The SEO's Guide to Google's Disavow Links Tool

If you’re an SEO, you probably know that backlinks are Google’s number one ranking factor. According to the search engine’s website, backlinks are a heavy indicator of a quality site. But to boost your website’s domain authority and rankings, acquiring an influx of backlinks isn’t enough. Pleasing Google's algorithm will never be that straightforward.

Google generally prefers your website’s link profile, which is a list of all your site's backlinks, to consist of links from a high variety of sites and high-authority sites -- they consider this a marker of an authoritative and trustworthy website.

That said, poor or undesirable links from low-authority sites can penalize your website and plummet your rankings just as much as high-quality links can boost them.

Fortunately, Google’s Disavow Links Tool lets you tell the search engine to ignore specific backlinks when it crawls your website. This allows you to nix spammy, irrelevant, and low-quality domains from your site and strengthen your link profile.

Before you start scrapping links from your website, though, you should know disavowing links that don’t pass the eye test could actually hurt your domain authority and rankings. Sites that seem spammy, irrelevant, or low-quality might not always be a threat to your site -- they might even boost your domain authority and rankings.

With this in mind, you must be absolutely sure the links you plan to disavow are harmful. But this begs the question: how do you objectively separate the good links from the bad? Read on to find out how.

1. Audit your link profile to identify your site’s most harmful links.

The first step to pinpointing your site’s most harmful links is examining all of your backlinks. This is impossible to do manually, no matter how big your site is, but, fortunately, you can analyze all your backlinks with SEMrush’s Backlink Audit Tool.

To use their Backlink Audit Tool, you first need to sign up for a free SEMrush account. After you do that, click on “Projects”, which is in SEMrush’s left sidebar.

Then, choose your domain and press “Set up” under “Backlink Audit”.

Next, select “www & non-www version” and click “Start Backlink Audit”. SEMrush will audit your website’s backlinks and give you a diagnosis in less than 10 minutes.

Once SEMrush completes your audit, they’ll show you a dashboard that displays the number of non-toxic, potentially toxic, and toxic domains that link to your site.

To add more backlinks or your website’s most recent backlinks to your audit, you can connect your Google Search Console account to the tool.

Finally, in the “Domains by Toxic Score” section, click on the red percentage or the toxic domains. You’ll land on a page that lists all your website’s referring domains that SEMrush deems harmful.

To find out why a domain is considered toxic, click on the domain’s toxic score and SEMrush will list its domain score, trust score, and toxic indicators.

You can also filter these toxic domains by their link network, spam in communities, harmful environment, manipulative links, irrelevant source domains, and other complementary options. All you have to do is press “Advanced Filters” and choose your toxic markers.

In SEMrush, you can actually upload these links into Google’s Disavow Links Tool, but if you feel more comfortable uploading them by yourself, export them into an Excel file and follow the next step.

2. Upload harmful links as a text file into Google’s Disavow Links Tool to disavow them.

After you’ve exported the toxic links into an Excel file, copy and paste them into TextEdit, if you use a Mac, or Notepad, if you use a PC. This will allow you to upload them as a text file into Google’s Disavow Links Tool.

Next, visit the Disavow Links Tool’s website, select your website, choose the text file, and then click submit. Google will process your request and disavow the links within a few days.

To boost your search rankings, you must prune your backlinks.

If you're dedicated to crafting compelling content, your website can earn a ton of high-quality backlinks. But the attention your content attracts can also appeal to some low-authority sites who could attach undesirable backlinks to your website. And Google will penalize you for them.

Fortunately, if you proactively prune your backlinks with SEMrush’ Backlink Audit Tool and Google’s Disavow Links Tool, you can maintain your link profile’s health, boost your website’s domain authority, and watch your rankings soar to the top of SERPs.



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