Google: Your Disavow File May Not Be Accepted If...

Oct 25, 2013 • 8:46 am | comments (63) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

Google Disavow Machete ManGoogle's Eric Kuan said in a Google Webmaster Help thread that even if you use a disavow file to remove links, Google may not process them if they don't see you making a serious manual attempt at removing those links.

Eric said:

The disavow tool should be used primarily if you have done everything you can to remove an inorganic link and still cannot get the link removed. If you are primarily disavowing links and not trying to remove them, your reconsideration request may not be successful.

Other reasons why the disavow tool may not work for you include:

  • Double check your disavow file and make sure the link you mentioned is properly disavowed. You can download your latest Disavow file by going to the Disavow tool, clicking "Disavow Links", and clicking "Download".
  • Documentation is really good and can help when reviewing your site for reconsideration. Make sure that when you send in documentation that it's accessible, though. It looks like hasn't been shared properly.

This is not new, but it is important to remind our readers.

Forum discussion at Google Webmaster Help.

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Anthony Shapley

10/25/2013 01:19 pm

That's misleading Barry. "May not process them", they process all disavow files as far as I'm aware. Not processing them and it not being enough for a manual penalty to be removed is two different things. There are other reasons a person might want to use a Disavow, such as negative SEO. These would be processed, without any re-inclusion request, unless you know something I don't?

Mark Johnson

10/25/2013 01:25 pm

From my experience so far, the disavow file is always accepted and processed (automatic) but the reconsideration itself may not be accepted if the work to remove is not demonstrated. Would anyone else agree?

Marie Haynes

10/25/2013 01:35 pm

Barry, this post may confuse people. From what you have written, Eric was saying that the reconsideration request will not succeed if Google sees that you haven't removed any links. But there is nothing here that suggests that your disavow file would not be processed.

Barry Schwartz

10/25/2013 01:39 pm

I mean, they won't respect it on a manual review.


10/25/2013 01:40 pm

What if I'm submitting disavow files preemptively, before I have a manual penalty? There's nowhere for me to show that I contacted 47 webmasters who all wanted to extort me out of removing my links from their directories (which was not considered a spam tactic in 05-09 when the links were first created). The only field I have to submit is the disavow .txt field. If there was somewhere I could document all of this wasted time (and yes, we did pay for several of the links to be removed) then I would. This post is worded incredibly inaccurately.

Marie Haynes

10/25/2013 01:43 pm

I get what you're saying, but the way that the article is worded, it sounds like you're saying that if you didn't remove any links then your disavow file would not be processed. That's done automatically by machine and would still happen even if you didn't remove a single link.


10/25/2013 01:47 pm

"even if you use a disavow file to remove links, Google may not process them if they don't see you making a serious manual attempt at removing those links." should read "even if you use a disavow file to remove links, Google may not lift your manual penalty if they don't see you making a serious manual attempt at removing those links."

Ari Nahmani

10/25/2013 02:11 pm

I agree - Barry I came to the article because the title said 'accepted' - in my mind that meant processed. For those doing disavows *without* any manual actions (pre-emptively or in the face of a penguin hit), I think it's vital we don't confuse people. I specifically have given the advice that significant manual removal is less necessary if you have not yet been hit - that disavow alone could be sufficient in shedding links.

Steve Peron

10/25/2013 03:20 pm

Good thing I read the comments ... very misleading


10/25/2013 03:46 pm

Google still continues to operate under the assumption that all of these spam links are self-made. This is not true. Sabotage from competitors is quickly rising and these negative seo campaigns can be quite devastating for small businesses. If disavowing is not enough for Google, how can we be expected to defend ourselves against these attacks and still run our businesses and service our customers if we have to manually remove spam links we did not create? Look at the Fiverr site. For $20 you can spam 100,000 links or more to any site you want and trigger a manual penalty for most any small business! I know some are still living in a world where they believe link spamming sabotage is not happening, but it is. Not only reported by Barry, I've been hit and so many others posting in webmaster world, digital point and even Google's own help forum. I think Google's disavow and whole penalty for links policies enable negative seo and the destruction of websites operated by devoted webmasters and businesses.


10/25/2013 04:04 pm

"For $20 you can spam 100,000 links or more to any site you want and trigger a manual penalty for most any small business!" Did you try to trigger by yourself ? "Not only reported by Barry" Barry reports gossips in most cases, not proved facts. This is the problem with this blog. "I've been hit" Details please.

Alan Ng

10/25/2013 04:30 pm

Problem is there is no consistency from a review. John Mueller even suggested in a webmaster video that if you think the reviewer has been to aggressive, submit again. doesn't inspire confidence! However may be right to up their aggressiveness. If you've got a manual penalty, most likely penguin is biting at the site to and penguin 2.1 is very aggressive from what we've seen, it seems to have a special liking for exact match commercial anchor text. It's a frustrating situation to be in.

Dave Fogel

10/25/2013 06:39 pm

I agree with Marie. I think if you upload the file if you do not have a penalty, they will still process the file. When they will actually process it though, I have no idea.


10/25/2013 07:57 pm

I took a machete to my spammy looking links, and my rankings actually fell. I deleted my disavow file and replaced it with one with only 10% of the original links disavowed (12 vs 120 domains) and the ranking have recovered. Not to pre-Penguin but to pre-disavow V1. be very careful as what I thought was spammy wasnt what Google thought - seems kind of stupid

Ari Nahmani

10/25/2013 08:13 pm


Jim Hodson

10/26/2013 12:18 am

I agree with Mari3. There is nothing in what Eric said that that is new or even implies that the disavow file might not be processed or even respected. Everything I've heard from all Googlers leads me to beleive that they will always process and respect disavow files, assuming they are in the correct format. This is why it should ONLY be used as a last resort. This is totally separate from whether or not your Reconsideration Request will be successful or not. Eric essentially said that you should exhaust all avenues to get the links taken down before disavowing links which is exactly what every other Googler (Cutts, Mueller, and others) has been saying all along. Once all links have been taken down that could be, the rest can be disavowed. And "perhaps" the RR will be accepted. The disavow file will be processed regardless. All links disavowed will be ignored. But if you can't provide proof that you made a very serious effort to get the links removed prior to diavowing, the RR will not result in the manual action taken against the site for unnatural links being lifted (even though the links are no longer being counted because they were disavowed).

Mike Pannell (Dallas Realtor)

10/26/2013 01:57 am

So the question is.. I have 515 links in my disavow file.. I currently have removed about 62% should I edit the file and remove the ones that have been removed or just leave it?


10/26/2013 04:44 pm

so, disavow tool can be not useful at all??? again, "welcome to google lottery" stuff.


10/26/2013 04:47 pm

for 20$ you can spam even 1 000 000 (check fiver), every link with unique anchor. for extra $5 you can order blast of low quality spinned article with exact match anchor. so small/medium webmasters not have any protection from negative seo, and it becoming more and more popular every day. Thanks, google! You do it again! (some crap)


10/26/2013 04:51 pm

google not care about your wasted time. they even not care about owner of this article sites wasted time. google think what everybody in the world creating sites to spam google. so best AI system not not have sites to rank (now they stick "top authority spammy sites" to top10 of serp! and sites of internet coalition + own sites of course $.$.$.$.$)


10/26/2013 04:52 pm

who need manual review? anyway it only wasted time.


10/26/2013 04:53 pm

so, if you have manual penalty - move to another domain!


10/27/2013 03:43 am

So Google literally requires that you not only disavow the links, but must remove them as a prove that you truly do not want to be associated with any of those links anymore


10/27/2013 12:16 pm

How can you disavow even a thousand links of negative seo? Google should ignore bad links, not penalize for them.


10/27/2013 01:21 pm

Now I'm really confused. I've got a site which reports on scams and what not. I obviously upset a scammer, because I ended up with with 1000's of links pointing back from a questionable site using the anchor of 3 of my top keywords. Googled bowled to the exteme. How in hell can I take steps to have these links removed when, they were added to cause negative seo damage. Nothing I can do to have them removed and by the sound of this article, if I don't take an active part in having them removed, Google will ignore my disavow request, that's just dandy!

Kenneth von Rauch

10/27/2013 05:47 pm

The biggest question remains. How does Google check that I did whatever possible to remove my 'bad' links. The only thing that comes to my mind is that they can monitor my gmail account, but what if I'm not using gmail for contacting those site owners?

Sweta Srivastava

10/28/2013 04:35 am

Barry, My question is, We generally put those links to disavow which are seriously uncontrolled to us. And the doc file you have mentioned, we generally use it while sending reconsideration request. I'm am unable to understand Google wont consider my disavow link???


10/28/2013 05:43 am

You know according to Barry, Danny, Rand and above all Matt, there is no "Negative SEO" that you have mentioned. So, its waste of your efforts and time to mentioned it anywhere, as no one is going to here about it.

Hari kishore

10/28/2013 06:32 am

Hi, Now by the statement of Eric about link disavow - many ambiguous things comes in my mind like (a) how to remove backlinks from unapproachable websites owners. b) is webmaster shown only good link after disavowing the bad links or both, so how one can assure he have only good links?


10/28/2013 08:21 am

ive saved friends site with disavow lately, took me 3 tries. i think ive nailed it now but i wont share how on for now as im not sure if thats healthy for internet to just make lists of bad links and share with google

Soni Sharma

10/28/2013 09:12 am

There could be many assumptions for Disavow feature provided in GWT. It seems that there are much effort done by Google when processing many links used by this tool. Anyway use this tool carefully. is there anyone who got benefit by using this tool I mean those badlinks removed from GWT reporting or not?

Brady D. Callahan

10/28/2013 01:30 pm

There's no notification that your disavow has successfully been "processed" or anything like that, correct? Just gotta look for evidence in analytics?

Casey Markee, MBA

10/28/2013 03:54 pm

That's incorrect. When you upload the file you'll receive a processing notification. You'll also receive a notification if you've uploaded the file and it contains "formatting" errors. It will say "this and this" has not been processed. That's your notification to correct the formatting errors, then upload a new file.

Casey Markee, MBA

10/28/2013 03:56 pm

The backlinks won't be "removed from GWT reporting" ever. That's not how the tool works. The tool works by placing an invisible nofollow attribute on all links contained in the file. Once the file is processed by Google the links that are crawled are then, supposedly, ignored by Google for future algorithmic calculation on the part of your site. That's it.

Casey Markee, MBA

10/28/2013 03:59 pm

This is where Google has been guilty of sending out "mixed signals." Specifically, Matt Cutts published a video on this very questions back in August. He says that if you find links you just don't want to be associated with, "drop them in a disavow file and be done with it." Here's the link here:

Brady D. Callahan

10/28/2013 03:59 pm

Thanks, but I must not have been clear enough. I meant a notification ensuring "the links have been disavowed," etc. My submissions have always been in the proper format, however I've wondered if anyone ever heard back with a message, "your links have been disavowed." I guess it's always just finding the evidence in Google Analytics.

Ashish Ahuja

10/28/2013 04:00 pm

lol this is getting funny by the say. If someone creates crappy links to my site why do I have to make an effort to clean it up. I remember the unnatural links penalty notice they sent to bbc lol

Ashish Ahuja

10/28/2013 04:01 pm

If you won't share stop spamming your sitelink

Ashish Ahuja

10/28/2013 04:02 pm

google won't consider your disavow link unless you have made a serious effort to clean you dirty links yourself. Even if they disavow I am seeing sites not getting previous rankings unless they have made a serious effort to clean up the links

Ashish Ahuja

10/28/2013 04:03 pm

You can send a reconsideration request with spreadsheet explaining what effort you have taken

Casey Markee, MBA

10/28/2013 04:04 pm

Personally, 62% is a relatively high percentage. But it's always a good idea to leave the domains ( in the file as a BACK-UP in case you "missed" some specific links from suspect toxic sites. I've done dozens of these and even if I'm positive I've removed the links for the client I STILL put the domain in the disavow file and denote all of them under a specific #hashtag title like the following: #Here's a list of the domains with suspect links we were able to remove Again, the parser tool itself doesn't read these notes. But if the submission of a reconsideration request was necessary (in manual action cases) then I would upload my disavow file to Google Docs and LINK that within a reconsideration request. These notes could then be read by a manual reviewer which provides more context for my link pruning/removal efforts. It's just a best practice at my end.

Ashish Ahuja

10/28/2013 04:05 pm

why did google change its wording on its answer to question about negative seo after penguin was first released if negative seo was not possible. See article on this site only

Mike Pannell

10/28/2013 04:09 pm

Yeah i been working at it everyday since the end of May.. The problem is i was still affect by this last update.. So i dont guess it was enough..

Mike Pannell

10/28/2013 04:11 pm

Also my problem has never been manual.. It is all Penguin.. Never got a letter neither..

Casey Markee, MBA

10/28/2013 04:11 pm

No, and you won't. That message doesn't exist. Sure, it would be fantastic if that kind of transparency was possible...but at least right now, no.

Casey Markee, MBA

10/28/2013 04:41 pm

Remember as well, if you've pruned, disavowed or nofollowed a ton of your previous backlink profile you WON'T bounce back to your previous levels....ever. Especially if you got rid of a lot of earned authority. You'll also need to be building in new and better links to replace the crap. Your site is a completely different beast post-Penguin if you've been doing a lot of removal work.

Tobias Dean

10/28/2013 04:53 pm

So do we think is a penalty is algorithmic(penguin) then simply disavowing the links should have the desired effect. Surely this is the case given the possibilty of negative SEO?

Mike Pannell

10/28/2013 06:59 pm

Yes sir.. We are doing that also..

Vitaliy Kolos

10/28/2013 07:49 pm

Yeah, but how does Google know that the stuff i explain in the doc is actually right?! ;)

Soni Sharma

10/29/2013 04:05 am

Hi Casey, Yes that I know. The ignorance is processed during crawling and ranking. Google can also remove those links in GWT external link reporting, once used as Disavow.

Sweta Srivastava

10/29/2013 04:30 am

It means Ashish, we need to send our doc while which Barry has mentioned, while sending disavow request?????


10/29/2013 06:09 am

Yes, they had but if you gonna ask them about Negative SEO in any good forum, you will be bombarded with comments of GURUS that there is no such thing. According to them, you or me are only responsible for the site being hit by any update. One of my site was hit by Penguin 2.0 when my site links were placed on adults site, hidden links inside mirror sites, re-posting of our articles in top journals and news paper by people in 100 of sites etc. Those links were clearly visible in GWT link reports. Even though I disavow those links it didn't help. And its sinking day by day. At that time my site doesn't have authority links, so it get caught in the update. I am very doubtful to those who claim that they have recovered sites hit by Penguin. As, for the past 1+ years I have noticed several competitors sites and one of mine, that were hit by Penguin, but none were able to bounce back. Exception was that couple of sites were able to recover within a week of Penguin 2.0 updates but were sunken deep in 2.1 update and are not found in top 200.

Ashish Ahuja

10/29/2013 08:34 am

First, these penalties may affect anybody negatively if the site is not very deep rooted in the niche and is solely or majorly dependent on google traffic. If a site has wide variety of authority links and is loved by its users and gets traffic from places other than google then no update or negative seo can hit them in 99.99% cases. Now, I compare google with police, if you have a police record it stays for life, similarly if you have been hit anytime by any penalty google has a history of it and if it has to again penalise somebody its the earlier hit sites which are the first target and suspect. Trying for recovery is not recommended in most of the cases (only partially hit cases can be recovered). With recovery there is no certainty or recovery, it takes lot of time and I seldom see sites which have fully recover. Ranking a new site is much easier.

Ashish Ahuja

10/29/2013 08:35 am

after disavow, you should apply for reconsideration with details of efforts taken to remove the bad links

Ashish Ahuja

10/29/2013 08:37 am

Google knows everything about your site and sites linking to it, so if they see bad links being removed atleast partially in the past (from their own records) then they can verify from the doc.

Sweta Srivastava

10/29/2013 10:36 am

hmmmmmmmmmmm. ok

Sweta Srivastava

10/29/2013 10:37 am

What if i'm not using gmail to taking followups.....Google can access gmail but they can not access other portal.

Casey Markee, MBA

10/29/2013 04:37 pm

Google can "do" anything. But unless you have some examples, I call bullshit. I'm still seeing linking domains in GW Tools link downloads that we loaded into disavow files back in February. So personally, no, I don't believe that just putting links in a disavow tool removes those same links/domains from your GW Tools linked domains list.

David Sandy

10/30/2013 01:31 am

. this "your reconsideration request may not be successful." does not mean what the article title says which a bunch of people will no doubt quote. Since reconsideration are only for manual actions the proper inference from this tidbit from google is a reconsideration of a manual action may not be successful all you do is disavow. It still may be valid if you are trying to avoid algo penalties. (that it may not work for algo penalties at all is a separate issue. ) It also does not mean they aren't processing the request if you don't attempt manual removal.

Ashish Ahuja

10/30/2013 07:27 pm

my intent was not that google will verify the followups with your gmail. google has its own database of all the site activities and links and own data regarding penalty points, So if google sees that those data are reducing then it can infer that you have taken some action

Sweta Srivastava

10/31/2013 05:00 am

hmmmmmmmmmmmm. Thanks for the information. :)

Tim Whittingham

11/06/2013 10:53 am

Finally an article that is correct about GWT! It isn't meant as an easy escape from bad backlinks, you have to try and get your links removed before using this service. I found the best way to do this is to get a link audit. I went to The Link Auditors for mine. Their tools are all automatic and very easy to use. They have different tools for detecting various things such as duplicate IPs, Key word density, site wide links and others. They also run a link removal service. Their removal service is much quicker, easier and more effective than any other available on the net. All of their tools give detailed data, not just a list of bad links; but a description of whether the link is toxic or not and a percentage of how harmful it is, and this goes for every backlink in your profile. Their team is always available for a chat and with their five years of experience, they will talk you through your audit, what needs to be done and give you advice on what needs to be done next.


11/16/2013 06:33 pm

Interesting. I did not have a manual action, but got slammed with an algorithmic one almost two years ago. I have made a significant attempt to removed bad links (most of which I am guess came from a directory service I signed up for) and have been able to remove about 5-10% of what I think is bad., but I am somewhat guessing (using tools like cognativeseo to help). I submitted 3 disavow files so far - one on 9/21, one on 10/25 and the last on 11/2. So far I have seen absolutely no change. Should I just hang tight for a while or continue to upload files? Since I am not sure I am picking the right links, I am reluctant to upload another file, but I don't know if I have given it enough time yet. Advice? Thanks...

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