8 Reasons To Use The Google Disavow Tool By Matt Cutts

Nov 21, 2013 • 9:07 am | comments (46) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

google disavow manMatt Cutts posted a video answering the question "Should I use the disavow tool even if there's not a manual action on my site?"

The short answer is yes. But when?

Matt Cutts offers 8 times when to use the disavow tool. They include:

(1) When you get a manual action, of course.

(2) Webmasters won't remove the bad links to your site or want to charge you to remove them.

(3) You are worried about negative SEO.

(4) You see links pointing to your site you do not want to be associated with.

(5) You saw a link bomb attack and are afraid it might hurt your site.

(6) You are afraid someone will submit a spam report about you.

(7) You see your rankings dropped and you think it has to do with an algorithm Google ran, i.e. Penguin algorithm.

(8) You can’t sleep at night because of some of the links you have.

Here is the video:

Forum discussion at Google+.

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Dave Fogel

11/21/2013 02:21 pm

So there are some good reasons to use it, but he doesn't say if it actually does anything.

Michael Davis

11/21/2013 02:22 pm

#7 is surprising considering how Matt said that one should be very careful with the disavow tool (SMX West 2013). He said not to assume. I see people making assumptions about links and disavowing them without properly researching them. Just sayin.

Michael Davis

11/21/2013 02:23 pm

ha! Good point.


11/21/2013 02:24 pm

I can´t sleep at night worrying about when and if my site can ever recover in spite of all the link removal and disavowing. Why not tell us Matt if disavowing the links has an immediate effect on the penguin or if we need to wait for the mercy of the next re-run.


11/21/2013 02:53 pm

It just blows me away that google has facilitated a system in which negative SEO can work and is dirt cheap. What a world...

Lee Jackson

11/21/2013 02:53 pm

IT DOESN'T WORK! Even when following the process outlined below for several months we have seen no evidence of the disavow process working. Having spent months trying to remove suspicious backlinks for a new client, all we wanted is for Google to consider ignoring the backlinks we were unable to get removed.. nothing has changed since we submited a disavow file 3 months ago. The process we used; http://www.webpresence.tv/uk-blog/5-key-steps-removing-google-penalty/ Google - why bother releasing this feature!!??

Kyle Risley

11/21/2013 03:06 pm

Did you reach out to webmasters as well and provide documentation of that, or simply use the disavow file? I would imagine the web spam team would like to see low quality/spammy links removed or nofollowed outright in addition to links disavowed. I do think it's a shame that they don't provide you with a complete list of links. I think these should at least be available to those that have received a manual penalty.

Olivier Duffez (WebRankInfo)

11/21/2013 03:14 pm

"You are afraid someone will submit a spam report about you." => I don't see how the disavow tool could help me in this case?


11/21/2013 03:14 pm

Doesn't surprise me at all. It's no longer a search engine promoting fairness -- it's simply one that is concerned with AdWords end-of-year profits and big brand favoritism. The only ones getting crippled are the smaller and lesser-known sites.


11/21/2013 03:21 pm

Yes, there no any comment that after disavowing the links has been immediate effect on the penguin. Some my friends submit his website to disavowing the links. But get any effect the ranking.

Lee Jackson

11/21/2013 03:47 pm

Hi Kyle, did you read the part of my comment that says "Having spent months trying to remove suspicious backlinks..."? Also, if you click through and read the process we followed you will find that we did document our efforts and send evidence of this to Google. We have basically followed Matt Cutts advice throughout, exhausted hundreds of man hours.. and all for nothing! All the best, Lee.

Negative seo wins

11/21/2013 04:01 pm

Normally I don't like Matt Cutt's advice because its out of touch with reality since he has to tow the party line but I actually have some respect for Matt revealing this. Looks like he has come under fire by the truth recently and his comments are trying to help website owners who have lost their rankings due to negative SEO. This means that links are much more powerful than people give them credit for and that google can't solve this problem yet without people intervening manually. Out the hundreds of millions of websites affected by negative seo, how is google going to get everyone on board to spend time and resources on this? Google has failed!! Unless you see hundreds of millions of people watching Matt's video or following this good advice, it means that millions of innocent websites are now being affected by negative seo. it means that SEO is more alive than ever. It also means that those SEO gurus doing it are winning and google has lost.


11/21/2013 04:11 pm

They don't provide us with a list of the bad links (or even all the incoming links we have) so we likely do more damage than good with the disavow tool. Why don't they just automatically disavow bad links? Then it would just be a race of who has the best quality & amount of good quality links. Only then would we not have to worry about negative SEO.

Kyle Risley

11/21/2013 04:19 pm

Yes, I just didn't know what you shared with Google and I neglected to click through to your link. I have friends in the midst of a request and I agree it's a burdensome task that still feels a bit like shooting in the dark, especially for sites with a lengthy history of now questionable link building. Good luck, man.

Lee Jackson

11/21/2013 04:26 pm

Thanks Kyle, it certainly is like shooting in the dark... you do everything Google say to do and then get kicked in the teeth! Sometimes it's best for a site to start on a new domain.. saves you 100's of man hours anyway!


11/21/2013 05:11 pm

It was promoting 'fairness' when anyone could buy a few thousand links for almost nothing and rank their thin and/or worthless sites to the tops of SERPs for many common queries? Is that the fairness that you are opining for?


11/21/2013 05:15 pm

You disavowed links that, before they were hurting you, were providing you with an undeserved boost above other people who weren't breaking guidelines and spamming... ...so why do you think having those links disavowed would put you back to anywhere near where you were when those links were helping you? Disavow may get a penalty lifted, but you are now sitting where your site should have been without the artificial bonus you were receiving from cheating the guidelines. These crap-tastic links were like a crate you were standing on to be seen over the crowd. The penalty left you on that crate, but both the crate and you were in a ditch. Now that you have disavowed the links you are standing on level ground again...and this time without your crate.


11/21/2013 05:22 pm

(7) You see your rankings dropped and you think it has to do with an algorithm Google ran, i.e. Penguin algorithm. So, disavow all your links and be happy!


11/21/2013 05:35 pm

The internet is rammed full of idiots like you who go about trying to make themselves look like experts on sites like this when it is not possible to state half of what you have stated as being fact when you only have a small fraction of the story. You are missing so much information to make the assumptions you have made that rather than looking like someone who knows what they are talking about, you just look like a prize chump. There is a lot of confusion about links right now and idiots like you just add to it.


11/21/2013 05:48 pm

I'm convinced that the tool doesn't do anything but give webmasters a deluded peace of mind. It's an illusion of control.


11/21/2013 05:49 pm

I'm convinced that it doesn't do anything. I've used it on over ten different domains.


11/21/2013 06:09 pm

I am not pretending to be an expert in anything. But the fact that a successful disavow doesn't mean you are going to rank or have the organic Google traffic you once had isn't exactly an unknown worthy of debate. Site A is ranking because of spam links; Site A is dinged algorithmically or manually; Site A disavows links that caused penalty; Site A seems to have penalty lifted; Site A now ranks where it would have if it weren't receiving the artificial bonus from the now disavowed links. Sure, Site A may be so spammy and thin that it has other non-link related penalties affecting it... ...but that affects the way in which old links that were disavowed works how? And if the site is that spammy or thin it deserves to rank over others why? And all these links need to be disavowed ion the first place why? Because the site owner or someone the site owner hired thought nothing of breaking the guidelines that Google has made available for sites that wish to do well on their search platform. Google started to actively enforce those rules and now everyone acts surprised. You can call me names all you want, that's fine with me.


11/21/2013 06:38 pm

Google is a black box and ranks on over 200 signals. Without looking at the site concerned and understanding what is really going on (the links may only be a part of the issue or none at all), your drivel is pure speculation and adds to the confusion and bad noise. A little knowledge is dangerous and you prove this point far too well. You are a dangerous little person!


11/21/2013 06:48 pm

We are talking about disavowing links, aren't we? ...so nobody can comment on anything unless they address all 200 possible ranking factors? And I say it again, there is no controversy in saying that after you disavow links that once helped you, that you will not immediately regain those rankings/organic traffic associated with those links.

Akash KB

11/21/2013 07:00 pm

Hi Olivier, Suppose you've a genuine or authentic website, and there is another website which is a bit spammy (or OK in the past and turned spammy now) points few back-links to your site in their articles. When visitors land on the spammy site and learn about their nature (untrustworthy), they might think of your website also spammy. Because, the links on their website lead to your. A disgruntled visitor or customer may submit a spam report to Google against Your Website + their website. Many websites who sell online products usually point links to trustworthy sites to gain customer confidence. Cheers :)

James R. Halloran

11/21/2013 09:54 pm

But this is odd advice. I remember Matt Cutts explicitly state before that Google wanted to see a track record that you vigorously attempted to remove the links before using the Disavow tool, not just because "you can't sleep at night." Very different advice a couple months ago.

PM Fiorini

11/21/2013 11:28 pm

It sounds like to me the Google web spam team is running out of things to do.


11/21/2013 11:42 pm

It will be the race of dropping links everywhere, because dropper has nothing to worry about. In a matter of months we will get Internet flooded with links. Google, to be able to manage all these links, has to build hundreds of new datacenters, investing hundreds of billions. Keeping in mind, that it's pretty cheap nowadays to get powerful network for links dropping on a speed of light, Internet will be destroyed very quickly. For example you will not be able to use thread like this one, when hundreds of link-dropping machines will bomb this form by the links. Why care are these links dofollow or not, are they valuable or not? Drop it anyway, anywhere - will be the motto. "automatically disavow bad links" will never happen, because this is impossible.


11/21/2013 11:52 pm

Yeah sure, this is what visitors usually do - they land on the website, explorer outgoing links, land on the linked website, make conclusion that everything is very suspicious and urgently inform Google, local authorities and United Nations. Good luck in business Akash )

Stuart David

11/21/2013 11:57 pm

That was related to manual action reconsideration request. It is very confusing but you can use disavowed freely but if you have manual action, they want to see the effort you mentioned


11/21/2013 11:59 pm

ethalon is absolutely right.

Stuart David

11/22/2013 12:02 am

lol - hundreds of millions

Mike Pannell (Dallas Realtor)

11/22/2013 12:16 am

I always pay to get them removed.. I think it is better to remove them then add them to the disavow file.. I am currently sitting at some like 65% of my links removed.. I started with 539 links I considered bad and I think I have something like 352 removed.. Wondering if I should leave all 539 links in the disavow or should i edit the file and remove the ones i got removed? I sure wish the penguin would leave my site alone now lol


11/22/2013 12:37 am

use disavow tool, wait one year until next google update (and your links will disavowed, panda & penguin updated), stay calm because in this time...

Amit Dwivedi

11/22/2013 06:53 am

I think the tool is not perfect and this is not impacting on the user experience to use it. It needs some more modifications to get better exposure into the market. Google always delivered services and products, user experience keeps in mind but this they do not able to deliver the great tool to remove spam links.

Soni Sharma

11/22/2013 08:17 am

The next thing I am expecting is warning messages in GWT about list of bad links. So that webmaster can remove only the bad links in Disavow tool.


11/22/2013 11:10 am

This is the closest I have seen Matt come to admiting negative SEO is possible! Interesting and worrying! Great if they do now use the disavow tool, not so great if you have to update it with 100's of new links each to if under attack...

Patti Paz

11/22/2013 12:21 pm

Can someone tell me how often the Disavow should be updated? And, does Google actually USE and INCORPORATE the Disavow Request in its crawls?

Zeshan Ahmer

11/22/2013 12:34 pm

The tool is great but Google should remain in touch about the status, that what's going!

Nick Ker

11/22/2013 01:57 pm

This is one of the better ways to explain how disavow "recovery" works. It probably won't restore your previous rankings, but may restore your ability to rank (assuming you actually have some good legitimate links).

James R. Halloran

11/22/2013 04:33 pm

Oh, okay. Thanks for clarifying that for me! I appreciate it.


11/22/2013 05:05 pm

All great reasons. I think the Disavow tool is a great way to future proof your link profile against up and coming algo updates.

Gracious Store

11/23/2013 06:08 am

Great reasons to use disavow tool, but I think it is important to know who to use the tool correctly without it back firing on you.


11/23/2013 07:05 pm

Negative SEO is happening and it ruins our business ! I run a site who got links from over 1000 different spammy/hacked domains. How should we ever get the time to contact all these sites?? Even putting the domains on a list takes ages and I have not been apple to put all the bad sites on the list, but only those with most links to the site. This is very frustrating, traffic has dropped from 30.000 unique a day to about 5.000 and earnings has also dropped over 400%...

Spook SEO

01/03/2014 03:11 pm

I strongly agree with you about the use of disavow tool it is helpful whenever you are in difficulty of having bad links. It has a lengthy process to work but it is a useful tool helping SEO to avoid errors.

Tony S.

01/16/2014 03:40 am

There is a great alternative to the Google disavow tool which is often overlooked. Especially if you have alot of spammy links from directories. Send them a 403 and they will eventually remove their link. http://www.boxaid.com/word/simple-alternative-google-disavow-tool/

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