Unnatural Backlinks: How To Know When To Disavow Links

Just like how you wouldn’t want your business to be associated with a deceptive, untrustworthy person in real life, you don’t want your business website to be linked to a low-trust, spammy site on the internet. Unfortunately, many companies are completely unaware of any of the sites, good or bad, that are linking to their websites. 


These sites are said to be backlinks to yours, which means they have created incoming links referring to your site by linking the URL. It is important to ensure that these referring sites are trustworthy and relevant as backlinks can majorly affect SEO. The quality and quantity of backlinks are a key factor in Google determining your website’s trust score, which affects the site’s ultimate rank in search engine results. 


Why Should You Care About Backlinks?

Backlinks can either be very beneficial to your site and help to build trust and authority, or can majorly harm SEO and decrease your trustworthiness to Google. Because of this, building strong, quality backlinks is an essential off-page SEO strategy. 


When evaluating a website to determine where it should be listed on the search engine results page, one of the important things Google’s algorithm looks at is backlinks site quality and the overall number of these sites. This is a way for Google to measure websites’ trust ratings and display the most accurate results for users. 


The thinking here is that if a large amount of sites are linking to a website, this means that the site must be of authority and relevance. Based on this, a site is ranked higher in results. However, just having a large amount of backlinks does not mean Google will automatically rank you first ahead of your competition. The algorithm also looks at those backlinked sites’ trust and authority rankings. If most of your backlinks are from low-quality, spammy sites, Google can assume your site is also untrustworthy. You run the chance of being penalized by ranking lower on Google’s search results. This can result in a decrease in traffic to the site and lower sales. 


You can find potential toxic backlinks and a full list of sites that are backlinking to your website here. Simply open the links report and enter your URL.


What Does it Mean to Disavow Links?

Fortunately, there is something you can do to remove poor links to your site you don’t wish to be associated with. Google has a disavow links tool that allows users to manually remove unnatural or spammy sites from linking to your website. You are essentially telling Google to ignore these low-quality links when it crawls your website. This way, you can avoid being penalized by Google for unnatural sites linking to you and help to preserve your SEO efforts. 


However, as is advised by Google, the disavow action should be used with caution. There are some sites that may seem spammy at first glance but are actually helping your site rank well. You must be sure that sites you disavow are truthfully harming your trust score or else you could be hurting, not helping, your SEO.


How To Find Toxic Backlinks & When to Disavow?

A spammy or toxic backlink is a low-trust site that is specifically hurting your website’s ranking on Google search results by linking your URL on their website. Using the SEMrush Backlink Audit Tool, it can be determined what backlinks are causing your website to lose authority and trust with Google. SEMrush offers a free 7-day trial membership. Using this, you can discover which backlink sites are spammy by running an audit for your site URL and identifying the most toxic sites (those with a 60+ toxicity score). 


Under the Audit tab, you can then click export to download a list of these most harmful sites. This is a list of all the bad links you will now disavow through Google. 


If you inspect further, you would likely find sites that are either completely irrelevant to your business or spam sites. Spam sites may have malicious or harmful pages, deceptive design/reviews, no real content, etc. Linking to these types of sites is dangerous and bringing down your trust score, so it is crucial to disavow these links. 

How to Create a Disavow File?

Once you have identified the harmful sites linking to your company by following the steps above, you can create a disavow file using the Google disavow tool. From this point, it is actually fairly easy to disavow links. 


Follow the Google disavow tool here. Enter your website’s domain and click disavow links. Google will give you a warning about using this feature with caution (for the previously mentioned possibility of hurting SEO by disavowing quality sites). But since you know from the SEMrush audit that these links are in fact harming the site, you can trust that disavowing is the right move. Next, upload the toxic site file downloaded from SEMrush. Then, click submit and that’s it! Google will process your request and disavow those sites within a couple of days, meaning you no longer have any connection to these sites.



Google’s disavow feature can be a very helpful tool to improve your site’s SEO ranking by removing unnatural links to your site. However, be extremely careful with what links you request to be disavowed! This can possibly hurt your site and harm SEO. 


Ultimately, Google’s disavow tool can be a great resource so to align with only high-quality websites. This way you can rank higher in search engine results and receive more online traffic to your website. 

Contact Us, so we can be your disavow links guide.


Team Acadia