In Chapter 9, we address the problem of Negative SEO, where a competitor creates a number of spammy links to your site to try to get your site penalized. In Chapter 10, we review how to reach out to the the site to ask them to remove the bad links but if they refuse or ignore your request  your only option is to try and disavow them. You would follow a similar process to remove toxic links from your site that might have been gained from overly aggressive past SEO tactics.

Both Google and Bing now allow you to disavow links or sites from their consideration using the following process below.

Google Disavowal Process

Google allows you to disavow a page or the entire domain.  Google only accepts a .txt file for upload.  This file must be prepared correctly or it will be rejected.  For more information visit Google’s Disavow Tool Help.

Step 1:  Organize and categorize your entries.  You need to determine if you want the entire domain disavowed or a single URL.  The following examples represent the two types of entries:

#Blog Comment Spam – Contacted Site Owner but did not received a response.

The first entry with the http:// represents a single URL to be disavowed where the second entry with domain: represents the desire to have the entire domain removed.   The following are additional examples of domain and URL with comments representing types of links to disavow.

#Scrapped Article Spam – Contacted Site Owner via email and indicated link would be removed by May 15, 2014

#Abandoned/Hijacked Site (Ignoring the entire domain)

#Malicious and Malware Sites – these sites flag the Google Malicious site warning

Note that the comments in the examples above (the lines that begin with the pound or hash sign) are not examined by the search engines. You don’t need to comment your entries, but it can be helpful so that you remember why you added each group of entries to your file.

Step 2:  Once you have all your entries, save the file formatted as .txt – you can name it anything but we suggest a format of “date_disavow.txt” so you can keep files organized by update date.

Step 3:  Log into your Google Webmaster tools and go to the Google Disavow Tool – it is not located within the Webmaster Tools Navigation.

google_disavowStep 4:  In the pull down select the site for the disavow file to be applied – ensure it is for the correct domain.


Step 5: Read the warning from Google and if you accept click “Choose File” and find the file you created and select it.

Step 6:  Click “Submit” to finalize the process.

In case you need to add more URLs in the future to your disavow list, it is important for you to hold onto your original file, because every time you upload a file, it replaces the previously uploaded file. So, if you want to add more URLs, you need to add your new URLs to the bottom of the original file and resubmit the whole thing. If you just submit the new URLs, the old ones will be wiped out.

 Bing Link Disavowal Process

Bing allows you to disavow a page, directory or a domain but there is no function to upload a master list as you can with Google.  For more information visit Bing’s Disavow Tool Help.


Step 1:  Log into your Bing Webmaster tools and in the left navigation under “Configure My Site” you will see the option “Disavow Links.”  Make sure you are in the account of the site for which you want to disavow the link.

Step 2:  In the pulldown menu, identify what you want to disavow–a page, a directory or a domain.

Step 3: Paste the URL that represents the type of item you wish to disavow.

Step 4:  Click “DISAVOW” to finalize the process.

If you ever want to remove the disavow, simply select the entry to remove and click delete.  You can also export a list of the disavowed URLs for your records.

But be careful…

Using the disavow tools should not be done without careful review of the links you are submitting. If you are not 100% sure that the link is bad, do not submit it. Because Google especially uses links for site ranking it is critical that you not remove any links that are actually adding value to your site.  Also, do not just export a list of links from a review tool and submit it without any effort to manually clean them.  You also need to be careful when disavowing an entire domain.  There may be a blog portal where only a single URL or a single blogger may be the problem so you only want to devalue those specific URL’s and not the entire domain.