There has been a long standing mistaken belief that it was possible to only concentrate on finding bad links and then disavowing them.
Last year we posted an article on our blog “to disavow or not to disavow, that is the question“. In That article we said the same thing, that In all our experience we see that to remove links is the only way for success.
Recently google have been sending more informative emails in response to unsuccessful reconsideration requests and they are making it crystal clear that links need to be removed.
Such as this example :
Please correct or remove all artificial links, and not just those provided in the examples above. It may be that you need to contact the webmasters of sites with these artificial links. If links to your website can not be deleted , you can use the tool repudiate links. Note that simply disavow links is not sufficient for a review request succeeds. You will also need to demonstrate good will and remove the artificial Web links whenever possible. Remove links takes time. Due to the high number of applications we receive and to put all the chances on your side for your next review request to succeed, we will not process any application for the site over the coming weeks . We advise you to take the time necessary to remove artificial inbound links before sending any new request for reconsideration.
Google are making it crystal clear that you need to remove all bad links. The disavow tool is ONLY FOR INSTANCES OF NEGATIVE SEO!