It Works! The Google Disavow Tool Removed A Penalty

Dec 19, 2012 • 9:04 am | comments (24) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

Google Disavow Link ToolIn mid-October, Google launched the disavow link tool and some have complained it doesn't work but it seems like it does indeed work. As an FYI, it seems 50/50 have used the tool (poll over here).

Dixon Jones from Majestic SEO, a person I respect, trust and know is incredibly honest, posted in a Google+ thread that he used it for a site and it helped it get out of a manual link penalty. Dixon wrote:

I have got a manual penalty lifted... which had a positive impact from a really bad place. There is no doubt that the site in question has not returned to previous levels from before the penalty... but then again it had a manual penalty for a reason!

When asked for more details, Dixon explained:

I worked hard to remove the bad links - but was unable to move them all. So I documented the efforts in the disavow file and then gave time for the disavow file to take effect in the index. +Uri Lederman I was directly told in the re-inclusion email that I had a manual penalty which was now lifted. +Cody Cahill Now - many of the bad links still exist - but are now presumably disavowed - so causation v correlation seems strong. Plus - still nothing concrete - but look at who did a +1 on my initial comment ;)

Now, this should work for a manual penalty fairly quickly. Those who want it to work for a Penguin link penalty need to wait for a new Penguin refresh. There is a WebmasterWorld thread just on the Penguin/Disavow topic itself.

But from this we can have a pretty good and honest opinion that the tool does indeed work and should work with Penguin if used correctly and when there is a data refresh or update.

Forum discussion at Google+.

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Dixon Jones

12/19/2012 02:38 pm

Heh. Well I hope I was right that the disavow helped and I am not leading people up a garden path :) - I am not sure it is a "quick" solution though. I really do think that in this instance, there was considerable evidence that manual removal attempts had failed. I expect that going straight for a disavow solution without some hard graft may simply fall on deaf ears. I am happy to stand by what I've said - it worked for me. But everyone else's situation will be very different. (Note to self... Google+ comments aren't always private) :)

John Britsios

12/19/2012 02:58 pm

We also had success with link pruning and the use of the disavow tool. Here is more about our success:


12/19/2012 04:07 pm

The Disavow Tool does work! We had ours revoked end of November after working hard to remove many spammy links then disavowing the rest. We still have not been included into the SERp's yet as we are going on 3 weeks here.... Does anyone have a time frame as to when we may start to see our site pop-up into the SERP's? Thanks :)

Lucidity Digital

12/19/2012 05:11 pm

We ran a reconsideration request in November for a client of ours who was with a previous provider who used black hat seo tactics. Just last week we received a message from the Google Search Quality Team stating, "Previously the webspam team had taken manual action on your site because we believed it violated our quality guidelines. After reviewing your reconsideration request, we have revoked this manual actio." So it seems that the disavow tool does indeed work. :)

suckaz unite

12/19/2012 05:49 pm

An SEO looking for suckers says he has the PayRank formula down. Ummm.....OK.

Howard Gottlieb

12/19/2012 08:29 pm

You can definitely recover from a bad links manual action using the disavow tool as ONE aspect of your housecleaning. But the common denominator always seems to be proven extraordinary removal effort before using disavow.

Peter Watson

12/19/2012 09:25 pm

I followed the same path as 'Dixon Jones' and after months of removing links, on the 27th of November I received the same email from Google which told me my manual penalty had been revoked. It's been approx 3 weeks and I can clearly see my site being slowly integrated back in the serps. I look forward to the next Penguin update!

Peter Watson

12/19/2012 09:29 pm

Its been about 3 weeks for my site also, and our site is slowly being integrated back into Google. Still no recovery for my main term, but my second biggest terms is sitting in position 22 (when penalized was not in top 200 for 6 months). My previous position was 1.


12/19/2012 10:30 pm

i not think it work. just google removed manual penalty. But I removed list of links I submitted to disavow tool before and my site ranking goes up! (i not created that links, it was a pure 3rd party links).

Alex Grey

12/20/2012 03:39 am

I’m facing problem because my site was hit by Panda and then Penguin. I've removed all duplicate content and then hundreds of spammy links. Now, I've been getting good traffic on my store and category pages, they are rankingin Google but my Homepage doesn't exist on any keyword. I've checked it to 700 results. I checked all short, long tail, popular and keywords having less searches but no result for my homepage, even I checked with EXACT MATCH. I think Google has lift ban from my site but not to HOMEPAGE. Please suggest me what to do. I've compile a file which has all links pointing to my homepage. I got these links from Google Webmaster Tool, Bing Webmaster Tool and Open Site Explorer (SEOMOZ). But I'm very confused which links should I disavow. Please help me.

Rekha Bisht

12/20/2012 05:18 am

After Penguin update, each and every SEO scared from spammy links. I do also have some spammy links for my site. That's why after Penguin update my website ranking got down, but I am not able to recognize that from which sites I got these spam links, so Disavow links did not work for me.

Tim Grice

12/20/2012 09:12 am

The tool works, we've see it across multiple websites. We had beta access to the tool and recovered a site before it was officially made public. You still have to do some leg work and remove links, but the tool was the difference between constant failed recons and revoked penalties. Posted on it here in October:


12/20/2012 09:12 am

I tried it ans i wait now, shoul be happy in advance?


12/20/2012 11:26 am

I’ve got a site with the same issue. It had a manual penalty, which I got removed. Some of the pages are now ranking ok but the home page is not ranking at all. Hopefully once we get a Penguin refresh it will sort things out.

SEO Tips

12/20/2012 01:11 pm

I do not understand this tool. It does not work on my site. Help me with a good debriefing. where can I find. please thanks


12/20/2012 06:31 pm

George - curious - did the spammy links disappear from your "Links to your Site" in Webmaster Tools once you felt that the Disavow Tool took effect? Or did they remain there?

Ranking Signals

12/21/2012 01:52 am

He may be honest, but his grammar is terrible! ;-)


12/21/2012 03:42 am

It work for our site that was under a manual penalty since Sept. but we also submitted a compressive spreadsheet a couple of days before we used the tool show the links we actually got removed, we had about 15,000 bad back links

Paweł Kłosiński

12/21/2012 07:08 am

As far as I know they stay there which is not perfect solution as you are not sure if they've been dropped.

DJ Beany

12/21/2012 09:55 am

Hey Barry. Nice post. We've been working with penalty removals in a few verticals and would love to say that it does work 100% (SEO's may be able to say that one day); but we've seen some variations in responses. We've also been having direct dialogue with one of the big G's engineers. We've done one case where we've disavowed the links by URL location; as we didn't want to put any major negative impact on the whole domain for other webmasters. It didn't suffice the big G though. We're in the second round of disavowing by domain. We're looking for an 'optimistic' impact over the next fortnight or so and that the penalty will be lifted. We also trialled it on another site whereby they're impacted by EMD, panda and unofficially penguin (the trifecta; I believe they call it). Google responded by saying there were no manual penalties placed on the site in regards to links; though if one saw the historical profile footprint; there's cringeworthy penguin triggers there. As a last resort; we went with the disavow and didn't see a positive impact in that case. It was like a catch 22. Anyway, we're hoping that the next case will further backup that any link penalties will be lifted. Happy to share any further insight as things develop. Anyone else who has any additional insights; would love to hear thoughts...Cheers and merry Christmas all :D


12/21/2012 10:37 am

It's about time this tool began to work, I have been debating whether or not to use it and this post gives me confidence I need to use it. Thanks for the information Barry.


12/21/2012 02:27 pm

I have a feeling that most people dont understand that penguin damaged sites can only be recovered after a new penguin update (I hope soon). Thanks for this post, I gave it a chance and just uploaded a txt file with worse links. I hope I can escape from the penguin after next update. cheers.

Andy Kuiper - SEO Analyst

12/29/2012 10:28 pm

Is it possible (in the case of non-manual issues) Penguin might be 'de-valuing' backlinks it deems suspect? So rather than a penalty per se, domains seeing a loss of ranking/traffic are experiencing a lowered number of backlinks. To improve, one would need to replace the 'devalued' links with appropriate replacements... not worrying too much about updating Google regarding the removal of the suspect backlinks; just a thought ;-)

Sanket Patel

02/01/2013 05:58 am

Google disallow tool allows you to indicate to Google which links you wish to disavow and Google will ignore those links. It is like rel="canonical" , this is a strong suggestion, Google always wants the right to trust our own judgement for corner cases.

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