Google: The Link Disavow Tool Can Harm Your Site's Performance

Sep 4, 2013 • 8:36 am | comments (51) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

google ddos attackGoogle's disavow tool launched almost a year ago and has been a very common topic amongst the SEO and webmaster community since.

It is a tool that is used often by SEOs and webmasters, but should it be?

A Google Webmaster Help thread has Google telling us what they've said before but this time in clear black and white, the tool may end up harming your site's performance in Google.

Google's Eric Kuan from the search quality team said:

The disavow backlinks tool should be used with caution since it can potentially harm your site's performance. However, if you see a considerable number of spammy, artificial, or low-quality links point to your site, and you're confident that the links are causing issues for your site, you can use the disavow tool to disavow those links. In most cases, Google can assess which links to trust without additional guidance, so most normal or typical sites will not need to use this tool.

Yes, if you disavow links that are helping you rank, it will have a harmful impact on your site's performance in Google's search results.

Just don't go out there and blindly disavow links because you are afraid. Instead, be careful and slow and patient with your links.

Forum discussion at Google Webmaster Help.

Image credit to BigStockPhoto for skull key

Previous story: Google Almost Admits Making A Mistake Regarding Natural Links


Praveen Sharma

09/04/2013 12:47 pm

How you can be sure which link is harmful and which is not, especially when Google's algorithm can penalize you even with natural links (as this post shows -


09/04/2013 12:57 pm

Scare tactic sells stories eh? What you are making into breaking news here Barry is something that anyone could have seen added into the Google related text for the tool ages ago... See the coloured box here: Yes the disavow of links that are "helping you rank" will mean that you are about to lose the equity from them, resulting in a drop in rankings but if your backlink profile is full of artificial (paid) links then the likelihood is that they will be clear as day when you look at them with a outsider mindset. You shouldn't be using the Disavow file yourself if you have no idea about how to use it and you should definitely be taking the time to manually review your link profile before adding anything.

Andrew Smith

09/04/2013 01:41 pm

"In most cases, Google can assess which links to trust without additional guidance" - Well that's wonderful Google, but it's the links which you don't trust which matter! That's why people are using the disavow tool. Negative ranking signals from spammy links far outweigh the handful of links you might end up disavowing which are good but look bad and Google are still allowing to pass juice. Disavowing links isn't complicated. If it looks spammy then remove or disavow. SImple as that.

Michael Martinez

09/04/2013 01:51 pm

You went from "can potentially" to "will" very quickly. :) It should be obvious that asking Google to ignore links which have been supporting your site's performance in its index can be counter-productive if they are not causing any problems.


09/04/2013 02:00 pm

I miss the days where you could just create a website, publish it, do updates and get treated fairly like all of the other websites.


09/04/2013 02:18 pm

What is the definition of spammy? It is not a simple process. Google has even wrongly decided links that are natural are unnatural. There is not cut and dry disavow this link not that one. A good link can be enough to rank you for some terms so the handful could easily kill small sites.

Philip Ellis

09/04/2013 04:01 pm

Is it that hard to spot a decent link? Maybe this is a result of people lumping almost all of their inbound links into the tool without actually checking them all, in that case they most certainly deserve to be penalised. In my opinion.

Jim Hobson

09/04/2013 04:22 pm

We've had positive results using the disavow tool. I perceive that many people see use of this tool as "all or nothing" venture and apply it in a less than surgical manner. After completing a link audit it is easy to identify certain links that are definitely low quality or unwanted. By compiling and submitting a shortlist of these links you can improve your situation, and any undesired ramifications are held to a minimum. With a few but limited submittals you can safely manage your link profile.


09/04/2013 04:44 pm

When has that ever been the case? Honestly, I want to know when you think that has ever been the case.


09/04/2013 05:41 pm

Eric Kuan says use the disavow tool with caution while Matt Cutts says use it as a machete. Which is it?


09/04/2013 07:53 pm

Use with caution as in, make sure you aren't disavowing domains that may be just fine. Use as a machete as in, don't bother trying to cherry pick links in a given domain, just disavow the entire domain and be done with it. Why do you assume these to be different?


09/04/2013 07:55 pm

*Why do you assume these to be mutually exclusive?


09/04/2013 10:30 pm

No worries. If you accidentally disavow good domains, just resubmit the disavow text file with the "good" domains omitted and you'll un-disavow them. It might take awhile to recover, but at least you can reverse it.

Soni Sharma

09/05/2013 04:21 am

Yes, that's right, only disavow those links which are really bad and you think it is not at relevant to your site and page content.


09/05/2013 05:57 am

Absolutely right, i have one query how can i identify whose link is harmful for our website.

Andrew Smith

09/05/2013 07:59 am

Come on we all know what spammy sites/links look like and it's those footprints which Google try to pick up on too. Given we know Google are using crowdsourcing to assess sites, they're taking the most common patterns from that crowdsourcing to implement into the algorithms.Sure some natural links can be misinterpreted but the disavow tool is about cleaning up the majority and for that it's essential.

An Expert SEO

09/05/2013 08:51 am

yes offcourse even I have the same question. how cn I identify harmful or bad links

Aspire Guru

09/05/2013 11:16 am

Just to worry about this


09/05/2013 04:04 pm

This service will help on showing all bad links pointing to anyone's website I hope this can help.


09/05/2013 04:07 pm

Hi An Expert SEO I use this service for finding all bad links pointing to any website


09/05/2013 04:42 pm

>>>so most normal or typical sites will not need to use this tool. lie!


09/05/2013 04:43 pm

disavow with domain: command, but only correct domains. google not show all your links from every domain in gwt


09/05/2013 04:44 pm

one my friend disavowed all his links from gwt and site get Top2 on 12k/month keyword and longtails after 2 monthes approximately.


09/05/2013 04:46 pm

exactly, 100% agree with you. Google broken their serp, but not cares because of $$$


09/05/2013 04:48 pm

spammy is google idea what the link in the perfect world not exist. But since we living not in the perfect world, 99.9999% links is not ideal. So google now trying to stop using links and use behavior factors, but continue to penalize for bad links.


09/05/2013 04:49 pm

they not such good specialists as you think. It why disavow tool was expected by millions of webmasters and now used on totally white hat sites!!!


09/05/2013 04:50 pm

exactly. google chaos search engine don't know what is good and bad. and matt cutts cannot explain it at programming language. And provides us thin content without facts in his videos & his thin blog. In same way as broker do when trying to sell you something overpriced.


09/05/2013 07:37 pm

What kind of algorithm do they have that can do this? That is the thing you can only decide if a link is spammy based on factors that it can read. This is not people choosing good or bad links. This is a computer choosing based on logic that is used on every site. So they can say hey the article is not on topic, the pages is new and has one link per paragraph using money keyword anchor text, the article has a lot of errors etc. What do they do when it is a link that is related on a related site with related anchor text, and only uses one link every few articles? They can't tell a difference. That is why we get links in the manual actions that really are natural.

Rob Jenkins

09/05/2013 08:43 pm

the main problem is, anyone can put a link on a 'bad' site with your name/site on it.

Adam Grannell

09/06/2013 05:12 pm

I agree. Its a dirty method of hurting rankings.

Adam Grannell

09/06/2013 05:14 pm

Hi. One way to fund out if a link is harmful or at least questionable to to search for posts about it. if a link is a suspicious one or spammy nearly any forum and members will have an answer for you. You know what the link is and if it is good or bad. You many have to read a fair bit but the answer is out there.

Gracious Store

09/08/2013 02:08 am

The disallow link tool seems to be a double edge sword, it will be difficult for anyone to say with certitude which exact links are causing from for their sites unless Google helpthe site owners identify the spammy links

gregory smith

09/08/2013 11:40 am

Yeah they seem to be advertising spamming the whole web!

gregory smith

09/08/2013 11:41 am

You think!


09/08/2013 05:37 pm

The key part of this comment is this.. "and you're confident that the links are causing issues for your site" - how can anyone be 'confident' that certain links are harming their website... unless Google tells them which ones...

Morgan Akchehirlian

09/08/2013 06:19 pm

Yes,If we sum on this article. "If you are dead sure that these links are causing issue remove them.If you have finally decided to remove them still remove them with care". For many SEO gurus still think its trap for catching low quality and spamming sites.

MOS SEO Services

09/09/2013 10:21 am

Good to hear. I never used Google Disavow much.


09/10/2013 08:49 pm

IS it possible to 'remove' the Disavow File or is it a case of just uploading an empty one... if it can be removed then how?


09/13/2013 02:04 pm

199x - 2011


09/16/2013 06:05 pm

Lol, that has not been the case in a long time,, especially not until 2011. I have dealt with penalized sites back in 06-07, but paid links and other shady tactics have been going on since the 90s.

Catania Roma

09/16/2013 06:50 pm

Someone can tell me how to improve this travel portal thanks


09/18/2013 09:16 am

It still is. We've published a few new sites that just keep climbing the rankings. Its a matter of actually making a good site that adds value to the web.

James Smith, Attorney

09/27/2013 04:53 pm

I've disavowed and removed some low quality links. 16 domains. Should I remove a pr4 directory called

James Smith, Attorney

09/27/2013 04:55 pm

You can just remove it. There's a delete button next to your disavow file in the disavow tool.

Sasha Gibbs

10/08/2013 07:45 am

When you disavow links, does webmaster show those links in your link profile. And what about other back link checker tools. I have checked ahrefs and Moz, they are still showing links that i have disavowed before, I just need a double check on it from others.


10/16/2013 01:22 pm

Yes that's right They even had me disavow their own blogs link brilliant! But then the manual action was removed and everything went back to normal.after i deleted links. Some links are obviously bad but some are not so it really hard for a non seo person to know where to start.

Subhash Prajapati

11/01/2013 12:06 pm

Which links are coming from link firm, unrelated webpages and who are relevant link to your website. You can remove those links.

Subhash Prajapati

11/07/2013 12:38 pm

I have check all links manually most of the links coming from Bookmarking sites which are "nofollow" So those links not effect the website ranking.

Spook SEO

12/23/2013 03:07 am

I just want to say that if you really want to use the Google's disavow tool, then you must know hoe to use it properly.


01/17/2014 10:01 am

I have uploaded a list of bad back-links on Google webmaster disavow tool to remove those back-links on month ago, and didn't get any response from webmaster still now. Will it give any message or confirmation after disavow process will complete? can any one tell me the exact working of webmaster link disavow tool, I have already uploaded a list of links on it?


03/20/2014 04:51 pm

No, they won't give you any notification that they have have discounted those links, unfortunately.

blog comments powered by Disqus