Link Disavow Placebo

Disavow Links and Relax...
[blockquote type=”blockquote_line” align=”right”]At the moment, nothing is being done with the disavow data and it’s unlikely to happen soon. Similar to the removal request – it’s mainly a way to gather more data but doesn’t have a negative affect. Very big sites find it hard to get rid of all bad links and so the disavow tool provides an easier and more effective way but  it must be combined with re-inclusion requests.[/blockquote]

Topic Controversy

After much debate in the webmaster community regarding the effectiveness of the link disavow tool on an algorithmic level, Danny Sullivan myth-busted the whole thing (( thanks to his contacts at Google. Another source (( adds further confusion to the case, however, as it perfectly aligns with webmaster observations (no documented case of recovery through link disavow tool upload only) and statements made by some Googlers (and ex-Googlers (( ) regarding the link disavow tool. As of this point we have several reliable sources claiming that the tool both does and doesn’t work on an algorithmic level.
In a recent Google Webmaster Central Office Hours hangout (( John Mueller clarifies that disavowed links are processed automatically (not manually). Reconsideration request is still required if manual action is applied. John also clarifies that in case of Penguin, which is a manual algorithm push (doesn’t run in real-time) webmasters will only see the result of the link disavow once the algorithm has been re-run again. He also stated that Google takes care with algorithms such as Penguin and test extensively before they release the algorithm out of its sandbox.
Fantastic information which likely defuses much of the controversy surrounding the topic.


Many webmasters believe they can simply upload bad links in Google’s link disavow tool and wait for them to be magically removed from Google’s link graph. Several people at Google have already advised that link disavow tool represents just a step in a link cleanup process. The tool on its own will do nothing to help you recover from manual action.


Identify bad links in your Google Webmaster Tools export. You can use other tools to process link data more efficiently, for example to discover nofollow links or sort by anchor text or quality parameters.


Remove the links you can by reaching out to webmasters of websites with unnatural links pointing to your website. You may reach out to your (former?) SEO company to assist you with the cleanup process. This step is important, do not expect a good outcome by dumping an entire Google Webmaster tools export of your inbound links.


Links which you are not able to remove should be submitted via Google’s link disavow tool taking care that you don’t accidentally exclude an entire domain if there are only few offending pages. Similarly, it’s a good idea to exclude as many possible pages (or even an entire domain) when you’re dealing with sitewide links on domains which will not remove the offending links.


You must file a reconsideration request after you submit your link disavow file otherwise the tool will not erase the links on an algorithmic level.
What exactly Google’s webspam team does with the disavow file is a mystery to me but I am pretty sure that the “link ignore” part of the whole process would only happen on that level. Surely the file you upload also allows them to streamline the link analysis / review process and decide whether the re-inclusion request is successful or not.
I have to admit that I also have a link disavow tool file uploaded, without reconsideration request filed. Why? Well… we haven’t had any penalties or notifications that require action. But if we are at some point affected by all the inorganic inbound links (including reputation management, negative SEO and pingback spam) I have the bad link list handy and ready.
Hopefully I won’t need it.

0 Points

11 thoughts on “Link Disavow Placebo”

  1. Susan Wowe says:

    Hi Dan, Thanks for writing this article, It is a great reminder to me and I believe to many others as well.

  2. Chiranjeevi Bhattarai says:

    hmm!!! This is pretty impressive. This tool was introduced in year 2012 (a year back). I have one question on this tool. My question is; if we use this tool for our website, would it purge all the links or just the bad spammed links?

  3. Deyan SEO says:

    Thanks! You’re welcome Susan.

  4. Deyan SEO says:

    Like I said the tool doesn’t purge anything on its own. But yes if you accidentally included good links in the list it could happen that those links are ignored once the file was processed by the webspam team. Details around that “processing/approval” part of reconsideration request are a bit blurry still.

  5. Rob Maas says:

    Why the disavow tool “isn’t working”.
    Penguin hasn’t been run since October ’12 and it needs to be run again to be effective !

  6. Great post Dan and thanks for linking to us! We actually have a full video up of the session now, it might provide some more insight into the topic –

  7. Sebastian Miśniakiewicz says:

    A bunch of SEOs still do not understand that it is impossible to come back to earlier positions after using DT. And it is simple to understand. Imagine that a site is a car – like previous links were your fuel and your car was able to move now there is no fuel left – so the car cannot move.
    So if you have an algoritmic penalty ITSIS IMPOSSIBLE to recover.
    Why people do not understand it? 🙂

  8. Ryan Rollan says:

    i like that the disavowed links are processed automatically but when this is done manually for reconsideration this can be another issue. i love this post. very informative. keep it up!

  9. Robbie Renzabi says:

    Hi there, Dan;
    Firsts, thanks for taking the time to try and clean up some of the confusion and conflicting info relating to manual penalties, Penguin, and the disavow tool.
    I am a little confused about this sentence though:
    “You must file a reconsideration request after you submit your link disavow file otherwise the tool will not erase the links on an algorithmic level.”
    Are you implying that the disavow tool will NOT automatically cause google to consider disavowed links as nofollowed UNLESS a reconsideration request is filed too?
    Because the reconsideration request is strictly for manual actions, while disavow is for both manual and algorithmic actions (i.e., Penguin).
    But the way your sentence reads, it sounds like a reconsideration request is necessary for algorithmic penalties, meaning anyone hit by Penguin needs to file a reconsideration request in conjunction with submitting a disavow file.
    Thanks in advance for any clarification.

  10. Scritty says:

    Their is quite a difference between a disavow followed by a reconsider after an unnatural linking notice – and a disavow without the ULN.
    Google is quite happy to allow you to disavow links en masse before the ULN it seems – but very harsh after, You do need to go to every webmaster you can and ask for a takedown – and repeat the process at least once
    In that regard this spreadsheet and method might help.
    Also a real difference between a partial penalty and a site wide one. Recovery for partial I’ve seen inside 72 hours and rarely longer than a week.
    Recovery for sitewide is anything from 2 weeks to a couple of months. Often it’s triggered by the next Penguin update it takes so long..
    Every case seems different
    Check your circumstances before you jump in and do something you may regret.
    Paul Rone-Clarke

  11. Scritty says:

    My spelling.. Oh dear..