Backlinks are a critical aspect of SEO, as good backlinks help a site rank better and bad backlinks can negatively affect your site.

Thankfully, bad backlinks can be found, added to a disavow file, and Google will ignore them when they assess your website.

This guide will show you everything you need to know about how to create a Google disavow file and submit it to the Google disavow tool.

Before we show you the process of creating a disavow file though, let’s run through some disavow basics.

What is a Google disavow?

A Google disavow is a text file that houses low-quality external backlinks that you want Google to ignore when evaluating your website.

What is the Google disavow tool?

The Google disavow tool allows webmasters to submit their disavow file of low-quality links.

Why was the Google disavow tool created?

The Google disavow tool was launched in October 2012 following the first Penguin algorithm update and was created so webmasters could tell Google to ignore backlinks if they were unable to manually remove them, that violated their best practice guidelines.

How long does it take for the Google disavow tool to work?

Google’s John Mueller said that while Google will process your disavow link file immediately, it will take some time for Google to disavow the links within it:

How many disavow files are allowed for a website?

Only one disavow file is allowed per website. This file should be updated with new backlinks after they have been deemed low quality, or they violate Google’s guidelines.

How do I find links to my website?

The quickest and cheapest way to find backlinks to your website will be through your free Google Search Console account. Simply open Google Search Console, click Links in the left panel and navigate to Top Linking Sites to see which external websites are linking to your website:

Other premium SEO link tools such as Majestic SEO, Moz and Link Research Tools allow you to download your backlinks with various link quality metrics to help you understand the value of your links.

We strongly recommend cross examining backlinks from Google Search Console with these premium industry link tools, if even a free trial is all you can budget, as the more data the better when monitoring your link profile.

How do I monitor backlinks?

At Salience, we use Link Research Tools when compiling an initial disavow file and monitoring links. This tool is helpful because it segments the links found into three health status categories for review:

You can also monitor your backlinks using Google Search Console.

How often should you disavow backlinks?

We recommend reviewing your link profile every quarter to six months, depending on the size of the website. Being proactive here can help stamp out any negative link networks that can sprout up quickly.

Are disavows still needed?

Links are still a critical component of the web and SEO, so being aware of your link profile and any issues it may have is crucial to maintaining healthy website visibility. While disavow files may not be as important as they once were, it’s worth the effort to do one. Anything that helps Google read and understand your site better is recommended.

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How to create a disavow file

Now we have understood more about disavows, the disavow tool, and where to find your backlinks. Let’s create a disavow file with our step-by-step process.

  • Download your backlinks from Google Search Console, Link Research Tools or another SEO link tool. We have shown below how to do this within GSC:
  • Review your backlinks to identify low-quality links – Salience assesses several aspects of a link during the review, such as domain authority, Majestic SEO trust flow and citation flow, anchor text, our own experience and more.
  • Once you have compiled your list of low-quality links to be “ignored” by Google, you need to format the file for the Google Disavow Tool. If you haven’t already, export the low-quality links to Excel.
  • Salience recommends disavowing at a domain level. To disavow a domain (or subdomain), Google recommends prefixing it with “domain:”, for example: domain:example.com
  • The “domain:” can be added quickly with the concatenate function in Excel. Simply paste the following formula =CONCATENATE(“domain:”,A1) into Excel column B, row 1, assuming your domains are in column A, row 1.
  • Copy and paste values the data from column B, row 1, into column A, row 1 to remove the active formula.
  • Perform a find and replace to remove the www. from the domains:
  • Go to Data > Remove Duplicates, so there is only one domain instance.
  • You should be left with a list like the below:
  • Now cleansed, the domains can be moved out of Excel. The disavow file must be submitted in a text file encoded in UTF-8 or 7-bit ASCII, and the file name must end in .txt, according to Google guidelines.
  • Paste your domains into the text file and save it. It can be a good idea to include the date within the file name as this helps keep a track of when your last disavow was submitted.

How to submit a disavow file

It is important to remain proactive with disavowing your website, as link networks and dodgy sites can flood your link profile with spammy links before you know it. Failure to do so can lead to performance declines and maybe even Google penalties.

Evaluating backlinks for a disavow can be a tricky task. If you want the experts at Salience to review your backlinks, please get in touch today!

David Ryan

Dave is Senior Technical SEO Strategist at Salience with 8 years industry experience and several FIFA office championships under his belt during an illustrious playing career. He enjoys strong tea, smooth website migrations and dislikes unexplained algorithm changes.

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