Should You Disavow Links In 2021?

by Adam Arthur {date}

Backlinks are one of the most crucial components in developing a strong website. However, this adds to the general sense of ambiguity that surrounds backlink management. Instead of debating the ethics of obtaining backlinks, how about getting rid of them? Is it necessary for ordinary SEO to be concerned about disavowing links?

Unlike some other areas, Google has been very open about their thoughts on backlink disavowal and its place in your SEO toolset. Let's look at why you might want to disavow a link, how to do so, and why in some cases it is not recommended.

A Quick Glimpse

The Google Disavow Tool can be useful, but it also has the potential to be quite destructive. It has the potential to degrade your website's Google rankings if not applied correctly. To ensure that you use the Google Disavow Tool correctly, you must first understand when you are permitted to use it. Only utilize this advanced Google tool in specific situations.

What Is the Purpose of The Disavow Tool?


You may use the disavow tool to tell Google to ignore low-quality backlinks to your website. When you send Google a disavow file, you're requesting them to ignore particular links referring to your site. They are under no obligation to comply with your request, but if they do, those links will not be considered to determine your search ranking.

It's vital to remember that disavowing backlinks doesn't mean they'll disappear from your backlink profile.


The only Google-approved use case for link disavowal is to deal with fines imposed on your website. Whether you are consciously or unknowingly participating, if you receive a notification from Google concerning "unnatural links," you will be penalized.

Dealing with Google penalties as they arise is an important part of being a webmaster. If you stick to white hat SEO, this shouldn't be an issue, but knowing how to maintain a clean backlink profile is critical to your long-term SEO plan.


In general, Google's adjustments to Disavow Links should not have a big impact on the majority of webmasters to justify utilizing it differently. However, it's possible that the update will deter more individuals from misusing the tool, especially because one of the other new features makes it easier to delete your list of disavowed links and start over.

There are arguably many more significant things to focus on before you start disavowing links when it comes to increasing your site's performance. Given how little it will truly aid individuals who believe it is a dependable approach to improve their prospects with the algorithm — which doesn't even consider disavowals — the best course of action is to continue using the tool as you did before the upgrade. That means using it sparingly and only when absolutely essential, with no false hopes that it will help your negative SEO or your overall rankings.


Google has made it clear that you should only utilize the disavow tool when absolutely necessary.

If you have a manual spam penalty, or if you deliberately participated in link-building methods that may be affecting you, they advocate employing it.

During Google Webmaster Central office hours in 2019, Google Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst, John Mueller, discussed the disavow tool.

He says, "I think for most websites out there, pretty much the really largest majority of websites, you don't need to use the disavow tool. That's why we have the disavow tool so separate from search console so that you don't get tempted to using the disavow tool because it looks like this normal part of search console that everyone should be using."

Mueller confirms, "The disavow tool is really something that you only really need to use in really extreme cases."

You'll need to examine your backlink profile to see if filing a disavow will be beneficial, which you can learn more about below. However, if you intentionally engaged in unethical backlink techniques, it's likely that a disavow would be beneficial.

When to Use the Disavow Tool


The short answer is that you should only use the Google Disavow Tool in a few limited circumstances. If you're not sure whether to use it or not, the answer is probably no.

  1. When there is a significant reduction in traffic and rankings.

A significant decline in traffic and ranks, obviously, signals a problem with your website. You should not, however, rush to disavow your links. Before you decide to do it, double-check what is the problem and rule out everything else.

The idea of disavowing unnatural links should be taken seriously because it can hurt your ranking. This is not a procedure that should be rushed.

  1. When your site has been spammed with negative SEO backlinks

If your website has been subject to a large-scale negative SEO attack, then you can consider disavowing those bad links.

But how can you tell if your website has been hacked? What's more, how do you know which connections are good and which aren't?

You can always use the CognitiveSEO Tool to keep an eye on your backlinks and check if they change dramatically in a short period of time.

  1. When you know your SEO Agency built spammy links to your website

Webmasters frequently engage SEO firms to conduct their work for them. If you don't pick the correct SEO firm, you risk hiring someone who will try to enhance your site via Black Hat link-building practices.

  1. Other scenarios

Of course, there are certain additional circumstances in which you may want to Disavow some links that you know are useless, such as when the linked sites contain viruses or harmful malware.

However, if these links account for less than 1% of your overall links, you should generally ignore them (except if that 1% means thousands of links, which looks more like an attack).

John Mueller said that it’s also possible to disavow links in order to prevent future penalties and achieve ‘peace of mind’. That’s a sneaky way of threatening webmasters that they will get penalized if they don’t submit their links. However, Gary Illyes, Chief of Sunshine and Happiness at Google later said that he would not bother to disavow some spammy links.

*“I have a site that gets 100,000 visits every two weeks. I haven’t looked at the links to it for two years, even though I’ve been told that it has some porn site links. I’m fine with that. I don’t use the disavow file. Don’t overuse it. It is a big gun.8

Overusing it can destroy your rankings in a matter of hours. Don’t be afraid of sites that you don’t know. There’s no way you can know them all. If they have content, and they are not spammy, why would you disavow them?

Sites like this are very unlikely to hurt you, and they may help you. I personally trust Google filters.”

When NOT to Use the Disavow Tool


Except in the instances described above, the standard response is to never utilize the disavow function. Some people believe that using the Disavow Tool on a regular basis is a good idea to keep their link profile clean, but they end up completely messed up!

1. When you're unsure whether or not it is a penalty

The situation is quite clear when you earn a manual penalty. This is especially true if you utilize Google Webmaster Tools. You will receive a notice informing you of the actions being taken against you.

While this is straightforward and simple, an algorithmic penalty is less clear. To determine if it's a penalty or simply a low-quality link, you'll have to make a personal evaluation. What is damaging your site's ranking if it is actually an algorithmic penalty?

2. If there is a little drop in ranks

It could just be a minor stumbling block. You may always face unpredictably fluctuating rankings. If you haven't received an express warning from Google stating that you've been penalized, or if you know you have an unnatural link profile, don't jump to conclusions.

After a day or two, your ranking may rebound on its own. Furthermore, a minor reduction in search engine position could simply be due to a large number of low-quality links going to your site.

3. For the purpose of testing

The final piece of advice on when not to use the Google disavow tool is to avoid using it just to test how it works. Cyrus Shepard conducted such an experiment, and the results were "sad."

In this scenario, the adage "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" holds true. This is one of those tools that you don't want to have to learn on your own. It's far too powerful, and the consequences of misusing it might be irreversible.

The Disavow Tool is an advanced feature and should not be used unless one actually knows what they’re doing. It’s risky and shouldn’t be played with.


Google’s official web pages make it clear that you should disavow any low-quality links that you or your SEO are accountable for. This is a point on which Google is unequivocal.

“For example, you or a search engine optimizer (SEO) you’ve hired may have built bad links to your site via paid links or other link schemes that violate our quality guidelines. This is an advanced feature and should only be used with caution. In most cases, Google can assess which links to trust without additional guidance, so most normal or typical sites will not need to use this tool.”

Also, here is what Google’s John Mueller tweeted about disavowing links:

“Random links collected over the years aren’t necessarily harmful, we’ve seen them for a long time too and can ignore all of those weird pieces of web graffiti from long ago. Disavow links that were really paid for (or otherwise actively unnaturally placed), don’t fret the cruft.”

To Make It Short

  1. The disavow function is hidden by Google because it is rarely used.
  2. Except for spammy links you know about, Google has consistently discouraged using the disavow tool.
  3. Utilize the disavow tool for links that you or your SEO are accountable for.
  4. Google has been consistent about how to use the disavow tool from 2012 to 2019.
  5. There's no need to be perplexed about when you should use the disavow function. It's usual to have random links.


The most important thing to remember is that you should not use this tool until you are completely confident in your understanding of how it works. Disavowing links is a powerful and irreversible action that can either fix your ranking problems or send your site to the bottom of the search results.

Even though the Google Disavow Tool is a useful tool to have on hand in a need, it is often misunderstood and misused, so be careful.


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