Should You Disavow Toxic Links? Tips to Do it

July 8, 2024

For those interested in building a solid website that people can visit daily, it’s vital to have a base of backlinks backing it up. Backlinks are one of the most important factors, but contributing to them also tends to create a sense of insecurity when it comes to managing links.

Unlike other SEO-related issues, backlinks have been quite forthcoming for Google regarding their disavowal views and their place on the optimization toolboxes. Examining why and how to do it might be ideal to avoid any issues or penalties.

What Does it Mean to Disavow Links?

There’s only one prescribed case that makes specialists disavow links when it comes to Google. This happens when there’s some sort of penalty related to your web property. Web owners receiving an alert of unnatural links must address it, being on purpose or not.

A webmaster must address these penalties as they arise. The sooner, the better. It’s not usually an issue for those who use white hat SEO practices, but knowing how to maintain backlink profiles can greatly improve the overall health of such SEO strategies.

Experts use many tools to make this process easier, integrating with other features such as Google Analytics and the Search Console to obtain even more useful and accurate backlink data.

What’s Considered a Toxic Link?

Almost all backlinks are considered good, representing the ideal Internet or what Google strives for. These links slowly improve a site’s reputation, making it seem more trustworthy and authoritative.

On the other hand, a toxic or “bad” link is an inorganic link (with a few exceptions) that is usually bought en masse from shady sites and intentional backlinking schemes that are considered black hat SEO.

While it’s possible to receive these links organically, they usually come from very shady and spammy-looking sites that are just lists of products without real value to users. Most of the time, these links aren’t even placed by a human, so they’re safe to remove by experts.

Can Toxic Links Hurt Your Rankings?

While disavowing links can be considered a really useful tool, the truth is that it must be used with extreme caution. When used improperly, it can lead to great risks.

Doing so without evidence is harmful because it can lead to good links actually being ignored, hurting the rankings. This is a painful process for experts to go through if you go on a link disavowing spree, because entire domains can be disavowed instead of specific links.

Disavowing entire domains can greatly hurt rankings, and it’s important to know that it’s a very hard task to undo once they’re submitted. Improperly constructed disavowed links harm a site’s performance in Google results, with key problems such as:

  • Disavowing high quality and reputable links by mistake is like removing signals from search engines like Google. This will undoubtedly hurt the reputation.
  • The effects produced by disavowing a link (even if a faulty one is later removed or fixed) may linger for some time before it solves the issue. In the worst case, the damage is permanent.
  • When a link is disavowed, Google must re-crawl the previously disavowed URLs, reprocessing all signals. This can take a couple of weeks or even months to complete fully.
  • Specialists also don’t have a way to guarantee your site will go back to its previous performance once a bad disavowed link is fixed. Effects can persist for a short or long period.
  • When links are disavowed arbitrarily or without justification, the Google algorithm can consider them manipulative and flag your site.

All of these points are very relevant and must always be considered before disavowing any link. Before committing any error, contact a specialist from an agency like Kala.

When to Disavow Links?

Disavowing hyperlinks should now not be your first route of motion, but there are specific situations in which you might need to do it.

The number one situation that requires disavowing hyperlinks is when you actually know that a specific link is bringing down your site. Failing to address those links can result in a sizable drop in your search engine ratings.

Another scenario happens when specialists are aware of a sudden, unexplained drop in your rankings or natural visitors. These issues happen following a set of rules, which are indicated by an algorithmic penalty due to many spammy or one-way links.

Steps to Use Disavow Links Tool

Knowing how to properly carry out this task is of vital importance to avoid having any of the previously mentioned issues. Experts who have confirmed a penalty for unnatural links should follow these instructions after reading Google’s main instructions:

1- Creating a Disavow List

The first step every SEO specialist must take is to create a full list of every domain and link that the website owner wishes to disavow. The list must be designed in a way that can be assembled as a text file that can be uploaded to Google.

These lists must follow a specific format, with one URL domain per line, encoded in UTF-8 or 7-bit ASCII. It’s also possible to include certain comments next to it after adding a #. This means that Google will ignore such commentaries.

# Pages to disavow

# Domains to disavow

2- Uploading the Disavow List

Once the list is created, it must be uploaded to the search engine. The Google Search Console has a specific place for this, where experts must upload them. It’s important to say that only URL-prefixes can be submitted.

After that, click the upload button and choose the disavow file from your local computer. Always keep in mind that uploading new disavow lists is going to replace any existing ones for that property. Once this is done, a couple of weeks must pass to take effect from Google.

If the upload has some errors, Google will send the list back with the detailed issues for a specialist to solve before uploading it again.

3- Removing Every Disavowal

Removing every disavowal should be considered an extra step for those looking forward to deleting all disavowals for a property. To do so,  a specialist must head to the disavow links tool page, select properties and cancel such disavowals.

This process also takes several weeks for Google to take action. This process is reversible, but shouldn’t be taken easily. Doing it with caution is very vital, since its consequences could negatively impact the site’s performance.

Other Tips for Correctly Using the Disavow Tool

These are some very relevant tips that every SEO and marketing agency must know when using disavow tools:

Finding the Correct Moment to Use it The Disavow Tool is a last resort. It’s crucial to use it only when you’re dealing with a wide range of spammy links that could be causing harm to your website.

This tool can assist if your website has experienced a manual action or a considerable drop in ratings because of horrific links.

Correctly Identifying Links Many useful tools like Google Search Console, Ahrefs, SEMrush, or Moz are used to pick out dangerous backlinks.

They can help you search for hyperlinks from spammy, beside-the-point, or low-authority websites that might negatively impact your search engine optimization.

Always Attempt Manual Removal First Before resorting to the Disavow Tool, manually remove the wrong links. This can greatly help with the issue.
Double-Checking Files Ensure that your disavow file only contains genuinely harmful links. Incorrectly disavowing good links can hurt your site’s rankings.
Monitoring Results After submitting your disavow file, monitor your site’s performance. Changes won’t be immediate, but you should see improvements over time if the disavowed links affect your site.

Keeping in mind these important tips can help to ensure that the disavow tool is being used correctly.

Tips for Finding Toxic Links

It can be tempting to use tools like search engine optimization to find these toxic links, but this should be reconsidered. Most of the time, they can do more harm than good, so agencies suggest other approaches.

To properly find them, other more relevant methods can help. Sometimes, it’s not even necessary to actively look for them. If the site didn’t buy links that are considered spam by Google, the chances of finding them are even higher.

Specialists can carry out a manual audit to find these backlinks, using specific tools that Ahrefs or Semrush can provide. The anchor report is a great tool for this, and it shows when people use it to link to your site page.

When these links look unnatural or overoptimized, it can be a really important sign that the link is paid or intended for manipulation.


Many owners ask if you should disavow toxic links. It is a crucial step in protecting your website’s SEO health. While not all low-quality links necessitate action, some can be genuinely harmful, coming from spammy, irrelevant, or malicious sites.

The process involves identifying these toxic links through thorough analysis using tools like Google Search Console, then compiling them into a disavow file to submit to Google.

Remember to also hire a specialist agency like Kala to take this approach judiciously, as disavowing links can impact your site’s backlink profile and, consequently, its ranking.

Regular monitoring and a proactive approach to building a high-quality link profile are key to maintaining optimal SEO performance.

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