Last Updated on by Artem K.
As a link building service I want to make sure that we deliver best quality RANKING results for our clients.
At times it’s about NOT losing the rankings that you already got as a result of (not so uncommon) influx of crappy spammy backlinks (aka link spam).
In this post I cover exactly how you disavow backlinks in Google Search Console with the help of Ahrefs, an SEO tool we use for link building.
Check out the video below OR scroll down for the written edition – let’s dive into it!
How Do I Know That I Need to Disavow My Backlinks?
One way or another, any website that has been out there for a significant amount of time (6+ months) is accumulating spammy backlinks pointing to it.
If it’s a handful of backlinks, you don’t really need to worry about doing backlink disavowal as Google, generally, picks up most of link spam (“most” is an important bit here).
However, there are times when websites are being attacked intentionally (or not) by hundreds (and even thousands) of spam backlinks.
How to tell it’s happening?
You’ll see Ahrefs referring domains growth velocity “behaving” a lot more vertically that it usually is:
The graph above is showing a very significant, almost immediate, growth of the number of referring domains pointing to the website!
In fact, it’s almost 50% growth of referring domains in ~1 month!
Here is what they look like:
Genereally speaking, the easiest way to tell poor quality backlinks is by looking at their DR.
As you can see from the screenshot above, the DR of these backlinks is neglible!
Sure, you can confirm that the backlinks you are getting are spammy by clicking on them (watch out as some of them may potentially harm your computer!).
Here is what the first website from the list looks like:
As you can tell – it’s absolute spam!
And now is the time to finally get rid of it by disavowing these spammy backlinks!
Overview of Backlink Disavowal Process
Here are some of the prerequisites we need to fulfill before getting into the process itself:
- Paid Ahrefs account
- The website is added under “Projects”
- The website is registered with Google Search Console as Prefix
If you got it all taken care of, click here to scroll to the link disavowal process.
Step 1: Add Your Website as Project in Ahrefs
- Go to Dashboard tab
- Click the “Create” button
- “New project” and follow the instructions
Got your website added?
Time for the next step…
Step 2: Add Your Website as “Prefix” in Google Search Console
When I tried disavowing some domains for my own website, I got this message, when I opened up the disavowal tool:
It reads: “Domain properties are not supported at this time”.
If you see the same message, here’s how you fix it:
- Click the downward pointing arrow (you can see it in the screenshot above)
- In the dropdown menu click “Add property”
- Add your website’s URL under “URL prefix” starting with “https://”
Here is what it looks like:
Once you enter the URL, hit “continue” and it should automatically get approved.
After that, you can go back to the disavowal tool, where you will find the new Prefix property (it would be right under the Domain property you had earlier).
Once you click it, the disavow tool will be available to you:
Got this out of the way?
Time to finally deal with the actual thing and see how to disavow backlinks with Ahrefs & Google Search Console!
Step 3: Open Ahrefs in “Disavowal Mode”
There is no such mode but I’m going to call it that so it’s easier to grasp.
All you really need is to load Ahrefs so it contains those checkboxes you can check and disavow backlinks as a result.
Here is what it looks like:
Now, actually getting to that mode is not straightforward at all, so I put together a 53-second video of how to get there – check it out:
Step 4: Check All The Backlinks You Want to Get Disavowed
Now is the manual part.
Depending on where your website is, you might have quite a lot of analysis to go through.
To make things quicker I recommend doing this.
Sort by Most Recent (Date)
This method is perfect when you can clearly tell the exact moment when the influx of spam began.
Here is the screenshot I shared earlier:
If that’s the case with you, then sorting by “First seen” will do the trick and show you all the poor quality backlinks Ahrefs has just picked up.
Now it’s very easy – you just scroll down until the date when the influx has started.
Pay attention to good backlinks (their DR is a quick way to tell how good they are) and don’t disavow them accidentally!
For example, one the links in the screenshot above has DR52.
Even that’s the case, the link is not great because it still is spammy but there is a clear different between that backlink and other almost zero DR backlinks!
Sort by Lowest DR
That’s the best way if you haven’t really picked up the date when you started having a major influx of spammy backlinks.
I typically use it for aged websites that aren’t going through any negative SEO but have, nevertheless, accumulated a substantial amount of spam over the months.
My rule of thumb is simple – just take out anything that’s below DR6-10 that you don’t recognize.
Also remove any backlinks that:
- Have “blogspot” in them
- Have “funny” TLDs (i.e. anything other than .com, .org, .io, .co.uk etc)
- Have overoptimized anchor text (i.e. it includes exact match keywords or certain target keywords you want to rank for)
Step 5: Disavow Domains
Once you got all the backlinks you want to be removed checked in Ahrefs Backlinks, click the “Disavow Domains” button in Ahrefs’ report menu bar:
I don’t recommend using the “Disavow URLs” button beside it because it will disavow the URL where the spammy backlink is coming from – not the entire domain.
After you click the button, give Ahrefs some time to load.
You are only limited to 100 results per page on Ahrefs so if you have a lot more backlinks to disavow, go ahead and repeat the procedure on Pages 2,3 etc:
Done with disavowing domains?
Step 6: Download the TXT File for Google Search Console
After you have all the domains disavowed, go back to Ahrefs Dashboard and click “Disavowed links” in your website project’s tab:
Once the page loads, you need to take the following three steps:
- Click “Export”
- Check the “Save as TXT for upload to Google Disavow Tool”
- Click “Ok”
This will prompt the disavow file to be downloaded to your computer.
Step 7: Upload the File to Your Google Search Console Disavow Tool
Now it’s time for action.
Go directly to Google’s disavowal tool.
Pick the property you want to work with in the dropdown menu.
Then click “Upload disavow list”:
Select the file you have just downloaded from Ahrefs.
It’ll then take a bit to load and…that’s it!
You have successfully disavowed spammy backlinks!
NOTE: if the disavowal tool is not available to you, make sure you have your property added as “Prefix” – I covered it earlier in this post.
1. How Often Do I Need to Disavow Backlinks?
If you are going through a heavy wave of incoming link spam (e.g. 30+ backlinks per day), you might need to be doing disavowals on the daily basis until it stops.
If your link spam growth is gradual (that’s a typical scenario for websites on the Internet), then you can look into it every 3-6 months OR if you see your rankings going down slowly for no reason.
2. Can I use other Tools Like Semrush or Moz Instead of Ahrefs to Disavow Backlinks?
They have a similar functionality and the idea is the same.
3. How Do I Renew the Old Disavowal List When I Get Other Domains Disavowed?
You need to go to Google’s Disavow Tool and download the old list:
Once you got it, open it in your text editor and combine the new domains you got from Ahrefs with the old list.
Then save and reupload the updated list to the disavowal tool by click on “Replace” button (you can see it in the above screenshot).
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