Google Disavow Removal After Penalty Removal

Oct 15, 2013 • 8:48 am | comments (26) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

Google Disavow Machete ManA WebmasterWorld thread asks the question most SEOs and webmasters try not to ask in a public forum. After a penalty is lifted, should you go ahead and remove your disavow file or even remove some of the links from the disavow file?

Why would you do that?

Well, some of those links may have helped you. It is hard to know exactly which URLs you disavowed are helping or hurting your site from ranking.

So playing the game of add and removing specific URLs from that file can be slow but some may be playing it.

The overall feeling in the thread is not to remove the disavow file because Google may take a look again and then penalize your site again. But some feel you should experiment.

goodroi said:

I doubt Google would penalize a website for undisavowing links because there are too many ignorant webmasters who get scared, overreact and disavow 100% of all links (good & bad).

I do think that undisavowing spammy links is not the smartest idea but I haven't tested it myself.

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

Update: Matt Cutts tweeted, no, you should not remove the disavow file.

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10/15/2013 01:08 pm

We need to be careful about Anthropomorphism on Google's systems (re: take a look again) If you had 15 sites with 100k pages and site-wide do-follow links that you think caused you to be penalised, and you disavowed them, then it will be pretty certain that as those links are factored back in, you're going to see a penalty (automatic and/or manual). Google doesn't relook. So much of SEO myth is based on what a person would do. Like would Google take a dim view of something. Yes, at a level they make take a view that links from all press release sites should have no value. But they aren't going to assess your site individually and weight it all up (manual action aside, obviously)

Liam Fisher

10/15/2013 01:09 pm

Let's say you get the penalty removed and then you take a load of links out of your disavow file. In all likelihood, it's something you'd do with innocuous enough intentions, but to Google it could very easily look like you're trying to game then. Writing the subsequent reconsideration request, trying to convince Google that you're not pulling any tricks will be downright tricky, and that alone sounds to me like a reason to leave your disavow file well alone.

Ehtesham Shaikh

10/15/2013 01:16 pm

Some of my colleague has tested before and their site are penalised it only gives short term gain. Therefore it's better never look for short term gain/undisvowing spammy links. I remembered a good proverb "Short term Gain, Long term Pain and Long term Gain Shot term Pain".

Subhash Prajapati

10/15/2013 02:27 pm

I think disavow links not good way because no body don't know exactly which link useful for his website or which link is hurting his website and second thing once your have disavow links google may take a look again and penalized your website again..


10/15/2013 02:58 pm

Just leave it alone.

Jorge Flo

10/15/2013 03:14 pm

Yeah I would not remove the disavow file, in fact I will keep updating it with any new bad backlinks that will show up with the time!


10/15/2013 04:33 pm

To be honest as annoyed as I am with the whole way Google has dealt with this situation, if your going to try a trick like that I hope they completely ban the domain from their index for good. The whole point of the recon request is to prove you have seen the error of your ways and are now only wanting to abide by Google guidelines, by getting a penalty removed then you go and remove the disavow file basically says to me I will pretend to be whatever you want me to be, but when I can I will try and cheat the system again.

Marie Haynes

10/15/2013 05:53 pm

You should definitely not remove your disavow file. If you've disavowed a link it's because it's unnatural. If it's unnatural then Google is already not counting it, so re-avowing it will accomplish nothing. If it was an unnatural link then there is a good chance that it is one that can affect whether your site is affected by Penguin, so reavowing could be detrimental. I had one site on which I removed a penalty and the site owner went back and re-added some links that we had previously removed. (Not quite the same as removing a disavow but similar.) Within 3 weeks that site had another manual review and had their penalty reinstated. Not only was it reinstated but it was worse. It was much harder to remove the second time.

Mad Mad Marshall

10/15/2013 08:32 pm

Our site was hit with negative SEO. We have manually collected about 24,000 bad links for our disavow file (so far). It probably cost the perp $5 on Fiverr to point these links at our site. Do you want to know how bad that sucks? I'll tell you. A LOT!! Google should be sued enmass by web masters for wasting our time with this "bad link" nonsense. For a company with so many Ph.D's on staff, I can't believe how utterly stupid they are and how incredibly poorly they have handled this linking fiasco. Matt Cutts! Dude!! Stop the insanity, man!


10/16/2013 06:37 am

google for desktop display like mobile. i type keyword "tantudienvn"


10/16/2013 07:48 am

That was the wrong question for Matt. Completely removing the disavow file mean re instating all backlinks and going back into penalty world. Obviously a no is the answer. The interesting question is should you start pruning the file to recover some lost ranking. You could do it but it comes with the risk of the penalty coming back.


10/16/2013 09:00 am

That's what I mean by anthropomorphism (assigning a human attribute to a non-human entity). Firstly, most penalties are automatic. You can't file a reconsideration on an automatic penalty, only where there is a manual action (go try it, its cool!) I've found with sites we've recently taken on that the number of requests doesn't matter, its not until your list matches the computer list. I've also found, especially in areas where you've earned links and have accidental negative SEO, you can upload a new disavow list quite frequently (say a fortnight or so in between) and can precisely test disavowing or re-allowing links and see your SERPS rise up (gradually). There are also false hopes - there's a lot of surge between disavow and Google re-allowing old 'bad links' to repoint, and then re-dropping again.


10/16/2013 09:01 am

I think its pretty obvious. Quite often its comment spam, site-wide links, forum spam, article and press release spam.

Rahul Trivedi

10/16/2013 09:15 am

I agree with you Marie . Sometime client can do this type of mistake and because of that Google gives manual penalty again. Thats why i am not recommending my clients to go for disavov.

Olive Smith

10/16/2013 10:56 am

Try to put relevant links so that penguin update would not affect our site again 7 again.

Liam Fisher

10/16/2013 12:40 pm

According to this (admittedly year-old) post on SEL ( in Google's own parlance, 'penalty' refers specifically to manual actions, and isn't used to refer changes resulting from algorithm updates. The latter aren't penalties, they're just ranking drops.


10/16/2013 12:49 pm

Yes, that is right and agreed. I made this mistake: more recent posts from the same source (and others) show the growing colloquiasm for two penalties - automatic and manual Let me re-phrase : What most people consider as having a penalty, is actually the "automatic demote" - which visibly appears as a penalty.

Gracious Store

10/17/2013 03:43 am

Can't Google help webmasters figure out which links are hurting their sites so that they can remove those links? I think it is inappropriate on the apart of Google to keep webmasters in the dark with regards to links that are hurting their sites. After penalizing a site, Google should give the affected webmasters the lists of the links that have caused them to be penalized, if the affected webmasters fail the compile, then Google can penalize them again. Leaving webmasters in the dark and ask them to experiment to find out the links that are hurting their site in my own opinion is not the correct thing for Google to do.


10/17/2013 08:41 am

The disavow is not for general use, too many people go and use it as an easy way out for removing spammy links and getting out of penalties. The list you are given on Webmaster Tools does not even tell you which links are potentially harmful or not, this is why you should get an audit to determine which backlinks are harmful or not.


10/17/2013 11:50 am

In many cases the ones that are hurting your site are obvious - if you have the time to wade through the tens of thousands you've been hit with during a negative SEO attack. If the attack was focussed in time then that's the key. Disavow all links created during that time (maybe after sorting through for good ones created by you or your sites community). If, in the current last 2 weeks climate of spam spam and more spam as Google seemed to have opened Pandora's box for negative SEO black hat techniques (A myth - or at least largely unprovable until Penguin 2.1) then long lasting attacks, repeated attacks and attacks from multiple sources are common. My site is still being hit with 10,000+ new reported links a day targeting 7 specific keywords. Worse, I've started to drop in SERPS due to these keyword attacks (7 out of over 400 my site ranks top 20 for - so not a coincidence). Seems pretty clear negative SEO works, works quickly and works well as Google decide to develop a "hair trigger" approach and shoot on site. Admitedly you need tens of thousands of links, but when there are gigs on Fiverr selling 110,000 for 5 bucks..... It's not going to be that hard is it. So many I developed this spreadsheet that will help me sort through the ones that cause the most problems It's a shame poor links can't just be ignored by Google's search. While they benefit someone, spam will continue, and in the last few weeks it's been a steadily increasing torrent. If spam benefited no-one then people would soon stop making it. To my mind, developing a system where anyone benefits from making spam is a stupid idea, and one Google must have been forced into. After all they are not the internet police, just a "for profit" website that lists other websites in an order which suits their advertising and profit requirements best. We are lucky that by necessity that profit requirement often overlaps with providing a decent set of results - but if the profit remained I doubt Google would care a less if it didn't.. Yet we let them get away with developing a mechanism that promotes spam. Lots of it. Not only are links from my site being broadcast all over the net. My own sites are also being hit with an expotentially higher number of inbound comments, posts and articles that are themselves spam pointing to the websites of others. All since about the 10th of October (6 days ago) But all this would require that Google to know the difference between good content and bad, good links and bad, which despite their frequent protestations and the evangelising by Google's fan-base that they do - they clearly don't. Or are they promoting spam on purpose (the only other explanation I can find in this mess) Paul Rone-Clarke


10/18/2013 12:37 am

Does anyone have any estimation of how long it takes google to process the disavow file? Also, is there any way to check this? I can run backlink reports through other various tools (Majestic SEO, AHREFS etc) but I assume those reports aren't actually from google's index so how can I check if the disavow process was successful? My company has been getting spammed by our competitors with thousands of bad links and it's hurt our rankings dramatically.


10/19/2013 07:36 am

Hi guys, we were effected by the latest update, we had something like 500-600 un-organic key word links. We are trying to remove them manually and had very limited success so we are going to use the Disavow tool, does anyone have an idea of how long it takes for Google to take notice of the file and consequently when we will not be blacklisted again (we went for Pg1 to Pg 64)? Thanks ( and


10/19/2013 06:51 pm

It can start within days/a week. It depends on your crawl cycle and the crawl cycles of the links that link to you - when Google compiles your PR (or whatever you'd like to call it), it starts to discount the disavowed links. You may go up or surge up or bounce/see-saw for a bit. If you mathematically recorded your positions between now and "recovery" it looks a bit like oscillation However, its worth remembering that if your site was propped up by over optimised links and you disavow them, then its likely your site won't return to #1


10/19/2013 08:14 pm

Hi +Codog I would imagine, thinking about it, that the disavow list is processed during the crawl and index cycles - I've seen it react as quickly as 5 days - in other words, disavowing what I think Google doesn't like and a return to SERP or at least an improvement in SERP for that keyword is quick but it's also stepped in a gradient, which mirrors how normal new content is indexed+served. Negative and Accidental Negative SEO is a real problem - Google are still pretending it's not possible but its a direct result of choosing the Nuclear option. There's no going back. I don't dislike/hate or have "feelings" about Google but the lack of competition means that in an increasingly democratised internet, they're slowly becoming more North Korea than North America. Other sites like the ones you list will give you backlinks - possibly more than GWT but I really recommend the Link Detox Tool from - I use them and I'm not affiliated in any way.

Subhash Prajapati

11/07/2013 12:41 pm

If everything is spam then what we should to promote the website. If we are sharing content did not take link then how crawler will judge that we are promoting these content for that particular website. Can you define me way of quality.

Ray James

01/08/2014 02:26 am

I strongly believe it is OK to EDIT the disavow.txt file, but once the penalty is revoked it should stay in the system. There's still a question - what if a bad link was removed -- is it safe to remove the domain or URL from the disavow file? Probably it is, but it also depends on the domain. If the domain was clearly spammy or low-quality, you don't want to have anything to do with that and you don't want it to ever link to you again ;). Just make sure not to disavow relevant domains (for example, do not disavow or other top-level domains if you only want to disavow a subdomain). Another possible option - use .htaccess and deny access to bad domains via HTTP_REFERER (you can use a free tool - to both extract domains from URL or to create a relevant HTTP_REFERER file). I believe Google will ignore links that produce Access Denied / 403 error, so for some webmasters it might be a temporary alternative to the disavow tool.

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