Google’s John Mueller: when to submit a disavow links file

Some days ago, Google’s Gary Illyes said that you do not have to submit a disavow links file to Google unless your website has a manual penalty. In a Google Webmaster hangout, Google’s John Mueller revealed more details.

Disavow links if there is a manual penalty

If your website has a manual penalty, you should try to remove the artificial backlinks. If you cannot do that, you can submit a disavow links file to Google. Google will take that file into consideration. They expect an effort in manually removing the links. Just sending a disavow links file is not enough.

“The disavow file definitely makes sense if you have a manual action that is based on link issues and you can’t clean those links up. So ideally you would go in and try to clean those links up to either remove them or have a nofollow in place.

If you can’t do that, then the disavow file is a great way to do that and can help with the resolution of the manual action. After you’ve taken care of all of those problematic links pointing to your site, you can submit a reconsideration request and the web spam team will take the disavow file into account and lift the manual action if that’s appropriate.

You can disavow links to avoid future penalties

If you think that your website might get a penalty in the near future because of artificial links, you can submit a disavow links file to avoid a penalty.

“With regards to sites that don’t have a manual action for link issues, we do try to take those links out of the equation automatically when we can recognize them.

In general that’s something we’re pretty good at. We have quite a bit of practice doing that, so most of the time we can get that pretty well.

If you’re unsure as to whether or not Google is actually taking those into account or kind of taking those out of the equation then the disavow file is a great way to kind of get peace of mind and to say well I’m sure these won’t get taken into account by any of Google’s algorithms. And that way you’re absolutely certain that you’re not associated with those links to your site that you can’t remove or kind of change.

If someone is pasting links on a spammy site, or maybe a previous SEO went off and ran some script to place links and a bunch of forums and you can’t clean that up for whatever reason, and you don’t have a manual action but you want to make sure it doesn’t even get that far, then the disavow file is a great way to just like preemptively say ‘I know about these issues, I don’t want to lose any sleep over them, I’m just going to disavow them and get them taken out of the equation.’”

It seems counterintuitive to block links that Google does not discount. Google automatically blocks bad links so it’s probably not good to disavow these links.

You can view the full video here:

How to identify bad links

The Link Disinfection tool in SEOprofiler identifies spammy links that point to your website. The tool also creates a disavow links file for you. If you haven’t done it yet, try SEOprofiler now:

Try SEOprofiler now

Tom Cassy

Tom Cassy is the CEO of SEOprofiler. He blogs about search engine optimization and website marketing topics at “”.