Disavow backlinks is a tool in Search Console which allows you to request that Google not take certain spammy links into account when assessing your site.
Google warns that disavowing links is an advanced feature that should be used with caution since it may negatively affect a website's rank. The search engine recommends using the tool "only if you believe you have 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."
Learn more about disavowing links
When should you use the disavow tool?
When a site is faced with a sudden loss of rankings, the site owner must rule bad links out as the cause. However, since sudden rankings could be caused by many things, such as content quality issues, technical SEO issues, or algorithm updates, the SEO must be careful to make sure it really was the links. Getting this wrong and disavowing the wrong links could result in further ranking losses.
Here are two potential reasons to disavow links:
- The Site Has Been Spammed With Negative Links
Large-scale SEO attacks could harm a site which could result in a need to disavow negative links. In order to understand if a site was attacked one needs to use a link audit tool. Look for instances where the site received a large number of links over a short amount of time and then check the quality of those links.
- The Site Has Received a Manual Action
Although manual actions are rare if a site gets one it must immediately deal with it. However, not all manual actions are caused by negative links. The disavow tool should only be used if an 'Unnatural Links' warning appears in Google Search Console.
Can backlinks hurt your site?
Links from low-quality sites can potentially harm a site's rankings. According to Google, 'In some circumstances, incoming links can affect Google’s opinion of a page or site.'
Here are some factors that could increase the negativity of a backlink:
- The site that is providing the link is considered low quality.
- There are multiple links all with the same anchor text that are coming from multiple sites that have similar content.
- The ratio of visible text to HTML is low.
How long does it take to disavow links?
For a disavow to take effect, Google has to recrawl all of the links. Since Google crawls low-quality links less frequently than high-quality links, it can typically take around nine months to see the effects of a disavow.