How to Disavow Links

Our quick guide on how to remove bad backlinks

Backlinks are the life’s blood of search engine optimization. They are what helps you setup your website as an authority in the field, and they are what give you legitimacy, both in the eyes of the search engines and in the eyes of your potential customers.

Unfortunately, backlinks sometimes go bad, which can negatively affect your own rankings, even if you work really hard at providing quality content. In those cases, you need to be able to break the link between you and the other website, to help keep your own reputation good and your SEO working well. So how do you recognize a bad backlink and, more importantly, how do you remove bad backlinks?

What is a bad backlink?

Desirable backlinks are those that come from sites that are firstly relevant to your content, and secondly have some measure of authority. At a minimum, they should come from sites that are of decent quality and are at least somewhat related to your content. Bad backlinks, on the other hand, are those that are:

  • Irrelevant or unrelated to your content - this doesn’t mean they have to be directly related, though. For example, if you sell kitchen supplies, related content could come from a wedding cake maker who mentions the type of equipment you sell and links to it, or a mommy blogger who writes a funny post about shopping for homewares. A pornography website, however, probably isn’t relevant. Check any links for their relevance.

  • Untrustworthy content - sticking with the kitchenware example, you could get backlinks from other kitchenware supply websites, where the company itself has a poor reputation or where the site is of questionable provenance. It could be a scam website or similar, which would reflect badly on you.

  • Inactive or broken content - If backlinks are coming from a site that never gets updated or publishes new content, it can also negatively impact you. You want to be associated with active, fresh, live content.

  • Violations - if a website violates Google’s webmaster guidelines, or it has been flagged or penalized, any backlinks from them could negatively impact your reputation and, therefore, your SEO.

How to evaluate backlinks

You will need to check every backlink to your site, one at a time. Things to look out for are their relevance to your content, whether they are active, and what their reputation looks like. The first two are fairly easy to check and judge - just make sure the link and the content is somehow related or relevant, and look at how often they post new content.

Checking reputation, however, involves a little more know-how. Start by checking whether the website is indexed in Google, and whether it has been penalized. You can do this quite easily by searching For example, if you want to check this site, you would search If no results come up, there’s a good chance the website has been penalized, which means you probably want to disavow that link.

Next, you want to check their traffic scores. Sites that get little to no traffic don’t do you any good. At the same time sites that get plenty of traffic but use nofollow attributes are also no good to you.

How to disavow links

Once you’ve got your list of links that you want to disavow, you’ll need to use Google’s Disavow Links Tool, which will help you through the process of removing those links from your website.

Don’t forget that, once you’ve disavowed the bad backlinks on your site, you may need to put a little more effort into building quality backlinks. Check our quick guide to building high-quality backlinks for more information on how to do it.

What bad backlinks have you found on your website? Tell us in the comments.

Need help developing an SEO strategy that works? Get in touch.

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