Should You Disavow Toxic Backlinks?

Should You Disavow Toxic Backlinks?

By Jocelyn Van Saun

February 7, 2023

If you think your website has toxic backlinks, you might be wondering if you should disavow them.

Here’s a hypothetical situation … You just ran an audit on your website and gasp you received the alarming news that you have a TOXIC BACKLINK PROFILE! Seeing the word “toxic” next to anything can evoke feelings of distress, worry, and panic. And while it can be tempting to take every possible measure to improve that score, it’s important to understand how Google treats backlinks (good and bad) before taking any action.

So, you got a toxic backlink score – what should you do? Let’s look into your options. But first, let’s talk about what backlinks are and how Google uses them as part of its ranking algorithm.

What are Backlinks in SEO?

A backlink is a link from one website to another, and they are seen by search engines as a vote of confidence in the quality of the linked-to website. Search engines use backlinks as one of many factors to determine the relevance and authority of a website. Having high-quality backlinks from relevant and authoritative websites can help improve your search rankings.

What are Toxic Backlinks?

However, not all backlinks are created equal. In some cases, backlinks can actually harm your rankings. Backlinks that harm your website are usually generated by those that are using black-hat tactics and are trying to manipulate search engine rankings. In most cases, Google has algorithms in place to detect and devalue these types of links, so most disavowed links are simply ignored. 

If your rankings are going to be negatively affected by bad backlinks, then you will be notified by Google that your site is going to lose visibility by way of a manual action message in Google Search Console. According to Google’s guidelines, “Google issues a manual action against a site when a human reviewer at Google has determined that pages on the site are not compliant with Google’s webmaster quality guidelines. Most manual actions address attempts to manipulate our search index.” 

What is Google’s stance on toxic backlinks?

Google has stated that Google does not actually have a concept of toxic links. In recent months, John Mueller of Google solidified this by stating that you can ignore toxic link reports from 3rd party tools. 

Should you use the disavow toxic backlink tool?

Using Google’s link disavow tool to remove low-quality backlinks may seem like an easy fix for a damaged backlink profile, but it can actually be risky and unnecessary. Here’s why.

Steep learning curve

First and foremost, using the disavow links tool can be risky because it requires a thorough understanding of how Google’s algorithm works. If the tool is not used properly, it can actually harm your website’s search engine ranking rather than improve it. For example, if you use the Google disavow tool and accidentally disavow a good link or all the backlinks to your site, it can cause harm. This includes causing your website to lose valuable link equity and domain authority.

Additionally, the learning curve involves familiarizing yourself with the link file format which in this case is a txt file. For those unfamiliar with a txt file, it can be intimidating knowing you must get the harmful links in the disavow list right. If you don’t disavow backlinks correctly, you risk negatively affecting your entire domain authority and the good links pointing to your site.

Not guaranteed to work

Additionally, using the tool can be unnecessary because it is not a guaranteed solution for improving your website’s search engine ranking. In fact, Google has stated that the tool should only be used as a last resort and that the best course of action is to reach out to the website owner and request that they remove the bad backlink. This not only saves time and resources but also helps to maintain good relationships with other website owners.

Furthermore, the Google disavow tool is not a catch-all solution for all backlink issues. Most sites use the tool to disavow low-domain authority sites, but this is not the correct use. The disavow file is to be used when the website owner has received a manual action for unnatural links and is unable to remove the spammy links by themselves. Such a negative SEO attack is uncommon but is a good reason you would want to disavow spammy backlinks.

Long turnaround time

Lastly, it is important to note that disavowing links is not a quick fix. It can take several weeks or even months for Google to process the disavow spammy links request. Therefore, disavowing links is not the answer if you’re looking for a quick solution to improve your website’s search engine ranking.


In conclusion, using Google’s disavow tool to remove bad links can be risky and unnecessary. It is important to understand how Google’s algorithm works and to use the tool as a last resort. Remember, the disavow tool is not a catch-all solution for all backlink issues and not a quick fix for improving your website’s search engine ranking. We recommend you stop disavowing backlinks and put the effort toward building links to your site through a link-building strategy. If you have any questions, contact a Socius representative to chat today!