Google Launches Disavow Links Tool

Google has launched a new and widely anticipated “disavow links” tool. The tool was announced by the head of Google’s web spam team Matt Cutts, when speaking during a keynote at the Pubcon conference today.

The tool is live and can be found here. It has been beta tested by some selected SEOs already for the past few weeks. About 45 minutes after Cutts spoke, Google formally announced the tool on the Google Webmaster Central blog.

Earlier this year, Bing launched its own disavow links tool.

Disavowing Links

Cutts warned that the tool should be used with caution. He also warned that publishers should first try to remove links they are concerned about pointing at them by first working with site owners hosting links or with companies they may have purchased links through.

The format will be to list URLs in a text file, either individually or to exclude all links from a particular site using domain: format like this:

Both formats can be mixed into a single file, as shown below in an example from Google’s blog post about the new tool:

From the blog post:

In this example, lines that begin with a pound sign (#) are considered comments and Google ignores them

The “domain:” keyword indicates that you’d like to disavow links from all pages on a particular site (in this case, “”).

You can also request to disavow links on specific pages (in this case, three individual pages on

Once you’ve created your file, you then access the disavow link tool through Google Webmaster Central. You’ll select your site (as the screenshot at the top of this story shows), go through warnings, then select your file and submit:

These Links Will Be Disavowed In … Several Weeks

The process of Google discounting the links to your site won’t be immediate. “It can take weeks for that to go into effect,” Cutts said. He also said that Google reserves the right not to use the submissions if it feels there’s a reason not to trust them. The blog post reflects the same:

Google reserves the right to trust our own judgment for corner cases, for example—but we will typically use that indication from you when we assess links.

One submitted, there will be an option to download the file you submitted and resubmit it with changes. There’s a file size limit of 2MB (and if you have more than 2MB of links you need to disavow, you should probably just start a new web site).

The delay in processing the file means that if you make a mistake, it may also take weeks to “reavow” links that you like. So be careful. The post addresses this:

To modify which links you would like to ignore, download the current file of disavowed links, change it to include only links you would like to ignore, and then re-upload the file. Please allow time for the new file to propagate through our crawling/indexing system, which can take several weeks.

In questions, Cutts said that using the tool is the same as using the “nofollow” attribute, which allows sites to link to other sites without passing ranking credit to those sites.

Who Needs To Disavow?

Who should use the new tool? It’s been primarily designed for those who were impacted by Google’s Penguin Update, which in particular hit web sites that may have purchased links or gained them through spamming.

In the wake of Penguin, panic ensued among some SEOs and publishers. Some wanted a way to ensure that they could discount bad links and start fresh. Others worried that people might point bad links at their sites in an attempt to harm them with “negative SEO.” A new business of people charging to remove links was even born.

Things got worse in the summer when Google released a new set of link warnings that didn’t clarify if publishers really had a problem they needed to fix — if they could — or not.

How Google Created Its Own Disavow Links Monster

Of course, Google wouldn’t need a disavow link tool if it hadn’t been shifting over the past months to consider bad links a type of negative vote against the site. In the past, Google typically had just ignored bad links.

But by counting bad links as negative votes, Google largely enabled some of the concerns about negative SEO that it hopes, in part, to calm with the new tool. Again from its post:

In general, Google works hard to prevent other webmasters from being able to harm your ranking. However, if you’re worried that some backlinks might be affecting your site’s reputation, you can use the Disavow Links tool to indicate to Google that those links should be ignored. Again, we build our algorithms with an eye to preventing negative SEO, so the vast majority of webmasters don’t need to worry about negative SEO at all.

I asked Cutts why Google doesn’t simply discount bad links, rather than considering some of them as potentially negative votes. After all, while it’s nice to have this new tool, it would be even better not to need it at all.

As I wrote earlier this year when covering the increasingly creaky link counting system that both Google and Bing rely on:

Links suck. It’s hard to get good links, and even when you do, you might find they don’t count. Meanwhile, who wants to be wasting time “disavowing” links? There’s got to be a better way.

Rather than answer my question, Cutts instead focused on the benefits the new tool brings, especially the ability for people to “clean slate” web sites that may have bad links pointing at them.

More Information

Cutts has also prepared a nearly 10 minute long video about the tool, which you can find below:

YouTube Preview Image

Google also has a help page about the new tool here, and be sure to read the official blog post, which has a helpful FAQ section and other details.

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Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Features: Analysis | Google: Disavow Links Tool | Google: SEO | Top News


About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • John Britsios

    Christoph I had no intention to harm your reputation and I got a reply to my feedback.

    Do you agree that if a user will need to upload two reports instead of one for the links he will need to disavow may cause problems with Google?

    Do you have any evidence that Google will not have a problem with trying to import multiple reports?

    Again don’t blame me if I could not find any “Help” or “Warning” to avoid the troubles I mentioned above.

    If webmasters won’t ask, do you think they would know what has to be done intuitively?

    As I said before: People with less experience and who rely on your tool as the “Holy Grail” could get damaged. Isn’t that obvious?

    And as I said before, please do not take this as an offense. I love “Detox” for identifying “Toxic” links. About the “Suspicious” the metrics require a whole a lot of improvement, but there you cannot be blamed for anything, since you also tell that it requires manual evaluation.

    Are we now on the same page?

  • MFR

    Google Earnings, Revenue Miss Wall Street Forecasts (2 hours AGO)

    “Google reported its quarterly earnings much earlier than
    expected Thursday, and the results missed analysts’ expectations

    Lets hope all these algo changes are NOT related to Go-gle trying to reach their earnings targets…

  • John Britsios

    But not with DTOX. Correct?

  • Vignesh

    By using this tool is there any possible to overcome the last penguin update and will this tool helps the dropped websites?

  • Pavel Medvedev

    if previous seo-optimazer accidentally or specially deleted all links, i can return it?

  • Danny Sullivan

    It sounds like you were hit by Penguin 1 (that was 4/24) and yes, I’d say any links you think are low quality or potentially seen as spammy, try disavowing them with this tool.

  • Danny Sullivan

    I have a question out to them about this. Potentially, they could. Realistically, it would be dangerous. Anyone could disavow a good site, for example. However, I suspect if they see a lot of disavow requests that correspond with sites they already think poorly of, that could be an additional blow to those sites. Just speculation, however.

  • SEO Sydney

    This is a better way of minimizing negative seo as well as creating a rule over low quality content….a great tool of this age!

  • Yogendra Chavda

    i do link building according to google’s guideline.. One of my website got hit by my competitors blog comment blast which i don’t use for my link building strategy!

  • Eric Gondwe WebMinistry

    A useful tool & partly a sign Google is willing to work with smaller players on the web. Ever since its first Panda update it’s been like Google has settled to first rank corporate elite sites

  • John Britsios

    Could it be because corporate sites prefer to hire professional SEOs, and smaller players not? Or because they can afford investing more?

    If two players, one large and one small would hire an equally good SEO company, who will have more success? The company with the lower budget or the one with the higher budget?

  • Yousee

    It’s not that only blog comment links are considered as spam links but other links from articles, directories, bookmarks and other may be bad links.

  • Outtanames999

    “This is not a tool you should use under any normal circumstances.”
    “Most people do not need to use this tool.”
    “If you’re not doing really especially egregious seo with all kinds of weird link networks or stuff like that, this is not a tool you should need to use under any sort of normal circumstances.”

    Now of course I realize YOU are not normal. You’re special, aren’t you? Sure you are. And you’re stupid too, right?

    So.. you want to use the disavow tool. Great! Google welcomes your confession of your sins – err, I mean your submission. Now Google will know about all the “especially egregious seo with all kinds of weird link networks or other stuff like that” that you have been doing all along. And just what exactly do you suppose they are going to do with that information (that they already have and suspected but you have now confessed to in writing)?

    Remember who Matt Cutts is. Matt Cutts is an seo spy. His job is to find out what you are doing and stamp it out..And he loves his job. He works with such glee. He is that nice troll in a video game. And now here he comes along just at the right time, handing you a magic wand.that vanquishes all of those pesky Penguin and Panda enemies with this disavow tool and just imagine how many bad linking neighborhoods you can tell Google about with this tool.

    Like a magic wand, this is the tool you have been waiting for. You’ve been stuck on Level 9 for months now and this will finally take you to the top level in the game – or will it? Maybe if you use it three times, it will take you down a sewer pipe straight back to Level 1 where you will have to start the game all over again,But he’s such a nice, polite troll, isn’t he?

  • Ryan Cote

    I’m torn about this tool. The paranoid side of me says it’s Google’s way of using us to gather massive amounts of backlink data. But at the same time, I can see where this tool would be awesome if you mess up in your link building or you’re hit by negative SEO. It’s kind of like Google Analytics…it’s an amazing FREE tool that is hard not too use, but the downside is you’re giving Google lots of data. I know you can say if you have nothing to hide than what’s the big deal…and I agree with that…but sometimes Google doesn’t get it right.

    Man, what a crazy year it’s been for SEO!

  • monkeynut

    Ok, so if somebody was performing negative seo on my ste, hosing my site with thousands of spam links per day, tell me Cutts how am I going to keep up?

  • Peter Kern

    Yes waste of time. You just wasted four weeks on removing links. With this new tool you will be still wasting your time. Your website never gonna get ranking back just because you remove some links. You would make things even worse :) But good luck !

  • Ali Donggon

    Good stuff, I look forward to hearing more and staying up with ever-changing G updates.The landscape has changed drastically and it can be quite difficult to keep up on just what is and is not acceptable. Now I’ll be having major revisions with my site.

  • Michiel Van Kets

    the big question is; what will google do with the other links on those pages? is that what they’re really after, not disavowing your links, but de-indexing the pages themselves? (that’s what I would do)

  • Michiel Van Kets

    or they just want us to report the ‘bad’ pages, we helping them with giving the information MANUALLY to them, so they can filter out (read de-index) more pages …. I really don’t think they’re doing it for us :)

  • Rajan Yadav

    I am unable to upload my bad links file :(
    Kindly help

  • Sharmy

    I don’t know the advantage of disavow link tool to use for

  • Austin SEO

    The disavow tool is a good way to help recover from a penalty. It is
    not, of course, the only road to recovery but, as long as it is used
    wisely along with a few other simple procedures, a penalty-ridden
    website will be back on the straight and narrow in no time.

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