Poll: Does Google's Disavow Tool Work?

Nov 8, 2013 • 8:15 am | comments (57) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

Google Disavow Machete ManA BlackHat Forum thread asks SEOs and Webmasters if the Google Disavow Tool works for you or not.

For those that have used it, has your rankings improved weeks after submitted and filing the disavow file with Google?

The forum is kind of split, with some saying yes it worked and others saying no it did not work. Which doesn't surprise me.

So let's get this into an anonymous poll and get a few hundred structured replies.

Forum discussion at BlackHat Forum.

Previous story: Google Glass XE11 Features & Bugs


Adam Sgammotta

11/08/2013 01:51 pm

I disavowed a few hundred links months ago, and there have been no noticeable improvements in ranking.

Dave Fogel

11/08/2013 01:56 pm

I disavowed 587 URL's a month+ ago. No difference at all. I think removing them is the only way to make a difference.

Marie Haynes

11/08/2013 02:14 pm

In my experience, sites that improved after using the disavow tool usually only saw improvement if there was a massive endeavour done to find and disavow close to 100% of the unnatural links. In most cases the improvement only happened once the Penguin algorithm refreshed. I have had a couple of clients where it appeared that the disavow had a positive effect right away. The site pictured below did a massive disavow on July 15 and saw a big improvement starting July 15. But, there's no way of knowing whether that was due to their disavow or due to another coincidental change.

Chris Gedge

11/08/2013 02:27 pm

Did you submit a re-inclusion request as well?

Chris Gedge

11/08/2013 02:27 pm

Did you submit a re-inclusion request as well?

Dave Fogel

11/08/2013 02:28 pm

No, I didn't have a penalty.

Adam Sgammotta

11/08/2013 02:31 pm

No I did not consider that. I figured that the over time the links would be excluded in our ranking factors. I will submit a re-inclusion and let you know if we notice any difference.

Chris Gedge

11/08/2013 02:33 pm

If you have a manual penalty and you use the disavow tool, you also have to file a re-inclusion request to get the penalty removed. You can see if you have a manual penalty in Google Webmaster Tools under "manual actions".


11/08/2013 02:34 pm

Got hit by negative SEO with many thousands of links and lost a lot of good keywords in Google. Still new spam links are being discovered to this day. Running them through disavow did nothing and our ranks have not budged. No manual actions in WMT either (yet) - it's a total algorithmic death that we have suffered.

Chris Gedge

11/08/2013 02:34 pm

Well you are unlikely see any difference then. The bad links you disavowed were most likely not providing any value anyway. What you have done though, is help prevent any future penalties so it was a worthwhile exercise.

Adam Sgammotta

11/08/2013 02:35 pm

Yes we do have a manual penalty "Unnatural links to your site—impacts links". I have requested a review. - Thanks

Chris Gedge

11/08/2013 02:36 pm

Good luck. I had to file 4 requests throughout a 6 month period before my penalty was removed. Make sure it is honest and to the point.

Chris Gedge

11/08/2013 02:38 pm

I have personally seen 2 recoveries where we used the disavow tool, however you must submit a re-inclusion request as well for it to do anything.

Dave Fogel

11/08/2013 02:42 pm

Maybe, but so far there is no indication that it is doing anything. My rankings are just as bad as before. I am actually now using Rmoov.com to get rid of the links and we will see if that makes a difference.

Chris Gedge

11/08/2013 02:43 pm

But you said you don't have a penalty so why would it do anything? What are you expecting it to do?

Dave Fogel

11/08/2013 02:48 pm

But if you do not have a penalty, there is no option to do that.


11/08/2013 02:51 pm

I think Dave is implying he has experienced a reduction in traffic due to the Penguin algorithm, not a manual penalty. From what I’ve seen and others have said your right Dave, the disavow tool cannot help with Penguin issues, only removing the links will, which in some cases is practically impossible.

Dave Fogel

11/08/2013 02:58 pm

If we are seeing huge reductions in traffic after a penguin update, it is most likely bad link related. By disavowing the links, we are saying DO NOT count these bad links. So we should see an increase in traffic and better rankings if they are actually not counting the bad links. It might be gradual, but we should see some movement and in the right direction. That does not seem to be the case. Some have said the disavow file is only processed when Google does another update, others say it is read right away. I don't think anyone knows except Google.

Chris Gedge

11/08/2013 03:15 pm

Ok that makes more sense. Google has said it can take a few weeks to read the file, however if it is Penguin, you have to wait for the next update to be run to have your algorithmic penalty lifted. Just bare in mind though, you will never recover back to where you were before because you've just removed a tonne of links.

josh bachynski (SEO)

11/08/2013 03:23 pm

Barry, you need to change this poll: 1) DID IT WORK FOR MANUAL ACTION? 2) DID IT WORK FOR PENGUIN? Two very different issues.

Barry Schwartz

11/08/2013 03:23 pm

I wanted to keep it simple. Did it simply work. :) Let the SEO decide.

josh bachynski (SEO)

11/08/2013 03:30 pm

ok, maybe do the next poll: Did the Disavow File Work For Penguin - THAT would be a very interesting and telling poll, and useful too

Marie Haynes

11/08/2013 04:58 pm

If it's a Penguin issue then you may not see improvement until the next time Google refreshes the Penguin algorithm.


11/08/2013 05:04 pm

Unfortunately Dave I’ve worked on a site where I used the Disavow Links tool as soon as it was released, put in all the unnatural links that we could not get deleted and waited for a Penguin refresh (the last refresh) and it had no impact at all. Before it’s stated I was not expecting the site to recover to where it once was. However the homepage of this site (that has the dodgy links pointing to it) should be ranking above the internal pages of this site for more relevant terms. So this and other variables indicated the Disavow Tool had no impact on algorithm issues such as Penguin.

Stuart McHenry

11/08/2013 07:12 pm

We have a client that was ranking decent for some keywords. They had maybe 50-ish links to their site. Then in early October someone started Negative SEO. Here we are 5+ weeks later and that site now has over 1,100 links. We have added a disavow file starting the week after we found the Negative SEO. As we found more spam links we updated the file. Three times now. The site lost all of it's rankings as of this week. Again we disavowed all 1,100+ spam links we found. Did this help? No. Plus, there is no manual action in GWT so no way to communicate this to Google. I know everything we've been told the disavow tool should work. At least as of today it has not. Client got wiped off the face of the earth. So easy for some asshat to come in an ruin someones business. I had hoped and believe Google that the Disavow tool would work. At a loss. It seems like it's easier to tank someones site these days. What are we suppose to do? Pray Google gets it right at some point?

Arnie Kuenn

11/09/2013 12:16 am

I just hate that negative SEO works. Why not just discount the spammy links? Or better yet, make the disavow almost immediately effective rather than waiting for the next update to include that data? Google needs to be as good at serving the webmaster as they are the public.

Peter Watson

11/09/2013 02:50 am

It worked a treat for me. Within 2 weeks of submitting it I seen a boom in my rankings! It definitely worked for me.

Mukesh kumar

11/09/2013 04:43 am

Disavow is a another joke by google and matt cutts... Dont believe on google ...

Sundar Rawat

11/09/2013 05:44 am

Agred with Chris here.... Dave, you need to submit re-consideration request and it would be visible when you get any spam link message from Google.

Matt Antonino

11/09/2013 09:21 am

Disavow works fine. A) You have to do it right, B) If you disavow too much you have nothing left to rank with and C) It takes awhile. It's not an overnight solution.

Gracious Store

11/10/2013 03:48 am

I share your view that disvow tool works fine if it is not correctly and you have to be patient and allow for some time before you can see its effect on your site


11/10/2013 06:47 am

after DISAVOW......did you seen removal of SPAM link through webmaster tool if YES.. than it is working and if not... than .................... What ever the result of DISAVOW... it is for sure.. Keyword Rank Position would not increase .. if that fall due to PANDA or penguin update.............


11/10/2013 06:48 am

bull shit

Peter Watson

11/10/2013 07:41 am

I don't engage in conversation with people who are afraid to reveal their identities. lol

Matt Antonino

11/10/2013 09:11 am

Yes, we have seen major keyword rank improvements after Penguin followed by a disavow. Again, you just have to know what to disavow. The more we do, the more we learn ... and then make it effective.


11/11/2013 11:12 am

It's not at all working even 5 months after disavowing. No confirmation whether anybody's disavow file has been processed or not, all are making just assumptions!


11/12/2013 08:36 am

I haven't used the Disavow Tool yet, but I'm kind of intrigued because others say that you can remove bad backlinks or spam links. Others say that the tool isn't working.


11/18/2013 11:11 pm

C) It takes awhile. How long on average?

Matt Antonino

11/20/2013 11:06 am

We've seen anywhere from 5-10 weeks. One even longer - but without a ton of interceding work so very easy to pinpoint.


11/23/2013 06:45 pm

I haven't used the Disavow Tool yet, but I'm kind of intrigued because others say that you can remove bad back links or spam links. Others say that the tool isn't working.

Spook SEO

11/24/2013 11:32 am

This Google Disavow tool is very intriguing. I actually want to try this. Some says that your rankings will improve after weeks of using this tool, others says that your rankings will not really improve. Then I suggest that it is better to try this tool.


11/28/2013 09:56 am

I heard this process will take more than a month. It is very high duration. If do not have wild links so there is no benefit of it.

Ari Roth

11/29/2013 09:14 am

Depends what you mean by "does it work?" I have definitely seen it help with getting manual penalties removed. I'd be shocked if my rankings went up from it without a Penguin refresh. I just don't get how that would happen. If that's what you think you're seeing, I'd look at other factors.

Simon Hunter

12/22/2013 02:47 pm

I have 699,000 links back to my site as it was hacked in June 2013. I submitted a re-inclusion request and it was naive, on my own admission, and I've learnt a lot more about how to do it correctly since then. I've disavowed several times and reduced the links to 594,084. I had contacted by email 600 websites and asked them to remove the inappropriate links, and approximately 10% of those contacted were co-operative. Yes, I've seen a drop, but it's taken 3 months of working on it each day to get that result. Has it been worth the effort? Questionable. Does Google give feedback? No? Does Google have a handy process for going through a disavow process if you have already used your single re-inclusion request? No. Am I doing Google s work for them? Sometimes I think so. Bing have a great disavow tool - read here for a handy batch process. https://plus.google.com/116669475498193298437/posts/8dkEv81jYJ8. And no questions asked - if you want to disavow a link in Google then just go straight on ahead. Do I use Bing disavow a lot? Yes, using googles disavow downloadable tables. Thanks Google

Callum Smith

01/16/2014 01:55 pm

Nope definitely not worked for me. I submitted my file in November, over 6 weeks ago and my pages are still not ranking in Google.


01/26/2014 03:21 pm

I have actually done two disavows on my site and seen improvement. Here is a quick overview then a quick question. Did a first disavow July 29th after losing about 35% of my traffic to Penguin 2.0. My traffic seemed to gradually creep back up and around October 1st I was back to normal traffic(possibly due to the amount of time for Google to recrawl those sites). But I was not ranking well( I dropped form 10ish to 65ish) on my main keywords. Thus it appears I improved in many longtail phrases, but not my bread and butter words. Things stayed flat until mid-January when through my disavow email campaigns about 200 URLs were removed and then I disavowed another 275 domains via the disavow file. I used the LRT boost product to expedite the process this time. I am now having the best organic and overall traffic ever for my site(my site has been around for 10 years so it is well established). But I am still not ranking well for my bread and butter keywords even though LRT says I have good power/trust ratings(25 for each) and Moz says my domain and page authority is 38/48. It seems to me the page that should be ranking for my keywords is being held back by an over optimization anchor text penalty as other pages not as strong or relevant are ranking. But I am encouraged that once I figure that part out(I probably have to go a little deeper with the disavow) and if that gets lifted(there is no manual penalty on my site), that my site will be doing better than ever. Now my question is and I am not sure anyone knows the answer to this...When you submit a disavow file let's say Jan 1 with 50 domains, and then you updated it....or in reality you have to delete it and upload a new one on Jan 15th with 100 more domains for a total of 150 domains....how does Google handle that? Does it just process the difference or does it say...wow, we got a disavow file here and it is new which means there can be stuff added or removed. So then Google wipes all the information it collected in the recrawls for the previous file and you have to start that process again and possibly wait months for it to be recrawled and disavowed or does it simply do a delta? Btw, I am not a SEO person...I just take a pretty active role in the management of my site as I am a one person company.


02/12/2014 02:53 pm

After reading all your posts I have picked up on something that seems rather interesting. Like many others i have had to submit a disavow after a huge fall in my positioning. However this was 2 months ago and it has not made any difference what so ever. I have read here that there is a mixed responce where some say it has "worked wonderfully" and others state that it has 'not worked at all'. What i have spotted is something that has been on my mind for some time - it appears those of us who have had no improvement through submitting disavow have all something in common, we have not received a manual penalty in WMT in the first place. Those of you that did receive notification via WMT seem to have found that the disavow process has worked for you. IF my findings are correct this could expolain the difference between our results. So perhaps i could ask is there anyone out there reading this who has experienced a contridiction to my theroy ?


02/18/2014 03:49 am

Andy-G I think you are correct. I had some shady SEO links and some Negative seo happening. I used the Disavow tool just to be save and I have not seen any improvements. I did not have a manual penalty


02/18/2014 03:54 am

I would have to agree. I got hi bad with some Negative SEO and they are still doing it. Google has to do something, but they make their own rules and timelines.


02/19/2014 01:43 pm

Thanks Ydraw - it would be interesting if anyone can present a case where they have issued a disavow without receiving a WMT manual penalty yet had wonderful results. Ideally we would like to see many people jumping in here to respond.


02/23/2014 07:35 pm

It's so weird how a lot of our sites got hit by negative SEO all around the same time (3-5 months ago)


02/26/2014 05:53 pm

Mine got hit around hummingbird - Mike have your disavowed? if so can you give some feed back in relation to my post (read below) thank you


03/25/2014 06:35 pm

I am updating my disavow in webmaster tools because i am a do it yourself seo guy. Ranked good keywords for homepage and all of a sudden my inner pages appear for them on 6th page now. Many seo's said that i have quite a bit of bad backlinks so i scraped each one out of 600 domains, ive disavowed 200. PS there is no manual actions in my tool and really i wish i knew what was goin on.


03/25/2014 06:36 pm

Oh and of course i disavowed all banned directories (just in case) ;)


04/01/2014 10:20 am

700,000 bad links? Drop the site, new domain, start again.


04/11/2014 02:50 pm

You kind of just did. Lol


07/12/2014 09:48 am

To me it looks like this diavow thing is a big scam of Google to get people to give them loads of free information about potential spam sites. It doesnt seem to help anything for the users who need it to work to give them back their precious serp rankings. For now it seems only to work if one received a manual penalty. During the last months i used it for different sites of customers who where penalized by bad-seo in the past. We did everything Matt Cutts / Google tell to do; clean up bad links, use the disavow tool, create a website with new, relevant content on a regular basis etc Diffirent tools I use rate those sites now as having a "good looking link profile", but i see not a minimum of effect on the important rankings, where the businesses of my customers are depending on. Offcourse there is no way to communicate with Google, in there ivory tower, about this problems and complete businesses loose a lot of money by this situation. Businesses who pay a lot of money to Google with different Google advertising options. Paul - The Netherlands

blog comments powered by Disqus