How can a Google penalty be recovered using the Disavow Tool?

« Back to blog

How can a Google penalty be recovered using the Disavow Tool?

Link building is an important tool in any search engine optimization effort. However, so-called "black-hat" SEO link building practices have no place in a professional's search engine marketing toolkit. Using excessive or “spammy” back links to acquire PageRank for a web page can incur a Google penalty. The Google algorithms that are made to punish excessive or spammy link building are collectively known as "Penguin”. “Penguin” was first implemented in April of 2012. Subsequently, many sites which had utilized spam techniques for building back links were hit with a penalty, which drastically reduced their PageRank and search engine result positions.

Examples of excessive back linking include infamous techniques such as using automated bots to discover public comment areas on blogs and forums and auto-posting a link back to the specified site, excessive article submissions with too many back links, and mass submissions to low-quality web directories. Many webmasters who had contracted out their SEO were taken aback to discover that their back link profile, which consisted of well over 20,000 “spammy” back links, were devastated by the Google Penguin updates.

Fortunately, Google released a back link disavow tool for websites to recover from this penalty by informing Google to disregard the back links that the webmaster specifies. This program, known simply as the "Disavow Links" tool, is a part of the broader range of tools offered by Google under the aegis of Google Webmaster Tools.

So how do you use the disavow tool?

The first step is to register for a Google account and sign up for Webmaster Tools.

Upon signing up and confirming the ownership of the website from which you want to disavow links, click on "Search Traffic" on the main dashboard. Underneath "Who-links-the-most," click the "More" button. Click the "Download-more-sample-links" button to download a file containing all the links pointing to your site.

Now, go to the disavow links tool at
Select the website on which you want to disavow back links and click the "Disavow links" button. You will then be prompted to upload a file. Naturally, this file is the one you created earlier; locate it and upload it. Google will then begin to disavow the links you specified in the uploaded file. Depending on the scale of the problem, this process could take some time and possibly up to a few weeks as it takes time for Google to recrawl.

According to Google, it is not good enough to just disavow links. You should also attempt to remove them from the sites as best as you can. The ideal approach would be to manually fix this situation first by contacting the site’s webmasters to request for the removal of your links.

It is imperative to understand the difference between an algorithmic and a manual penalty. In the case of a manual penalty, you may be provided with some examples of the bad links that you are being penalized for. It should be noted that the mentioned links may not be the source of the problem, but just examples of a bad link.

A teacher would only return what he/she confiscated if the student corrected his/her ways and promised not to do it again. It would usually end with “I promise not to do it again”, which is probably what Google is looking for as well.

Putting yourself in Google’s shoes may just help you to submit a compelling case in order to recover your website fast.