How to find and disavow harmful backlinks in Google Search Console

howtodisavowA growing negative SEO technique is showing it’s ugly face more than ever as website owners begin to see the value in increasing their search engine visibility. The analytics guru’s at Alexa by Amazon describe the issue in detail in the article, Negative SEO is Real. The main sources of harm come from “link farms”, spammy links, scrapped content that is duplicated across the web, fake reviews and hacked websites and malware attacks.

Our SEO team has seen each of these problems across the several hundred SEO projects we have managed as well. One of the most prominent problems we see regularly is harmful and spammy backlinks. Using a quality backlink monitoring tool such as, or needs to be a  tool in every site owners tool box. The following steps were created to help you identify these links and signal Google to not penalize your site when these backlinks appear.

  1. Create a .txt file of all the domains you wish to disavow.
    • Go to and search for your domain in the main “Site Explorer Results” search field.
    • Select the “Ref Domains” tab to get a list of all the referring domains
    • Click on the number listed in the “Backlinks” column to reveal the top ten links from that website.
    • Visit a few links to determine if they appear to be from a site created for the sole purpose of creating back links, i.e. a spammy website. A root domain with a Trust Flow score of “0” and a high Citations score is sign the site might be harmful.
    • If the site is spammy, create a .txt file in MS Notepad, or similar plain text editor, and add the domain on the top line preceded by “domain:”
        1. E.g.
    • Continue until all spammy domains are listed. Put each domain on it’s own line.
    • Save the file using this naming convention: disavow2016-07-17.txt
  2. Log into your Google Search Console account
  3. Visit:
  4. Select the appropriate domain that is being linked to and click “DISAVOW LINKS” button
    • Read Google note and click “Done”

Disavowing backlinks is an advanced SEO strategy and should only be used with caution. If used incorrectly, this process can potentially harm your site’s performance in Google’s search results. We recommend that you only disavow backlinks if you believe that there are a considerable number of spammy, artificial, or low-quality links pointing to your site, and if you are confident that the links are causing issues for you.

5. Navigate back to Google’s Search Console Dashboard and resubmit the XML Sitemap.
6. Dashboard > Crawl > Sitemaps > Add/Test Sitemap > Submit
7. Done!

Note: When new domains need to be added to the disavow .txt file, they should be added to a new, single, growing list of previously disavowed domains. Google references this single .txt file when indexing a website so any future domains should be added to a new .txt file and uploaded again replacing the file that was previously created.

Google adds a “nofollow” link from the spammy website links to the client’s site so that it is not penalized for having spammy links which is a Google Penguin Algorithm update. It can take several weeks to a few months for Google to recrawl an entire domain.


Feel free to contact us if you have a question about a link you may want to disavow or if you would prefer to have our SEO team evaluate your backlink profile for the presence of harmful backlinks!

About Brian Loebig

Owner of, author of, and part-time Technology Manager for the Alliance for Performance Excellence, Brian has over 15 years of experience working in the quality improvement, human services and technology fields as an administrator and consultant. Brian has also worked as a practitioner and administrator in the corrections, substance abuse and human services fields with a special emphasis on technology. He continues to work with numerous community-based non-profits as a web technology consultant, board member and volunteer. Feel free to .
This entry was posted in How To..., SEO and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s