How to Disavow Links in Google and Bing: An Instructional Guide
Editor’s note: For an updated guide, please see our Complete Guide to Disavowing Links for Google and Bing.
To help our clients who would like to use the disavow links tools from Google and Bing, this is an instructional guide.
It’s important to note that Google strongly advises against using the disavow links tool unless it is the last available option and will be implemented by a highly technical power user of webmaster tools. Incorrect use of the disavow links tool can harm Google’s evaluation of that site’s rankings and is a difficult process to reverse.
Editor’s note: This post was updated July 2015 to reflect Google’s changed terminology (Google Search Console instead of Webmaster Tools).
Introduction to Disavow Links
In this 9+ minute video, Google’s ambassador to webmasters and SEOs Matt Cutts tells us why a disavow links tool exists, who might need to use it, and how to use it. It’s a helpful introduction to the SEO topic of harmful links.
Who Might Consider Using Disavow Links Tools
- You’ve received a bad link warning in Google Search Console (formerly known as Webmaster Tools).
- Your SEO has identified that your site is affected by the Penguin Update or manual action penalty removing you from search results.
- Or you may have identified negative SEO waged against your site.
In the video above, Matt gives some specific examples of the actions that could put you in category #2 in this list. If you’ve paid for links or used spammy comments or article directories to build backlinks, this is you.
First Course of Action: Link Removal
If inbound links are harming a site’s search engine standings, those links should be removed, or at least, an effort must be made to remove them. Bruce Clay, Inc.’s link pruning process is a vetted link removal method that we have used with success for many clients.
The following resources explain our link removal process, from identification of harmful links to contacting linking domains to tracking and reporting the process to Google for reconsideration:
- How to Remove Link Spam for Google Penguin Recovery: Described on our blog in brief
Google’s and Bing’s Disavow Links Tools
After having exhausted your link removal efforts and made necessary reconsideration request to Google, using the Disavow Links tools in Bing Webmaster Tools and Google Search Console may be a viable option for your situation.
- Go to “Configure my site” in Bing Webmaster Tools and then go to “Disavow links” in the following navigation.
- Use the Disavow Links tool to select a page, directory or domain you wish to disavow, and then enter the corresponding URL in the “Enter a URL” field.
- Click “Disavow”.
- The disavow submission will be listed below.
- You can delete disavow submissions by checking the box to the left of the listed selection and clicking the “Delete” button.
- Create a text file (.txt) containing the URL of the links you want to disavow.
- Include only one link per line.
- To disavow all links from a whole domain, add “domain:” before the link URL of the domain home page (for example, “domain:example.com”)
- You may include additional information about links in a line beginning with “#” (for example, “# this webmaster won’t return my requests for removal”).
- Signed in to Google Webmaster Tools, visit https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/disavow-links-main.
- Select the domain from a drop down menu for which you are submitting a disavow links list and click the “Disavow Links” button.
- Click through the pop-up warning (Google warns against the dangers of improper Disavow use throughout the process) and upload the text file of links you want Google to ignore and click “Submit”.
- You’ll see your .txt file listed here. Click “Done” to finish the process.
Expect it to take weeks before the disavow is no longer a calculation in your site’s search engine valuation. Again, we stress not to use the Disavow Links tool without guidance from an expert.
Tip: Wouldn’t it be helpful to know which websites are often disavowed by others? Check out Bruce Clay, Inc.’s crowdsourced DisavowFiles service. It’s a free tool launched in June 2015 to give webmasters better intel to make disavow decisions.