly and managed to attract a few natural links the chances of a dramatic bounceback with Penguin are small.


07/01/2013 07:08 pm

If what Matt has been saying over the last few months had any truth in it at all, we would be hearing about loads of recoveries. The opposite however is true. So Matt is just peddling the usual bullshite.


07/01/2013 07:27 pm

Sounds like a load of crap an SEO might say to keep the moolah rolling in when there is really no chance whatsoever of a recovery. If there was, you would be seeing loads of them. Do you? NOPE!


07/01/2013 08:45 pm

Exactly. No true recoveries, just loads of hoops to jump through and games to play. My site is a great site full of great information that I wrote myself being that I have over 10 years of experience in my area. Now I'm being penalized because links were in some articles my business partner put on Ezines that people copied and put all over the web because they were good articles. And as I said we were already number one before he even did the articles which weren't to get link juice it was to get more and traffic to our website. So all this crap Matt pushes is BS. Penguin isn't about relevant sites or quality sites - it is about Google fucking people over and trying to make it sound good. They want to control website traffic period. Everyone knows how hard it is to get a link because everyone who has a site wants the same and the moment you link to someone and they link to you - it cancels the link juice. The whole link game is a crock of BS. Links do not determine what is relevant. Competitors will not link to you because they don't want you ranking over them - so they would rather put negative SEO on you. Google has robbed me financial well being for over a year now for really nothing. Matt saying it works - where are the stories? Where are the recoveries? No one is truly back to where they were before they got hit. Even the good guys such as myself who have great sites that aren't spamming. I wish to God Bing could have really made an impact and represented 50% of web traffic. Because they know quality over there - we are number one in our area something Google can clearly learn from.


07/01/2013 08:55 pm

Hi Scotty, Our manual penalty was released last August 2012 after we did much manual work to remove bad links. No traffic returned. I only did the Disavow thing on May 1st 2013 to try to get at the Penguin Algorithm penalty that I felt obvious was still in effect because our traffic was still sucking. If I don't have a success story after the so called Penguin is ran again - after all of the hard work I've done manually, plus disavowing bad domains that linked to us, the link building we are doing, the social shares we are getting now and before, the great content that we are putting up on our site being that we are authority figures in our area - I am going to see this mess for what it is. Google and Matt are liars and small business destroyers who could give a dam about relevant search. Bing has it right! It is a shame that they don't control 50% or more of search traffic. Then Google rather talks or help small business but as soon as some big company has an issue here comes Matt Cutts to address them personally. They could give two shits about small business owners.

Gregory Lancaster

07/01/2013 09:00 pm

Well what about the disavow tool having a set limit on how many domains it can disavow? I was hit with a massive spam attack and the tool will not accept a list of more than 2k unique domains. So I guess google only cares about the people who have been hit with a little bit of spam?

Emory Rowland

07/01/2013 09:40 pm

Yeah, pigs "can" fly :)


07/01/2013 10:05 pm

"Let's make a tool that allows Webmasters to tell us that they were up to no good." - Google


07/01/2013 10:09 pm

I hear you! I had a manual penalty released on a website that we had farmed out SEO on and got it released the same time as yours, but that site never recovered. I was hoping it would recover after Penguin 2.0 but nothing! Then, I used a different tool other than Webmaster Tools and found a bunch more very suspicious links and disavowed them. Unfortunately, I will now have to watch the days go by, wondering if the next Penguin run will fix it. I've already set up another website in the same niche selling the same thing that has climbed pretty well. If the original site comes back, great!


07/01/2013 10:40 pm

Funny Scotty, I have basically did the same thing. I started a new site in same niche that is being to get rank. Unfortunately Google has created a mess with people starting new sites in same area which is bad for them but good for webmasters if both sites rank. I really want my old site to rank again way more than the site as it is a 9 year old site. We have also spent over $500K in adwords in that same time frame. You would think they would have love for us but they don't. Now I spend a fraction of what we use to spend on adwords because it just doesn't carry as much conversion power as organic listings. So they screwed themselves out of a lot of money playing these games. I hope they run the new penguin update soon as you stated and that we aren't waiting 6 months for it to happen.

Marie Haynes

07/02/2013 12:50 am

If you know of Penguin hit sites that did good cleanup and then was able to get some good fantastic links (that were naturally earned) and did not see an improvement with the latest update, let me know.


07/02/2013 01:21 am

Matt lies. Constantly. People like Barry and Danny Sullivan enable him because they make money off Matt Cutts. Incestuous relationship

Andri Yarusman

07/02/2013 04:08 am

Yes, indeed! I agree with you ... disavowing backlinks is not enough to re-rank a site ... we need to get another backlinks which are good quality after

Arun Jaiswal

07/02/2013 05:02 am

Again a BOGUS Comment By MC.. DISAVOW tool HELP only to Disallow SPAM link,, NOT to improve Lost RANK position.....normally this tool is NOW only For SHOW..I do not know if any body could minimize SPAM link through this tool...and EVEN it work,, LOST key WORD rank won't improve.. for that we have to do hard work with natural link Building process.

Arun Jaiswal

07/02/2013 05:04 am


Justin Clark

07/02/2013 05:39 am

I do'nt think, if a website that hunted by penguin update can be recover through the disavow tool. penguin is just like a paralysis disease for a website that has minimal chance to recover from this (penguin) disease.

Justin Clark

07/02/2013 05:39 am


Justin Clark

07/02/2013 05:40 am

mutt is busy to make the money through the ad-words campaign.

Justin Clark

07/02/2013 05:47 am

Mutt always lies.

Justin Clark

07/02/2013 05:48 am

you never recovered a hunted website that have been affected by panda or penguin.

Eric Muhanji

07/02/2013 06:23 am

Yes. Going is going catholic on us by telling you to come to confession and all may be forgiven!


07/02/2013 09:26 am

Yes. What´s your email address. I will show you one. In fact, not only has the site not made any recovery after massive cleanup over a year and gaining natural links from places like huffington post, web designer depot etc ... the site has actually got worse. Still tanking now even further as we speak during this MC new roll-out that is going on till the 4th July. My experience is that SEO´s just want to keep milking the cash cow even though the TRUTH says there are no real recoveries. If there were real recoveries ...(and I am not talking about 1 or 2 high profile sites that Matt just whitelisted to throw you off the scent but average Joe sites that Matt continues to strangle with his viper) we would be hearing it shouted from the rooftops. I hear a pin drop. I don´t hear no shouting. So, although I can see you want to protect your income Marie, and I don´t blame you for that but the truth is that you have about as much idea about what to do to get free of the clutches of Matt as I do and that is none. Been there, tried it, bought the T shirt! Matt is full of Shite!

Craig Hamilton-Parker

07/02/2013 10:28 am

If recovery is impossible and this disavow tool is just another red herring, then would it be best for people like me who have been tanked by both Panda and Penguin to move the best content to a new site. (with a 301 redirect for the pages?) My badly hit site has links from the BBC and lots of international newspapers - all natural links but is just a trickle from the massive traffic it used to have. It's also all unique content. Is moving an answer or just a nonsense - like the sub-domain advice given at the start of Panda. God I hate Google - 15 years of hard work down the pan for no legitimate reason. I'm moving back to AltaVista.


07/02/2013 11:48 am

Your guess is as good as mine mate. I would not 301 but rewrite. If that Penguin has you in it´s slippery paws.... a 301 is not going to fool it. I feel your pain. I moved back to altavista and it closed down. That´s how my luck is going.

Graham Ginsberg

07/02/2013 01:16 pm

I just threw up my breakfast reading this

Graham Ginsberg

07/02/2013 01:17 pm

Yeah - Hunted and killed rules are different

Graham Ginsberg

07/02/2013 01:19 pm

Do not 301 redirect or the penalty follows you. Also, all your info on the killed site will be dup content on the new site, hence attaching both at the hip. I said it before. Create many smaller sites and hope that they all don't get hit, & don't connect them for juice.

Graham Ginsberg

07/02/2013 01:21 pm


Graham Ginsberg

07/02/2013 01:23 pm

Google is extremely fast in making changes to rankings and indexing. Disavow tool helps google identify 'spam' sites, thats all. If you want to jump up in ranking, add google analytics. Google loves to know whats going on in your site

Graham Ginsberg

07/02/2013 01:27 pm

Someone said that Google was penalizing keyword spam. Maybe this isn't keyword stuffing, let me know if you think it is, but I see no penalty only blessings from Google. shannon.. lefevre.. dot.. com

Craig Hamilton-Parker

07/02/2013 02:09 pm

I tried the smaller sites option but as Google is also a Domain Registrar my guess is that they even spy on the whois to punish us further. They do not sell domains so clearly they must have some nefarious reason to be a registrar. Pure guessing of course but this whole disavow sham may be a way of netting large groups of domains linked to domain owners. Massively intrusive and such a misuse of power.


07/02/2013 02:33 pm

Surely not through the disavow tool, but with the help of it. It is well known that Google wants to see a considerable effort in trying to remove links, and not just disavowing. But once these efforts get you nowhere..disavowing domains is a piece of the puzzle.


07/02/2013 02:37 pm

Moolah, u fkn made my day!!!

Sean Hecking

07/02/2013 02:50 pm

Just because you "disavow" a link, doesn't mean you site will bounce back. You need to earn a good link to replace the bad ones you're disavowing before any improvement will happen.


07/02/2013 02:56 pm

I think what he meant is that it can help penguin destroy your site even more


07/02/2013 04:02 pm

Bullshit. Prove this. Show me some sites that have recovered by replacing good links with bad links.

Paddy Displays

07/02/2013 04:03 pm

here is a case study on moz on a site recovering I think there are a good few case studys out there. Not many recover because it hard (far harder than buying/spaming links)


07/02/2013 04:03 pm

I mean replacing bad links with good links of course.

Paddy Displays

07/02/2013 04:04 pm

posted this further down, but incase you missed it:


07/02/2013 04:10 pm

WPMU recovered because it is a massive big arse brand and the fact that Matt himself got involved in reviewing it. Now show me a proper recovery.


07/02/2013 05:01 pm

No. I didn´t miss it. I pooh pooh´ed it with all the pooh pooh it deserved. Now, do you have a real one to show me. If what Matt has been spouting for months and what all the SEO´s have been taking money for actually worked, you would be pointing me to thousands of recoveries (which would be a minuscule percentage of the actual sites hit) but alas, you just throw junk in to the pot that has no bearing... like all the other SEO´s actually looking to cling on to their bit of Moolah.

Not a Big Brand

07/02/2013 07:04 pm

WPMU had direct communication with Matt Cutts. Their story also got tweets from Rand Fishkin and coverage from Danny Sullivan. 99.9% of Webmasters do not have this type of access/support. Google manually removed the penalty against their domain. I don't believe it had anything to do with the Disavow Tool.


07/02/2013 09:05 pm

Look in this SERP of the first website tell me something about it quality to be ranking number five a redirect page and look for the 1st one in the second page.,or.r_qf.&fp=d797e7dc5e4f3da1&biw=1920&bih=886 I don't know about this updates


07/03/2013 02:04 am

re-directing will also redirect any penalties according to advice I got from the Google forums - unfortunately.


07/03/2013 02:17 am

I have a site that was hit by penguin and panda - I disavowed some links that I suspected may be spammy (without actual proof) and tidied up some content (excessive keywords and repetitive content) and the site is now recovering after the recent upgrades to penguin and panda - I have not obtained any replacement links nor done anything out of the ordinary to re-build the site - it is just recovering, slowly but surely. The site is eCommerce and about 400 products - a small site. But I am not singing it from the rooftops - the only singing I see in the forums is from those that are not recovering - in my humble opinion the vocal minority - the silent majority are being true to form - just silently getting on with things. Additionally - MC said way back in the beginning - if disavow and other cleanups do not work then start again - I did that with two sites, same content, different domain names, zero, zilch links and the sites took up the position of the affected sites prior to being hit and still remain there, on page 1. Proved to me 2 things - you do not necessarily need links to rank and the penalty applies to the domain and the links, not the content. cheers, Mike

Paddy Displays

07/03/2013 08:01 am

OK here are some more:


07/03/2013 08:44 am

Are you thick or something? I know you are ABSOLUTELY DESPERATE to show sites with recovery BUT: This is a guy who shows how destroyed his site is and is now offering it to experiments. He has no recovery. He had a bunch of over done anchor text links on his own blog. He changed them. This is not a case of being over laidden with spammy links gained over many years from thousands of domains. This is a one off where the guy spotted 1 problem and fixed it, This guy tried everything that Matt and other Gunu´s (yes I said Gunu) suggested but failed miserably. Then he magically discovered he had 75 domains that he had copied all his sites across and interlinked. So he then unraveled that and hey presto. These 3 examples are not recoveries from Penguin, they are all specific scenarios that would only ever happen to them in their situation. None of these help anyone else. So I ask you YET AGAIN... do you have any examples of REAL recoveries. The answer to that question I just asked is that no, there are NO real recoveries because if there was just a tiny weeny itty bitty percent of sites that recovered we would all be hearing about them. It would equal more than 3. It would be in the thousands. So, Yes.. Matt is full if shite and he knows that darn well. Stop feeding this ridiculous myth that you can recover because the facts refute it. The only time sites will recover is when Matt decides to turn down the dial. Only Matt will know when he has had enough pleasure watching small businesses die so we all need to wait for his mercy.


07/03/2013 08:52 am

"Let's create a device that allows Webmasters to tell us that they were up to no excellent." - Google

Paddy Displays

07/03/2013 09:12 am

To be honest I just did a quick search because I know I have read about recoveries before, just can't remember where ;) I think most people that have recovered, just don't post case studies about it (and most don't do the work needed to recover) But anyway here is a success story: Note: I'm not a freelance Seo'er, I work in house so I have no vested interest in proving that you can recover from Penquin, I just know others have done it, (granted that its very hard, and switching to a new domain might be easier)


07/03/2013 09:57 am

1 site (and it looks like Matt Cutts himself was involved in this) does not make a plan for recovery. If it was as easy as disavowing links, starting a new site, redirecting the new site via calls to action and loads of PPC then we would all be doing it. I mean, come on, this is not even the advice that is being dished out. This is a hit and hope that paid off for whatever reasons we will never know. Again, this is not a proper recovery based on what bullshitter Matt is telling everyone to do. Look mate, I am sure your intentions are honorable but lets assume for 1 second that what you say is correct. Not many sites are going to claim a recovery. Now let´s take not many and try to put that into perspective. Hundreds of thousands of sites were hit. Even if a weeny weeny tiny microscopic proportion of that amount decided to come out and say they recovered it would still add up to be hundreds. The problem is you need to go back over a year to find slightly dubious recoveries that don´t even add up to 10 in total. Does that not smack you as being really odd? It is odd because the only one that can truly release the viper from the small businessman's throat is bullshitter Matt himself. If you throw enough shite at a wall, a little bit will stick. This is akin to this tiny handful of sites you have dug up claiming the elixir of life. They are snake oil salesman. They either got really lucky or they got Matts ear... that is not the secrect to success.

Gregory Lancaster

07/10/2013 12:36 am

do you think its better to just start a new site on a new domain then?

Asif Faridi

07/11/2013 07:50 am

Very true. I agree!


07/15/2013 10:31 am

But after submitting all your bad link in this disavow tool how many days it will take to remove all bad links and how we will come to know that link as been removed?? and can our site get back to good position as it was earlier.


07/23/2013 04:32 pm

Want to recover from Penguin? It's easy. Delete your Disavow file, and built your new links with a tool that Google love very much : ADWORDS! It is always about money. Google never care about SEO. Why should they? But they do care about their income. And we had enough making money from good SERP for free. They want us to pay now. Pay, or watch tons of fresh crappy site outrank you in SERP


09/09/2013 12:04 pm

Hi MR / Barry Schwartz i would like to thank you about your efforts to give us effective useful information about Google Penguin . If it's okay with you to add that First thing you quickly have to do when you discover that your website is punished by Google's penguin update is to check google’s webmaster tool in order to discover the errors to fix them and if you still didin’t find any errors you can use the file reconsedration request on google’s web master tool for making google have a second look on your website for fixing any new errors on it . Thanks a lot and Best regards

Matt Dimock

01/08/2014 08:15 pm

@MarieHaynes:disqus: I concur with what you've said. Once the links have been tagged by Penguin, their value ceases to exist - and on top of this, it seems like their's a filter placed on your site which prevents you from ranking better for keywords similar to the keywords that were tagged (of course, it's not always so granular, as I've seen entire sites suffer from Penguin which could have been largely associated with massive amount of poor quality links pointing to the home page, or just having massive amounts of poor quality links using many different variations of anchor text). Anyway, getting back on point; once the link has been devalued, it's not as if disavowing helps getting that credit back. It simply tells Google you want them to know you've acknowledged this as being an unnatural or poor quality link and do not want them to pass along any credit. You'll still need to build up a more authoritative backlink profile before you can start to see recovery for your target keywords again. I cannot remember the reference, but I read an article once where the author strongly disagreed with link removal, and instead recommended people focus on building more positive links to help get pass that invisible Penguin threshold.

Matt Dimock

01/08/2014 08:19 pm

I think you're a bit off your rocker on this one. What makes you think every webmaster who's site has recovered from Penguin gives two shits about telling you (and basically their competition) that they've been able to defeat and recover from the algorithms? Many site owners simply do not want people to know their business, and the same goes for SEO's. How many SEO's do you know that want to admit to having used spammy links in the past (because it DID work) and now having to go in and do massive cleanup on their client's sites? Hop off the damn "I hate Google" fear mongering band wagon and realize that maybe it's just your shitty site and tactics and lack of SEO knowledge that is inhibiting your site's ability to gain and maintain high search visibility on Google.

Spook SEO

02/01/2014 09:42 am

How accurate the disavow tool is? I head some bloggers who has a negative thoughts about that tool and they elaborate the risk as well. Can anybody tell me what are the risk and as well as its advantage?


05/01/2014 08:04 pm

Hands up if disavow worked for you (for algo only, not manual). Anybody?

John Flynn

06/06/2014 05:40 pm

It's a sad state of affairs - for years I had countless requests for back links..."Please can you add a link it'll benefit both of us.." It was tedious, every day. Now, just to make it all the more annoying, I get the same people emailing me, "Please can you remove my link, I don't want it anymore" Make up your minds before I turn to drink.

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