To Disavow Or Not To Disavow, That is the question!

There has been some debate over whether you should simply disavow bad links or instead go to extra lengths to ACTUALLY remove toxic links?

Google’s gunslingers Matt Cutts and John Mu and have been pretty clear over the last year suggesting that you should make every effort to actually remove bad links and not just rely on the disavow tool!

The problem is they haven’t been crystal clear, in fact they get really ambiguous around the subject of how the disavow tool works in as much as: Does it ALWAYS work in the same way as ACTUALLY removing bad links, Or, are there some cases where simply using the disavow tool might not work and your better off actually removing them toxic links?

Well thankfully John Mu has recently made two videos which talk about exactly these issues and throws some light on the specific reasons why theres ambiguity around this subject:

Lets take a look at this video where John Mu goes into some more detail:


Q) What is a safe timetable for google webmaster tools to get updated for example the link data when a massive cleanup function was performed how long should we wait for that data to get updated?

John Mu “ERMm thats hard to say, especially with regards to link data we actually have to crawl both sides of the link ? before we can include that in webmaster tools so if thats a link on a page thats really rarely crawled then it might be several months before we actually crawl that link and discover that its removed or changed and reflect that in our algorithms so thats something where you might see delays from a couple of weeks to all the way up to half a year or longer in some cases, its hard to say thats a specific time frame where you can actually see these changes , because especially when your removing a lot of links form a lot of pages that might include some links from home pages that we might crawl every couple of days and it might include links from other pages on the same website that we might crawl maybe once every 4-5 months so its not really the case where you’ll see one specific time frame where suddenly all the links are kind of shifted to the new way that the web is, its something thats moire gradual that takes place over time.

Q) if the links are really spam, on forum pages from 2008 when nothing changed on that page, so its safe to assume that we should wait for 6 months for the links to be showing on your side that they are removed right?

John Mu “I can defiantly see cases where it can take 6 months or longer even for that to be reflected in webmastertools but, especially when it comes to problematic links that your cleaning up what you can also do is submit a disavow file, for the moment, so when someone manually checks that they see that these links are also gone, from the pages itself and the disavow file, then we can takes those out of the equation for any manual changes.

Q) that means its safe if we remove 1k links to also include them in the disavow tool?

John Mu “ERM, its always safe to do that but usually, but, er, usually, so, let me just roll back a bit, so generally what happens with the disavow tool is that when we crawl that page again and we find that link is also in the disavow file we’ll drop that link to your site at the time that we crawl it. So from the algorithmic POV it doesn’t change much, from a manual POV it can make it easier when they see this is also in the disavow file. so that makes it a little bit easier from the manual point of view, especially if your looking at something thats purely based on algorithmic actions thats not going to really change much.”


Thats pretty clear. In cases where the link is simply disavowed they will ONLY remove it from the web once them pages have been actually crawled and they see that the links are actually gone!

So whats the point of the disavow tool? it certainly helps with manual penalties and specifically when dealing with Negative SEO (which was one of the main reasons it was launched) but the fact remains there are really different cases of how it is being used and the messages coming out of Google suggest that EVERY EFFORT should still be taken to actually remove bad links…

Take this question and answer it starts here at 3m16s in but the juicy part is 5m20s:

Q If you have a lot of links that you DISAVOW that you are hit for by those thousand links, if all other circumstances are equally? Is there a negative thing hanging around your neck.

John MU) “generally if you leave these issues there and your aware of them, thats something that could potential cause problems further down the line, so its not the case that you can say oh well these 1k links are already ignored by google’s algorithm so ill just focus on working to have users link maybe to 100 more times to my website and that might even that out again, THATS NOT SOMETHING THAT WORKS on that level, ,so if your aware of a problem I’d always try to clean that up as much as possible so that you don’t have to worry about whether or not this becomes a bigger problem in the future or whether if not its already handled like it is. So as much as possible I’d really try and clean that up, using the disavow tool, having those links removed completely is a great way to kind of handle that but it’s really something where I wouldn’t kind of assume that there are always handled in a specific way, and I wouldn’t assume that if you leave them there, these problems, that it will only be a problem for those specific issues there and it wont cause any problems further down the line with the rest of your web site, so its a tricky situation in that theres no clear yes or no answer, because every website is different of course and its always something where if your aware of a problem I would really work to have that cleaned up as much as possible”


It apparent from the answers here that:

1) not all sites are treated the equally with regards the disavow tool, so according to the site Google are looking at, they will treat the disavow files differently.

2) that even if someone disavows links and a specific penalty is removed, that there could still be other issues caused by them disavowed links with other types of penalties and also possible down the line!

SO WHAT DO WE DO? We ALWAYS remove all toxic links we find (not just disavow them), and we make every effort to do so!

This tedious task used to be very difficult to manage until we built our AUTOMATIC LINK REMOVAL TOOL which not only emails companies but also POSTS TO CONTACT FORMS and even solves CAPTCHA challenges ensuring that our link take down requests get seen.

With this tool it becomes easy to hassle companies into taking action, along with this we have another very powerful tool which AUTOMATICALLY CONTACTS THE HOSTING companies demanding action because of copyright issues, this is also a very powerful way to get action taken and our tools make these hard tasks easily manageable.

Our automatic link removal tools combined with our other dedicated tools for locating specific links which causes penalties make us the clear industry leader in our sector!

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