How to disavow toxic backlinks in Google Search Console

Mackenzie Griffith

  | Published on  

May 26, 2021

Do you have unnecessary links that are slowing down your site? If so, you might want to look into disavowing those links. Luckily, Google already has a tool to do this called the Disavow Links Tool. But what exactly does it mean to disavow a link, and when should you do it?

An intro to Google Search Console

Google Search Console is a free tool provided by Google that shows you how your website performs in search results. With Google Search Console you can:

  • See how often your website appears in search results and for what keywords
  • Track your rank for different keywords
  • Monitor your website for index errors
  • Disavow backlinks

We've written about Google Search Console in other posts, so for the top bullets check out that guide for more info. In the rest of this article we'll dive more into what it means to disavow backlinks and why you might want to.

Why you might want to disavow backlinks

Backlinks are links from other websites to your own.

Since Google developed their PageRank algorithm, backlinks have been one of the strongest ranking signals that can help build your website's authority. Not all backlinks are beneficial though.

While backlinks from reputable sites can skyrocket your rank, backlinks from toxic or spammy websites will negatively impact your rank. This is a common "blackhat" technique to harm competitive websites. Bad actors will build links from spam/toxic websites to harm another website, tanking its rank in the process. Fortunately, there's a remedy to this problem: you can disavow toxic links in Google Search Console. This tells Google to ignore the bad links, keeping your website free of any ill-effects caused by that malicious website.

How do you disavow a link in Google Search Console?

Google's Disavow Links tool allows you to determine which backlinks you want search crawlers to ignore when crawling your site. This can be useful when thinking about optimizing your site for ranking purposes.

The process of actually disavowing links is quite simple.

1. Create a .txt file of the links you would like to disavow

First create a .txt file of the links you would like to disavow. An example txt file could look something like:

It does not matter what text editor you use, as long as you can save it as a .txt file.

Submit the txt file to Google

Next, submit the .txt file to Google! Just head to the disavow tool and you are all set to submit the .txt file for Google to disavow the links.

NOTE: This process does not work with domain properties, only url properties. For more info check out Google's help docs.

How do you determine which backlinks to disavow?

Although the process for disavowing is pretty easy, deciding which domains to disavow can be a little more complicated. The main reason you should disavow a link is if it’s  low quality or spammy. You want to avoid low quality pages linking to your site because this will negatively impact the user experience of your site and your content’s credibility, which can both consequently lower your rank.

So, what does a low quality backlink look like? Here are a few categories to keep an eye out for:

  • Obvious spam sites
  • Links that appear in spam comments
  • Sites that are set up just for links
  • Backlinks from sites that are not in your target countries or locations

Before you decide to disavow...

Keep in mind that disavowing a backlink should be your last resort.

When you disavow a link, you are telling Google that the link is a threat to your site. You really need to consider if disavowing the link could help or hinder you because disavowing the wrong link can hurt your SEO. Follow the steps outlined in this article and make sure you’re 100% certain the link you’re disavowing falls into one of the above categories.

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