Matt Cutts Answers Whether You Should Disavow Links Without Receiving A Warning

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Matt Cutts, Google’s head of search spam, answers a question about disavowing links in his latest video where a user writes in to ask:

Should webmasters use the disavow tool, even if it is believed that no penalty has been applied? For example. if we believe ‘Negative SEO’ has been attempted, or spammy sites we have contacted have not removed links.

The primary purpose of the disavow tool, Matt says, is to clean up links acquired as a result of doing bad SEO.

Once you have exhausted all other options in attempting to get those links removed from the web, it would be a perfect time to use the disavow tool.

If you’re at all worried about someone maliciously doing negative SEO to harm your site, or you have reason to believe someone has already done so, Matt says this would be a great time to use the disavow tool as well.

Matt says there’s no reason to worry about disavowing links even without receiving a message about them in your Google Webmaster console.

If you have been proactive in monitoring your backlinks and you see a strange pattern arising, then Matt says feel free to go ahead and preemptively disavow those links.

To sum it up, if you’re at all worried about links pointing to your site that may cause you to get hit with a spam penalty, just go ahead and disavow them

What has been your experience with negative SEO? Have you ever had to use the disavow tool to get rid of bad links? Share your experience in the comments section!

See Matt’s full video response below:

Matt Southern
Matt Southern has been the lead news writer at Search Engine Journal since 2013. His passion for helping people in all aspects of online marketing... Read Full Bio
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  • Ingrid

    Matt Southern thank you for sharing this on SEJ. Disavow tool is good for removing all those links which are not been removed by the site owners.Negative SEO is also a major issue with which disavow tools helps with.

    • Matt Southern

      You’re welcome, and definitely a great tool for sure. I’m sure it has helped and will continue to help many website owners.

  • Enstine Muki

    Great quick answer to the question and thanks for posting this Matt.

    • Matt Southern

      You’re welcome 🙂

  • Shlomo

    It seemed that Cutts implied that it is ok to disavow even without contacting every webmaster….anyone else feel that?

    • Matt Southern

      It felt like he was suggesting you should contact the webmaster first, but if you wanted to skip that step and just disavow the links I also got the impression that would be ok. Ultimately I think the disavow tool is meant to be used as a last resort.

  • siddharth

    Hi thanks for the great information.

    Quick question : My web page has not received any warning but my ranks have fallen abruptly , should I disavow back links? I have a back link profile of unrelated forums, blogs and directories but neither web master tools nor Analytics is showing them ,does it mean that they are not affecting my web site’s ranks? should I disavow them all?

    • Matt Southern

      If you’re concerned about them hurting your ranking, and they very well could be but I can’t say for sure, I would suggest trying to get them removed by contacting the webmaster. If that doesn’t work out for you, then disavowing the links is the best way to go.

  • Krystian Włodarczyk

    I don’t know why but I have an impression that using this tool evokes a feeling of guilt, rather than feeling that its purpose isn’t to help all those webmasters who were affected by the changes in the algorithms or the negative SEO. What’s missing is more clear and transparent information about how the tool and procedure actually works.

    • Matt Southern

      That’s true, they have never really revealed too much about what goes on during the disavow process. Not sure what you mean by evoking a feeling of guilt though, could you explain?

  • Callis

    Of course he’s going to encourage the disavow tool. Useful or not to a site owner, it’s basically giving Google a database of poor sites to feed into the machine straight from the horse’s mouth.

    • Matt Southern

      Good point! I’m sure they are getting a lot of data about bad sites from people using this tool, but I still get the feeling that it’s meant to be used as a last resort.

      • Callis

        I see mixed opinions. Some say last resort and some say if you’ve got a load of shady links lurking in your backlink profile kill them now and before the big G catches up and hammers your site (of course a disavow on it’s own if doing as a safety measure would involve building some better links to replace them).

        The problem is that link removal is a long and dragged out process of manually assessing sites, finding contact details that actually have someone on the other end, chasing them up, keeping records of all contact, etc. That or you hire someone else to do it which costs money. A lot of site owners don’t like to hear the news that all the money they’ve pumped into SEO over the years they now have to pay more to undo, no matter how much money they made over the period that they benefited. The disavow tool cuts this process down in time and money drastically, and if you don’t have a manual penalty where Google really want to make you sweat to get out of the sin bin then it seems like a logical approach.

  • Renz Joe David

    So what can we do to give a reconsideration to Webmaster, if no penalty is issued???

  • Los Angeles Injury Lawyer

    What is the best methodology to determine if a link is a result of “bad SEO”, or if you are being targeted by a rival or competitor to reduce your rankings. I use open site explorer quite a bit, but I’m curious if there’s a better tool that you can recommend to examine back-links or even who generated them.

  • satish

    Does anyone know how long it takes to get the disallow link activated once submitted. I have managed to get some bad link outs etc, but as a last resort did the disallow, but no improvements.

  • satish

    Do anyone know where you can submit your site for reconsideration as my Google webmaster does not show state and manual action required.

  • Alan Gregory

    I recently found a site which I felt was a malicious link to a client of mine done by a competitor. Look what is happening now and potentially starting to happen!

    Remove Article from site

    “Articles published here snake someone to write. It is not the owner of the site. If you want to delete the record, it is Possible, if you have typed or you hired SEO firm. Therefore, contact whoever your site Presented here. We can hardly on some anonymous query to remove any minute – what if your competition? On the other side of the page are our business, so we can Eliminate any record … but not for free. If you write from sites you That direct link so When you double-check (send mail from mail That its not everyone can) remove the link fee $ 5 via PayPal. Address for removing service is: info (at) promo clanek . cz”

    Not my bad English but, the translation from this site.

    If I had 1000 links needed to be removed without disavow it could cost thousands from a malicious attack. I had an old website that completely dropped from number 1 and I did nothing (absolutely nothing) and it’s back at number (which took about 3 weeks).

    These sites asking for money could be creating links themselves or they could be profiting from the whole idea. I think Google needs to look into these kind of websites in particular.

    I have left the links for now, as these bad sites don’t stay around for long (in my opinion), therefore I’m trying to hold out until some links drop off naturally.
    1 seriously awful link from a massage parlour in Nairobi has now disappeared so I’m keeping track this way.

    Any thoughts/help?


  • JD Theis

    The idea of disavow in definition is pretty funny, however because of this SEO guys are moving from building links to removing links all the while still making money. So the attempt from google to stop SEO people. Only creates opportunities.

    The main tool available is a consideration request to remove the links which means it may or may not be taken off. There is another way google has provided where you show proof that you tried to remove links. That tool seems to work better.