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The Google Disavow tool became such a popular topic in the aftermath of the Penguin 2.0 update. It became clear that this tool was developed in order to help webmasters solve their issues regarding penalties. The process is simple. You have to create a file in order to show which links you want Google to disregard. The changes made to the algorithm, “dissolved” a lot of abused black hat SEO techniques and affected a lot of webmasters that found themselves on the wrong side of the street all of a sudden. The effects were harsh and visible and the website owners were desperate to recover their dropped rankings.

Google Disavow Warning - Use it with caution

A lot of webmasters see this tool as the ultimate salvation for their problems when they get an algorithmic or manual penalty. Even though, overall, the objective of the Disavow Links tool was to be used as a resort to resolve link problems, this tool is not as simple as it seems. You may want to use this tool if you stumble upon a couple of problems:

  • Your site was the target of a negative SEO campaign.
  • Your search engine rankings are dropping fast because you have been penalized by a link penalty.
  • You received a “manual link penalty” message from Google Webmaster Tools.

For all the above you can easily solve your problem with a tool that will guide you through the process.

But …  there are moments when you shouldn’t use the Disavow Link tool.

When consider using it, you should take into consideration a couple of things. First of all, you need to make a quick audit on your link profile and see which are the links that are harming your site the most. You need to carefully determine the bad and the good and see which links could influence your site’s ranking drop. If you’re not careful you might end up loosing some valid links that would otherwise pour some of that precious “link juice”.

Disavow Tool Links

Unnatural Link Classification done using cognitiveSEO

Another detail you have to take into account is the fact that, before appealing to the disavow tool you could try to remove the bad links manually by contacting the owners of the websites that point to you. Before panicking and running straight for the disavow solution, you should carefully try to clean up your mess the old fashion way. It may sound like a laborious task but you can make use of third-party tools that can help you fasten with the unnatural link detection and outreach.

The whole concept of disavowing unnatural links must be taken very seriously as it may also harm your ranking.  This process should not be done on a haste. You should take your time weeding out the bad and you should only submit a list to be disavowed only if you’re 100% sure of the links that you send. You should also remember to try to manually remove the harmful links not only to show Google your good intentions but also because you don’t know how long the disavow process could take. While, these are cases when Google Disavow would have it’s best usage, there are also scenarios when you should not disavow the links:

1. No Drastic Ranking Drop.

The reasons for which you may experience a drastic Google ranking drop may vary from website to website and in generally there is a serious guideline violation. But if you don’t experience that you shouldn’t be panicking. You may just be outranked by a competitor. As a consequence, there is no need to rush and get the disavow tool from your link survival kit. You should try to analyze and track your competitor and see what is his SEO and content strategy. Also, you should maybe step up and improve your own approaches.

2. Not Sure if it is an Algorithmic Penalty.

When you receive a manual penalty the situation is pretty clear. Especially if you make use of Google Webmaster Tools ( which we strongly recommend ). You will receive a message in which they warn you about the actions taken against you. While this is easy and straight forward, an algorithmic penalty is not that obvious. You’ll have to make a personal assessment to see if it’s a penalty or it’s just the fact that the links are low quality. And if it is indeed an algorithmic penalty, what is harming your site’s ranking ?

Big Drop in Google SERPs

3. Small Drop in Rankings.

It may just be a quick road bump in the road. You may always experience a flux in ranking that is unpredictable. As a golden rule, if you don’t have an explicit message from Google that you’ve been penalized or if you know you have an unnatural link profile, you shouldn’t jump to conclusions. Your ranking could just recover on it’s own after a day or two. Also, a small drop in search engine ranking may just be influenced by the fact that you have many low quality links pointing to your site.

4. For Testing Purposes.

DON’T DO THIS AS HOME!!! – Just don’t toy around with this tool, you may get fried!

The final advice on when not to use the Google disavow tool would be to not just use it so you can see how it works. Cyrus Shepard made such an experiment and here are his “sad” findings. The saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is very much true in this case. This is one of those tools that you just don’t want to learn at your own cost. It’s too powerful and the damage it may do if misused may be irreversible.


The main point that you should remember is that this tool shouldn’t be used if you’re not 100 percent how it works. Disavowing links it’s a powerful and irreversible process that may resolve your ranking drops or may throw your site into search engine oblivion. Even though the Google Disavow Tool proves to be an invaluable asset to use in times of need, it can very well be misunderstood and easily used for the wrong purpose. If you couldn’t prevail at removing unnatural links through traditional methods, you should obviously try disavowing them.

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