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Recovering From Penalties Using The Google Disavow Tool

The Google Disavow ToolSo you’ve spent a long time building a site. You’ve spent even more time working on its link profile.

You’ve built just about every link you could and let’s say you’ve messed up a little.

In the past, it’s been tough shit. Google always had a sort of “you’ve made your bed, now lay in it” kind of attitude.

For the first time ever Google is allowing webmasters to remove bad links with their new Google Disavow tool!


I’d like to think Google are doing something for the greater good of all webmasters. But it’s more likely because of complaints from real companies being affected by negative SEO. Negative SEO is where other SEO’s spam you with nasty junk links (porn/gambling/adult links etc) in the hope of ruining your rankings so they can take your place.

What does this mean?

Potentially it means you can bring back sites from the dead. I don’t know if this means you can revive any site, I’m sure if you have a really really bad penalty you’re still screwed. However for the people who haven’t massively abused their link profiles; you stand a great chance at gaining rankings back and boosting new ones.

This probably isn’t the fix to all your problems, but it will help you REPAIR your link profile.

How does it work?

Before I explain how it works. I just want to say this tool is useful and can ruin your link profile if you do not use it properly. There are three core reasons why a site gets a penalty from links. Bad use of anchor text, bad link neighbourhoods and devalued mass links.

The tool is inside Google Webmaster Tools. It’s a simple page that allows you to upload a .txt file of your backlinks for removal. So first you need to find the list of your bad/low quality links, put them in a txt file and upload the txt file via Google Webmaster Tools to the Disavow tool.


There are three strategies that first spring to mind when using this tool. First, use it to cure the over optimization penalty.

Over optimization penalties are given to sites that overly optimize their anchor text. If your target keyword is “cheap rats for sale” and 80% of your backlinks use “cheap rats for sale” as anchor text; you’ve probably been hit by an over optimization penalty.

To try and repair the damage you need to remove three quarters of the links you’ve built using the exact keyword as anchor text. To do this follow the process below:

1. Go To Raven Tools

Raven tools is a great tools suite for SEO analysis, social media and a bunch of other cool stuff. Register free for thirty days for this. You need to login, go to the backlinks page and enter your site.

Raven Tools will generate a list of all your site’s backlinks. It will allow you to order them by anchor text meaning it will group all the backlinks with the same anchor text together.

2. Export

Once grouped together export the links into a csv file or into Google Drive. Now go inside the csv file and place all the links you want to be removed into a new text file. Take three quarters of the links using the exact keyword you’re trying to rank for as anchor text and put them in the file.

If you have an exact match domain put three quarters of the links using the EMD keyword as anchor text into the file. Once done save the file. Remember this is a general recommendation. Change it as you wish.

3. Submit To Disavow

Login to Google Webmasters, upload the txt file and submit it. You have to add your site to Webmaster Tools first in order to do this.

Remove Links From Bad Link Neighbourhoods

This is the next thing you can try. Go back to raven tools and this time; order your backlinks by their ACRank. Raven Tools has a factor called ACRank which is essentially a rank of authority and quality.

Export the links after ordering them by ACRank. Look at the links with an ACRank of less than 2 carefully. Look for domains with naughty words in them, anything to do with sex, gambling or adult related words are major red flags to Google.

You want to put all of these bad links into a txt file and submit them the same way. You can keep doing this, removing all low quality backlinks from your link profile until you’re all clean.

That’s it, now you just need to build high quality links and your rankings should be back in no time. If your penalty was really damaging, sometimes nothing can help you apart from starting from scratch with a new domain.

In Prosperity,

David Wood

P.S. Leave me your thoughts, comments and questions below. Also opt-in to the email list on the right for more SEO tips, tricks and secrets.

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Raven Tools is an awesome resource, I'm an SEO guy myself and my site was somewhat hurt from all of the recent changes. Thanks for the share.

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