How to Find and Disavow Harmful Backlinks in Google Search Console


This article was updated on October 31, 2019.

howtodisavowThe possibility of your website being affected by negative SEO techniques still shows its ugly face in our competitive online world. Website owners see the value in increasing their search engine visibility, and not all of them go about it in ways that are ethical. The analytics gurus at Alexa blog describe the issue in detail in the article, “Negative SEO is Real.” The main sources of harm come from link farms, spammy links, scraped content that is duplicated across the web, fake reviews, hacked websites, and malware attacks.

Our SEO team has seen each of these problems across the hundreds of SEO projects we have managed. One of the most prominent problems we see regularly is harmful and spammy backlinks. A quality backlink monitoring tool such as Majestic.com, SEMRush.com, or Ahrefs.com should be in every site owner’s toolbox. The following steps were created to help you identify these links and to signal to Google not to penalize your site when these backlinks appear.

  1. Explore the backlinks and create a .txt file of all the domains you wish to disavow.
    • Go to Majestic.com and search for your domain in the main Site Explorer Results search field. Use the Historic Index for the most comprehensive results.Majestic Site Explorer
    • Select the Ref Domains tab to get a list of the referring domains.
    • Click on the number listed in the Backlinks column to reveal the top ten links from each suspicious website. A root domain with a Trust Flow score of zero and a high Citation Flow score is sign that a site may be harmful.
    • Visit a few links to determine if they appear to be from a site created for the sole purpose of creating backlinks, i.e. a spammy website.
    • If the site is spammy, create a .txt file in MS Notepad or a similar plain text editor. Add the domain on the top line preceded by “domain,” such as domain:crimsonnight.net
    • Continue until all spammy domains are listed. Put each domain on its own line.
    • Save the file using this naming convention: disavow2019-10-31.txt
    • Log into your Google Search Console account.
    • Visit: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/disavow-links-main. Select the domain from which you want to disavow links and click “DISAVOW LINKS.”

Google Disavow LinksRead the note from Google:

This is an advanced feature and should only be used with caution. If used incorrectly, this feature 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.

    • Click “Disavow Links.”
  1. Choose the file that contains the list of links you want to disavow. Click “Submit” and then click “Done.”
  2. Navigate back to the Google Search Console dashboard, click “Sitemaps” on the left side of the page, select the website URL, and resubmit the XML sitemap in the “Add a new sitemap” field. Click “SUBMIT.”
    Google Search Console - Add a New Sitemap
  3. Done!

Note: Google references a single .txt file when indexing a website, so any future domains that need to be disavowed should be added to the list of already disavowed domains, saved as a new .txt file, and uploaded again, which will replace the file that was previously created.

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.

Read our other “How To” articles…

References:

About Brian Loebig

Owner of LoebigInk.com, author of TheInkBlog.net, CriminalThinking.net 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 .
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