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Disavowing Links in Google – Pros and Cons

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Bing scored a head start by being the first search engine to provide webmasters with a tool to disavow links. It’s welcome news for SEOs and webmasters, but players in the SEO arena continue to look for the same tool from Google.

SEOs and site owners are becoming concerned about negative SEO, because manually removing spammy links (sometimes thousands of them) is time-consuming and exhausting. And because Google is still the reigning king of the SEO world, the community is clamoring for solutions.

Matt Cutts acknowledges that “negative SEO is not impossible, but it is difficult.” He further assures us that Google is working on enabling webmasters to disavow links, and that it’s going to be rolled out possibly within a few months.

But while many of us in the SEO community are drooling for what might be Google’s tool to disavow links, there are many who are not so sure about it.

At first glance, disavowing links in Google is tempting. It’s easy to come up with a lot of benefits that would result.

However, there are possible negative consequences, as well.

That’s why it’s worth investigating all sides of this development to grasp how disavowing links in Google might affect your site’s rankings.

Arming yourself against negative SEO

After Google unleashed Penguin and wreaked havoc on sites that give and receive spammy and unnatural links, webmasters and SEOs became concerned about negative SEO.

Penguin frowns upon sites that are riddled with poor quality and spammy links. This is where scheming individuals found an opportunity to take any site down by bombarding it with malicious links.

Imagine your horror if one day you woke up to discover thousands of malicious links pointing to your site. Just the thought of having to clean your site of all those links manually is frustrating.

This is perhaps the biggest benefit that disavowing links has to offer. It effectively helps webmasters and SEOs battle negative SEO by informing Google which sites they feel shouldn’t be associated with their own and which sites are probably linking to them for malicious purposes.

Cleaning up your act

And then there’s the fact that you might have inflicted harm upon yourself by implementing back-linking tactics that now violate Google webmaster guidelines.

Over-optimization by using mostly exact-match keywords as anchor text spread across hundreds of pages, directories, and social sites used to be extremely beneficial for your rankings (prior to Panda 3.3). However, post Google Penguin, such practices have no effect or harm your site’s rankings.

As a responsible webmaster or SEO, the most sensible thing to do is either to cut your ties with sites to which you’ve created massive links or change the anchor text used to link to your site from each offending link.

But with thousands of links pointing to your site, you are again faced with a grueling task that could take hundreds of hours and a substantial amount of other resources, just to fix things up.

While it’s an enormous task to wean your link building off the tactics that used to work so well, it’s most important to first determine which inbound links are harming your rankings. Happily, that’s the easy part. If your site is set up in Google Webmaster Tools, Open Site Explorer, or Majestic SEO, you can easily see who links to you.

When Google finally rolls out a feature that enables disavowing links, you won’t have to worry about cutting the cord that links you to offending sites one after another.

The Case for Why Google Shouldn’t Implement Disavowing Links

Ryan Jones suggests that disavowing links might make spamming easier. He contends it could open an opportunity for others to manipulate this feature and better understand the algorithm.

Among other things, he also points out that some SEOs could be doing more harm than good to their sites by disavowing links that aren’t actually hurting them.

Also, there’s the danger of accidentally outing other webmasters (a frowned-upon practice) with the disavowing links feature, which, according to Ryan, is essentially an automated outing form.

The points he raises are valid. In my opinion, SEOs should applaud Ryan for raising these points even before Google rolls out its own disavowing links feature.

But it’s probably safe to assume that, because Google is thinking about implementing this much-anticipated feature in the coming months, the search giant is studying both the negative and positive effects it may have on the future fortunes of SEOs. After all, SEO is an ever-evolving process. It’s a never-ending effort of trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

I’m not the type who sits and waits. I’d rather raise points that people or organizations should take a look at. If Google does plan on implementing disavowing links in the future, it needs to take the time to hear out all concerns raised by SEOs and webmasters.


I hope this post has helped raise your awareness on the debate for a Google “disavow links” tool. What do you think about disavowing links? Should Google implement it or not?

Want more information on link building? Head over to our comprehensive guide on link building here: SEO Link Building: The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide

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Jayson DeMers

Jayson DeMers is the Founder & CEO of AudienceBloom. You can contact him on LinkedIn, Google+, or Twitter.

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