Watch Our Disavow Tool File Generator
Learning how to disavow links is important for any website owner, so if you’re searching for how to remove bad backlinks, then pat yourself on the back.
If you aren’t aware of how toxic links can hurt your rankings then you should read this entire post, watch the video, and use the free spreadsheet I created for you.
In short, it is important to periodically review your link profile of sites linking to yours for:
- Unnatural links
- Spam links
- Negative SEO
- Cheap SEO (automated link building, spammy link building, rich anchor text)
If you’re just confused about Penguin 4.0 and whether or not you should review your link profile and disavow links, then you should also read this entire post, watch the video, and use the free spreadsheet.
You’ve probably heard a bunch of noise about Google’s algorithm update known as Penguin 4.0.
Without adding to all the noise, I wanted to briefly touch on the most important changes to Google’s algorithm from Penguin and how this impacts your business. Then in great detail I’ll cover how to remove bad backlinks. Specifically how you should review your link profile and generate your disavow file when disavowing links as there has been much confusion about this process.
- Click the image above or this link
- A new window will open and you will be prompted to “make a copy”
- Click the blue “Make a copy” button
- A copy of our disavow tool file generator will be created and saved onto your drive
- You can get started using the tool to compile your link profile, review for bad links, and auto generate your disavow file
Purpose of Our Disavow File Generator
I’ve prepared this link disavow guide you’re reading in combination with the above video tutorial and a free Google Sheet to help you with the link removal and disavow process.
Our tool will:
- Quickly compile your links and remove duplicate domains
- Provide you with guidance on which links to disavow
- Automatically generate your link disavow file (properly formatted and correct file type)
The purpose of our free disavow tool file generator is to help you extract and analyze your link profile for unnatural links that may be negatively impacting your search rankings. The tool also automatically generates your disavow file saving you time and reducing errors with the submission process.
The best way to remove bad backlinks from Google is to contact the sites containing the bad links and ask for removal and then to submit your disavow file to Google.
Our tool streamlines the entire process of compiling link profile data, analyzing for bad or spam links, and generating a properly formatted disavow file.
Save time and improve your rankings using our disavow tool file generator or have it done for your with our Google Penalty Recovery Service.
How You Get Unnatural Links? Negative or Cheap SEO
Before I get into negative SEO and cheap SEO, there are two other very common instances where a site has toxic or unnatural links, that I discover are true for many businesses.
- You purchase a domain that was previously registered and already has links to it
- You have a webmaster, or web designer, who says their services include SEO
1 – If you purchase a domain that was previously registered and has links to it, there is a chance that your link profile has unnatural links in it that should be disavowed. These could be links that are not relevant to your business or links that were effective for SEO in previous years but now are damaging.
2 – The other instance is extremely common. Many web designers and webmasters will tell a business owner that they build search engine optimized websites and sometimes they even pitch their service as an SEO service. Then, without the business owner knowing, the vendor builds some unnatural links, like spammy blog comments, to try to get a quick boost in rankings. I see this all the time.
If neither of those cases sound like your situation, then keep reading about unnatural links from negative SEO and cheap SEO.
Negative SEO is when a competitor intentionally spams unnatural links pointing to your website in an attempt to remove your site from SERPs for targeted search terms. Sometimes it is the competitor’s SEO using this tactic without your competitor knowing.
Nasty right? Well, it is a real thing. It has happened to me numerous times.
Like when my competitor built 1,202 spammy unnatural links to my SEO services page from foreign and shady websites all using exact match anchor text of “SEO services”. Click the image to enlarge.
That is a prime example of negative SEO. Haterz gunna hate, amirite?
I’m in the SEO industry though, so my space tends to see this nasty tactic implemented more often than others. However, I’ve seen it in other industries too such as:
- Real estate
- HVAC and home services
- Startup and Tech
In many cases I don’t even think the business owner on either side knows about the negative SEO. I think what happens is the SEO company working for business A starts spamming business B, along with any other competitors ahead of business A, in an attempt to improve their client’s ranking.
Now, even if you don’t have any nasty competitors and shady SEOs building spammy links to your site, there is another common way you can receive these low quality links.
You pay for them.
That is right, when you skimp and hire a cheap SEO provider you are risking that the company will go and spam the web with automated tools to build links to your site.
Because cheap SEO companies do not have the budget and resources to build quality links for you, they instead use cheap automated tools that create spammy gibberish for content and automatically post it across the web linking back to your site.
I see this more often than I see negative SEO cases. A business owner who decided to give SEO a go because they finally got a call from a provider that offered them a deal they couldn’t pass up.
1,000 back links for $10? Sounds too good to be true.
Because it is.
If you have purchased linkbuilding services from a site like fiverr.com then you definitely need to perform a link audit on your link profile.
So, bottom line is this, if you have paid for cheap SEO, or any SEO at all, without seeing a list of links that your provider is building, then you must review your link profile for quality.
Or, if your organic search traffic has declined, and you haven’t reviewed your link profile, then now is the time.
Penguin 4.0 Updates and How They Impact Your Business
This section will quickly cover the update’s algorithmic changes and how it applies to your business.
Here are the major updates to the algorithm:
- Penguin updates are now performed in real time
- Updates are now more granular
- Links are devalued rather than site’s demoted
Here are how these updates impact your business:
- You won’t have to wait for an extended period of time to recover from toxic links impacting your rankings, updates will occur over the course of days and weeks now versus months and years.
- Granular updates means that Google is analyzing individual links pointing to individual pages on your site rather than taking a broad sweep at all links pointing to all pages and issuing a demotion across the board.
- No longer will your entire site be taken out of the SERPs for having toxic links, instead the individual page on your site receiving bad links will have its ranking impacted.
All in all, this should be a great update for everyone using Google. However, there are some considerations to keep in mind in regards to your SEO to make sure you maintain visibility in search results.
Particularly, I’ve noticed a lot of confusion around disavowing links. I’ve seen many SEOs say that links no longer need to be disavowed, now that Google is catching bad links in real time and they aren’t demoting your entire website in search results.
Well, this is not the case.
In reality, it is now harder to identify when you have toxic links pointing to your site, as they won’t have as much of a negative impact. That said, toxic links will still hurt your webpages rankings and thus Google has not changed their recommendation that we continue to disavow links as we did before Penguin 4.0:
Google’s recommendation for using the disavow file has not changed
– Gary Illyes, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google
How to remove bad backlinks (reviewing your link profile)
I’ve put together a link disavow process for business owners who don’t have an SEO or access to SEO tools like Cognitive SEO.
The truth is, a manual link profile audit is better than any audit performed by a tool.
You will need to use Google Webmaster Tools along side my free ‘Link Disavow Process’ template (Google Sheet).
The Google Sheet that I created has step by step instructions to walk you through the link review and disavow process. I want to share some additional guidance here on identifying toxic links.
The question here is, would you want your mother to know that a particular site linked to yours?
Basically, use our advice below alongside your best judgement to find websites of low quality and disavow links coming from them. In addition to disavowing links you should contact the websites and ask for them to remove bad links to your site.
Identifying Unnatural Links: What to Look for
While using data from Google Webmaster Tools and the Link Disavow Process sheet that I created, each time you review a link in your profile, ask yourself the following questions:
- Was this link created solely to boost my SEO rankings?
- Could this link actually bring a targeted visitor (prospect) to my site?
- Would you be concerned if a Google employee reviewed this link?
As you answer these questions you will start to get a feel for whether or not that link should be disavowed. Now, you may have some links in your profile from negative SEO or cheap SEO that clearly need to be disavowed.
Examples of Common Toxic/Unnatural Links
Specifically, here are some links that you will want to disavow (screenshots of examples below):
- .info spam
- Any links from .info sites should be reviewed for quality. This is because a lot of .info domains are registered dirt cheap at $0.99 and then used as a spam site for passing PageRank to other sites. Often times you may have no idea but one of these sites will scrape and publish your content that includes links back to your site. Keep an eye out for any .info sites in your link profile and manually review them for quality.
- Other country domains
- Links from other country domains should be disavowed as Google does not consider them relevant. This is because the audience in another country doesn’t speak the same language and so your content is deemed irrelevant to them. Here are the most common domains to look for: .in, .pl, .hk, .by, .cz, .fr, .ru, .br., .ar, .nl
- Business directories other than Yahoo, Dmoz & top local sites
- Any url that looks like http://somedirectory.com/business/category/your-company-name should be reviewed. Unless it is a major directory like Yahoo, Dmoz, or any of these top local directories then go ahead and disavow the link
- Article directories other than ezine and about.com
- If you find links from article directories other than ezine articles or about.com then it is best you disavow these. An example site would be articledirectoryusa.com or articlealley.com
- Automated spam
- Any links that are clearly spam. A lot of times these are blog comments or member profile links. Basically, it is a short spammy comment that links back to your site or a fake user profile on a website that links back to your site.
- Paid Links
- If you are donating money to websites, or organizations, and in return they place you as a sponsor on their site and link to you, this is fine. Unless, you are doing this at scale for the purpose of acquiring links. Even if Penguin does not pick up on the link scheme, when a Google employee manually reviews your link profile, they will issue you a manual penalty.
- Exchanging Products for Links
- It is fine to send your product out to a select few bloggers to review and potentially publish a review with a link to your site. However, companies that have tried this at scale have received Google penalties for doing so and have had to invest on going back and removing or disavowing the links.
- Link Exchanges
- Setting up a “partners” page where you link to related businesses in exchange for them doing the same and linking back is a tactic that Google picks up on fairly easily and does not condone. Now, if you legitimately have partner businesses, or work closely with related businesses, then it is fine that you link to each other but make sure the decision to do so is made without thinking about Google or search engine rankings. That is the best guidance for making this call.
- Scaled Guest Posting (With exact match keyword anchors)
- Guest blogging is essential to marketing online. It allows you to connect with relevant audiences that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to connect with. However, if you are doing this at scale and consistently using exact match and keyword rich anchors to specific pages on your site than Penguin 4.0 will catch you. Be wise in the anchor text you use in your links and which pages you are linking to on your site. Don’t leave an obvious pattern or footprint and ony include links that make sense for the reader.
Below are some real life examples of the above types of links to look for in your profile and disavow:
Foreign Country Domains
If you’re struggling to determine whether or not you should disavow a link, this is a great resource from Moz on Google’s quality guidelines regarding unnatural links.
I’m happy to help out as well, so leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer. That said, without reviewing your entire website, industry, and link profile – my response will be very limited.
So, you could always consider hiring my team to do a complete link audit and disavow for you.
Should I disavow all links from the domain or just the individual link?
Generally speaking, it is usually a best practice to disavow all links from a domain. So, I designed our disavow tool file generator to function this way.
This is because typically when you find 1 bad link from a domain, the same link exists in multiple places on that domain such as sidebars, footers, category pages, or other archives such as tag pages.
That said, if you feel that you’ve found 1, or a few, bad links from a domain that is sending you other good links, in these few instances you should just disavow the individual bad link(s).
One example of this situation may look like this:
- A site publishes a relevant article and includes a link to your site. (A good link you want to keep)
- The same site has multiple archive pages of this article that are also linking to you creating lots of rich anchor text links from this one site to yours.
- You could individually disavow the archive pages and keep the original contextual link.
Important Note! If you are using our tool to perform your link profile audit then you will notice that it creates your disavow file contents at the domain level. If you have a URL, or a few, that you want to disavow at the individual level, then simply copy and paste these complete URLs at the bottom of your .txt disavow file that you create with our tool.
How often should I use the disavow tool?
There is no definitive answer to this question. How often you should disavow links will depend on the following:
- How often your site receives links
- How many links your site currently has
- The current health of your link profile
- If you’re engaging in linkbuilding
- If you have cut-throat competitors engaging in Negative SEO?
- If you work in a space with reputable competition and don’t have a Negative SEO concern
- If you’ve hired an SEO company and have not reviewed the links they are building
- If you bought a link package, perhaps from a site like Fiverr.com
For some small businesses, honestly you just need to get familiar with your link profile. So, doing this once could have a big benefit for you.
On the other hand, some small or medium companies that rely on web traffic and leads should engage in this process monthly.
Try reviewing your link profile one time. If you find that you have quite a few toxic links you need to disavow, then check back monthly just to make sure new toxic links are continuing to pop up.
If your link profile is pretty clean, and you aren’t engaging in link building, then just check back a couple times a year.
Important Note! Each time you submit a disavow file, it replaces your previous disavow file. This means that if you disavow 100 rows of domains/URLs and then in 2 months decide to review your link profile again and perform another disavow for 10 additional links, your new disavow file needs to contain 110 rows of domains/URLs. If you just submit only the new 10 links you want to disavow, then the previous 100 will be replaced and no longer disavowed. Keep track of your disavows and keep a running file that grows over time.
Once you are all done reviewing your link profile, you will need to create your disavow file to upload to Google. The ‘Link Disavow Process’ Google Sheet that I’m giving away will help you do this in an automated fashion.
Formatting Your Disavow File
Here is what your disavow file should look like:
The top row with the # first is a comment, this isn’t necessary and feel free to remove or change the default comment that comes in the disavow file my tool creates.
The purpose of the comment is actually for yourself to keep track, not for Google, so you could put the date of the disavow or what prompted the review as a reminder note to yourself. Google won’t read it, these files are machine processed.
The beginning of each line says “domain:” which tells Google to disavow all links from that domain that point to your site.
Common Errors When Submitting Your Disavow File
If your disavow file is returning errors upon submission, here are some common errors and how to fix them.
- First, the .txt file must be in UTF-8 or 7-bit ASCII, so try re-saving in one of these formats
- When disavowing a domain, you must exclude ‘http://www.’ so that the row is formatted to look like: domain:spammysite.com NOT domain:http://www.spammysite.com
- If you have URLs or domains in your file that include foreign characters such as Û or ã then they will prevent your file from processing, just delete these rows completely.
- Domains with ports attached need to have the port removed. This looks like spammysite.com:2222 the ‘:2222’ is referencing the port and this should be removed so that the row just contains domain:spammysite.com
Alternative Link Data Sources & Auditing Tools
There are many tools that you can pay for that will help you audit your link profile. In some cases, these tools are very valuable. However, a manual review of your link profile is most often the best link audit that you could perform.
Additionally, there are many data sources that you can collect your link profile data from. To get the most complete picture of your link profile, pulling from multiple sources is optimal. However, if you only have access to the free Google Webmaster Tools data then don’t worry because this is everyone’s best source of link profile data.
That being said, I mention a few additional data sources in my spreadsheet and video that I’ll recommend here as well if you want to really perform a deep link audit.
You can use Google Webmaster Tools and compile links from any of these sources as well:
- Moz Open Site Explorer
- Ahrefs toolset
- Majestic’s link database
- SEMRush backlink audits
If you pay for any of these, or access a free trial, then you can pull link data and use it in my spreadsheet alongside your Google Webmaster Tools data.
Time to Remove Bad Links
Ok, now you know how Penguin 4.0 has changed and the impact of the changes to your business.
I’ve also given you a step by step video tutorial and free spreadsheet to efficiently review your link profile and automatically create your disavow file.
By now you should be an expert on removing bad backlinks to your website.
If you aren’t getting excited about reviewing your link profile at this point, then I give up, you’re hopeless and will never love SEO like we do.
If that is the case, then maybe you should hire my team to review your link profile and disavow any toxic links eliminating your Google penalty 😉
Seriously though, watch the video, access the Google spreadsheet, and if you haven’t already then setup Google Webmaster Tools. You’ve got the knowledge and tool set now to clean up your link profile and get the best SEO results possible under Google Penguin 4.0.
Best of luck in your link clean up efforts! If you have any questions about the review/disavow process, or Google sheet that I created, please leave a comment below!
Common Questions About the Link Disavow Tool File Generator
I’ll update this section with frequently asked questions that we receive about using our free tool.
How do I remove duplicate domains?
You will need to install this: Google Add On called Remove Duplicates.
Once you install that add on, on your Google Sheet menu within our disavow tool, click on ‘Add ons’ > ‘Remove Duplicates’ > ‘Find duplicates or uniques’