Outreach Monks

How to Disavow Backlinks: A Comprehensive Guide with Future-Proof Strategies

Disavow Backlinks Step-by-Step Guide & Future Tips

Backlinks are SEO gold. They a, telling search engines your content is valuable.

But hey, not all backlinks are good. Some can harm your site’s ranking and even cause penalties. This is where disavowing backlinks comes in.


What’s Disavowing Backlinks?

Disavowing backlinks means asking search engines to ignore certain links to your website. It helps protect your site from bad backlinks that can hurt your SEO. It’s a way to dodge penalties caused by spammy or low-quality links.

As search algorithms evolve, managing your backlink profile is more crucial than ever. Tools like Google’s Disavow Tool might not be around forever.

john mueller on removing disavow tool tweet

Source: searchengineland

This guide will show you how to disavow backlinks using Google Disavow, SEMrush, and Ahrefs. Plus, we’ll dive into the future of disavowing backlinks and why ethical link-building is a must.

When and Why to Disavow Backlinks

Disavowing backlinks shouldn’t be your first move. It can hurt your traffic if you disavow links that are actually helping your site’s authority. So, when should you consider disavowing backlinks? Here’s a guide to help you decide.

1. Manual Action

If you’ve received a manual action from Google, it’s time to disavow harmful links. A manual action means Google has found that some of your backlinks violate their quality guidelines. This can lead to a significant drop in your rankings and traffic.

GSC manual action screenshot

2. Outsourced SEO Gone Wrong

If you hired an SEO agency and they used manipulative tactics resulting in bad backlinks, you should consider disavowing these links. This can prevent future penalties and help restore your site’s ranking.

3. Avoiding Future Penalties

If you’ve engaged in manipulative link-building tactics in the past and want to avoid penalties, proactively disavowing those links can be a smart move. This is especially important if you suspect Google may target those links in the future.

mariehaynes disavow advice

Source: mariehaynes.com


Disavowing links should be a last resort. Use it when:

  • You receive a manual action.
  • You need to proactively address questionable backlinks from past SEO practices.

Understanding when and why to disavow backlinks helps you keep your site’s SEO healthy. Next, we’ll go through a step-by-step guide on how to disavow toxic backlinks using different tools.

Step-by-Step Guide to Disavowing Backlinks Using Various Tools

Now that you know when and why to disavow backlinks, let’s get into the how. We’ll walk you through the process using Google Disavow Tool, SEMrush, and Ahrefs.

Before you start, make sure disavowing is truly necessary. Remember, this should be a last resort. Google often ignores bad links on its own, so you only need to disavow, if you’re facing a manual penalty or have significant manipulative backlinks.

john mueller on disavowing links tweet

Step 1: Creating a List

You can create a list of toxic links using various tools. We will be covering Google search console, Ahrefs, and SEMrush in this article.

Using GSC

First, gather the links you want to disavow. Use Google Search Console to make a list of spammy links.

You can go into the links report in GSC and export a list of spammy links from there.

Disavow link report-gsc

Using SEMrush

SEMrush offers a comprehensive toolset for backlink audits, making it easier to identify and disavow toxic links.

Backlink Audit Tool

Navigate to the Backlink Audit tool in SEMrush. Connect it to your Google Search Console for the best results.

backlink audit semrush

Run a Backlink Audit

Start an audit to get a list of all backlinks pointing to your site. SEMrush will categorize them based on their toxicity level.

Review Toxic Links

Review the list of toxic links identified by SEMrush. You can manually review each link to ensure it’s truly harmful.

semrush disvow links adding list

Create Disavow File

Select the links you want to disavow and add them to the Disavow list within SEMrush. Export this list as a .txt file formatted for Google Disavow Tool.

semrush disavow links export

Using Ahrefs

Ahrefs is another powerful tool for backlink audits and disavowing harmful links.

Conduct a Backlink Audit 

Use Ahrefs Site Explorer to perform a comprehensive audit of your backlinks.

Backlink Audit Ahrefs- OM

Identify Toxic Links

Go to the Backlink Profile section and filter out the links with a high toxicity score. Ahrefs uses various metrics to determine the quality of backlinks.

Export Toxic Links

Select the toxic links you want to disavow and export them into a .txt file. Ensure the file is formatted correctly for the Google Disavow Tool.

Disavow links example - ahrefs

Create Disavow File

Format the exported file according to Google’s requirements, ensuring each URL is on a separate line.

Step 2: Upload Your List

Once you have created a list of toxic links, using the tool of your choice. Now, it is time to upload the list. You need to create a “.txt” file and then upload it to the Google Disavow Tool.

Go to the Disavow Links Tool: Visit the Google Disavow Tool.

Select Property: Choose your website from the property list.

GSC disavow tool interface add property

Open a Text File: Create a .txt file to list the URLs you want to disavow. Ensure each URL is on a separate line.

Disavow text file example

Upload Your List: Go to the Google Disavow Tool and select your website. Upload the .txt file.

Google Disavow Tool interface

How to Remove Disavowals

If you need to remove disavowals, follow these steps:

  1. Go to the Disavow Tool: Visit the Google Disavow Tool.
  2. Select Property: Choose the website property.

Cancel Disavowals: Click on the option to cancel disavowals and upload an updated .txt file if necessary.

disavow cancel

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Disavowing backlinks is a powerful tool, but it must be used carefully. Here are some common mistakes to avoid:

1. Disavowing Without Proper Analysis

One of the biggest mistakes is disavowing links without a thorough analysis. Not all low-quality links harm your site. Google often ignores many of these on its own.

“Most websites do not need to worry about toxic links. It’s something that our systems, when they run across links that they think are bad, we will primarily ignore them.”

– John Mueller

2. Disavowing Beneficial Links

Sometimes, site owners mistakenly disavow links that are actually beneficial. This can negatively impact your site’s SEO.

3. Overusing the Disavow Tool

The disavow tool should be a last resort. Overusing it can lead to unnecessary complications and potential harm to your site’s performance.

4. Not Keeping a Backup of the Disavow File

Always keep a backup of your disavow file. If you need to update or correct it, having a backup ensures you don’t lose your previous work.

5. Failing to Reassess Your Backlink Profile Regularly

SEO is not a one-time task. Regularly reassess your backlink profile to ensure you are up-to-date with any new harmful links that may appear.

By avoiding these common mistakes, you can effectively use the disavow tool to protect your site’s SEO without causing unintended harm.

Next, we’ll discuss the future of the disavow tool and the importance of ethical link-building practices.

A Future Without the Disavow Tool

The disavow tool has been crucial for SEO, helping site owners protect their rankings from bad backlinks. However, its future is uncertain, and it’s important to know what this means for your website.

Google Might Remove the Disavow Tool

John Mueller from Google has said that they might remove the disavow tool in the future. This means we need to focus on keeping our backlinks clean and ethical.

“At some point, I’m sure we’ll remove it.”

– John Mueller 

Bing’s Removal of the Disavow Tool

Bing removed its disavow tool in October 2023(source: Bing blog). Fabrice Canel from Bing explained that their advanced AI can now identify and ignore bad links without needing a disavow tool.

We have invested heavily in developing and improving our artificial intelligence capabilities, which enables us to better understand the context and intent of links, as well as the trustworthiness and authority of their sources.

– Fabrice Canel 

Why Might the Disavow Tool Go Away?

  1. Smarter Algorithms: Google’s algorithms are now very good at ignoring bad links without needing manual input.
  2. Focus on Quality: Google wants to promote high-quality content and natural backlinks. They are getting better at spotting these.
  3. Industry Changes: Bing has removed its disavow tool because their search algorithms have improved.

Now, we know that we might not be able to disavow links in the future. So, what is the solution? What can we do?

Everybody knows “prevention is better than cure”. So, we need to follow good link-building practices. Let’s get into the next section and learn what to do.

Importance of Ethical and White Hat Link Building

With the disavow tool possibly going away, it’s crucial to focus on ethical and white-hat link-building. These methods keep your SEO strong and avoid penalties.

Why Ethical Link Building Matters

  1. Avoid Penalties: Ethical link-building helps you avoid Google penalties. This saves your site’s rankings and traffic.
  2. Build Trust and Authority: High-quality, natural backlinks make your site more trustworthy and authoritative.
  3. Long-Term Success: Ethical link-building ensures long-term success. It builds a strong backlink profile that can withstand updates.

What This Means for You

If the disavow tool goes away, you need to be careful with your link-building practices. Here’s what you should do:

  1. Regular Backlink Checks: Use tools like SEMrush and Ahrefs to check your backlinks often. This helps you find and fix issues early.
  2. Proactive Measures: Make sure your link-building strategies follow Google’s rules. This helps you avoid penalties even without a disavow tool.

Our White Hat Link Building Services

At Outreach Monks, we specialize in ethical link-building services. We help you maintain a healthy backlink profile. Our strategies follow Google’s rules, keeping your site penalty-free and successful in search rankings.

  1. Quality Backlinks: We get high-quality backlinks from reputable sites. This boosts your site’s authority and trust.
  2. Custom Strategies: We customize our link-building to fit your needs. This ensures the best results.
  3. Ongoing Support: We provide regular backlink audits and updates. This helps you stay ahead of any issues.

Partner with Outreach Monks for your link-building needs. Build a strong, sustainable backlink profile. Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help you succeed.


Disavowing backlinks is useful but should be used carefully. With the disavow tool possibly going away, focus on ethical and white-hat link-building. Regularly check your backlinks and follow Google’s rules to keep your site safe.

Stay proactive and keep your SEO strong. Need help with link-building? Contact Outreach Monks today.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can disavowing links affect my site's local search rankings?

Disavowing links can impact both local and general search rankings if done incorrectly.

How can I identify if a link-building agency used manipulative tactics?

Check for sudden increases in low-quality backlinks or links from unrelated sites.

Will the removal of the disavow tool affect existing disavow files?

Existing disavow files should remain effective until Google changes its guidelines.

Is there a limit to how many links I can disavow at once?

Yes, Google allows a maximum file size of 2MB and up to 100,000 lines for disavow lists.

Can disavowing links help recover from an algorithm update penalty?

Disavowing links might help, but it's more effective to improve overall site quality and content.