Does Google's Disavow tool work? ( And how long does it take? )

Written by Gary Lim
March 26, 2019

Here's a background on this article, if you have been following our updates for the past year, you would have known that our website has been an unfortunate target of Negative SEO bomb - When someone sends a ton of spammy links to your website.

An SEO Bomb will make it almost impossible for your website to rank on Google and while we are great at ranking sites, recovering from negative SEO comes new to us.

This set us out for a 5-month experiment to get our website ranking again for the Search Term "Digital Marketing Agency" through submitting a list of spammy website to Google for review through their Disavow tool.

You can also use these steps that we have ironed out below to get yourself out of a negative SEO attack.

The Disavow tool is part of Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools) that allows websites to discount the value of an inbound link, helping to prevent against link-based penalties.

Here's the Process we took to disavow

  • Collect all incoming links to our website with Ahrefs ( Or any other backlink checking tool, we found Ahrefs to be the most accurate for our website after comparison )
  • Filter and sort out links that appear spammy ( they may not always be obvious )
  • Filter and sort out links that are blatantly targeting the keyword you want to rank for ( Less is more in today's SEO )
  • Create a text file of links to submit to Google via Search Console ( A place where you can monitor link activities )
  • Make sure to record the date when you submit the file for future reference

Here are things that can possibly go wrong

  • You disavow links that are actually "helping" your website, this will cause your rank to drop
  • You make a wrong list of things that delay the effectiveness of the disavow

What happened next

We started to see some action happening when we started to rank just within 1 month of submitting our first disavow file during the 1st week of September, but then again that wasn't enough to get us within the searchable zone of Google ( Page 10 )

We submitted a Second disavow file on October with 76 domains that we have flagged.

And some action started happening within the next month for our targeted keyword.

In conclusion

When we were searching for Disavow information on the web, there were many camps on whether or not you should actually do it.

But we prefer to take an experimental approach with our marketing, we like to believe that information on the web should be taken with a grain of salt.

Answering the two big questions

Does disavow tool work?

Yes, it does. ( And it is not really hard to do anyway )

How long does it take?

1-2 months from what we have tested, if it doesn't show that means you are not disavowing enough links

What would we do differently?

Today we have just submitted our final disavow file with a total of an extra 20 links. We have increased the strictness of the links we allow and if we were to do it again.

We would have disavowed every single link that doesn't "spark joy".

You couldn't really do this in the past due to link sensitivity but because SEO has changed quite a bit in the recent years ( Search Intent, CTR, Algorithms )

It has become increasingly easy for you to rebuild your link profile and get your website ranking again so why not start on a clean slate?

It can save you a few months of trial and error since you are not ranking anyway.

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