How To Analyse Which Backlinks Need To Be Disavowed

Difficulty: Advanced

We strongly advise you to be very careful while doing this if you are managing your own SEO campaign with limited knowledge. In most cases, it would be best to get an SEO professional to do this for you. There are also companies purely dedicated to providing backlink disavows since it is usually a fairly complex process, so this would be worth looking into. Now let’s get into it…

Checking Disavow File

First off, you need to find out if you have ever submitted a disavow before.

You can check using this link, make sure you are logged into the Google account linked to your Google Search Console property. You should see your domain in the drop down.

You can then click “Disavow Links” on the next page (don’t worry it won’t disavow anything just yet!). Now you can see any previous submissions and download them if you need to, it will also show you information such as the submission date.

Now you need to work out what links you want to put in your disavow file.

Finding Your Backlinks

This can actually be quite difficult, there are two main ways of doing it and we’ll walk through both methods.


1. Using Google Search Console
This will make Step 3 much harder and will cost you more time in the process. Navigate to your Search Console/Webmasters section on Google, under the “Search Traffic” tab find “Links To Your Site”. This should include all the links you have currently and have had in the past. Although free to use, the downfall of this method is that it is much less accurate.

On the “Links To Your Site” page click the “More >>” button below the “Who Links The Most” section. You will now get a full list of the domains with links to you, you can then download this table.

2. Using Ahrefs
This is the most preferred method, however, an Ahrefs subscription is very expensive for the average user. This is why it would be beneficial to have an SEO professional do this for you. Our suggestion would be to sign up for the 14-day free trial and you should be able to complete this process. Once you have signed up for the 14-day free trial or have access to Ahrefs you can search for your domain.

Make sure you have “http + https” selected in the left column and “*.domain/*” selected in the right column. In the left menu select “Referring Domains”.

These referring domains can then be analysed and exported. Ahrefs backlink data includes a ton of information such as; the website URL rating, Domain Rating, Page Title, Internal Links, External Links, Text Before Link, Link Anchor, Text After Link and whether it is dofollow or nofollow.

Analysing your backlinks

Now you have an exported sheet of your backlinks, create a column labelled “Action & Reasoning” - this is where you will decide whether the links are harmful and why.

Once you have your sheet set up you are ready to start. If you have a low amount of backlinks this should be a really easy process, whereas if you have a larger website we recommend getting an agency to do it. If you have a large link profile there is a high chance your website is at risk and it’s very difficult and time consuming to manually check this. Most agencies have internal automated systems that can check this sort of thing with much less effort and they know what they are looking for.

It takes a little while to familiarise yourself with the process of understanding what makes a link negative and knowing what to look for when analysing your links, but you’ll get the hang of it.

  1. The first thing you want to do is go to the website URL and have a look at the page they are linking to you from, check whether it looks spammy and a low-quality website. You can generally do this on mass by filtering your sheet by the Domain Rating column, this will generally show the most untrusted websites with a lower score. Each website you find that you believe to be spammy and low quality make note of it in your Action & Reasoning column.
  2. The next and most important thing is to look at the anchor text of the backlink. If you have a page about website design for advice, and you have a large number of websites linking to you using the anchor “website design” there is a high chance that you’ll get a penalty for unnatural anchor text profiles.
  3. Finally, you can look at the type of link, if it is nofollow you can disregard it but if it is dofollow it needs to be carefully considered.
  4. Once you have looked at these points for each link then you can decide whether it should be disavowed or not. If you systematically go through each link you can get a really good idea of what needs to be disavowed. This also gives you more knowledge about the types of websites that link to you and how they link to you.

If you have a large number of links you can work through your links step by step, or, you can filter the “Link URL” by certain pages allowing you to assess it in smaller chunks.

Adding these domains to your disavow file

Once you have a list of links/domains you have decided should be disavowed, you can copy these to a separate sheet. If you have analysed multiple links from the same domain then it would be worth removing all duplicates so you just have the domain once. You can do this by using Excel and the remove duplicates function.

Then cut back every link to its root. For example: instead of

Now you can add all these domains to your disavow file using the Google guidelines. Generally, the best way to assemble your disavow file is using the following:

This way it will disavow anything and everything from the entire domain, however, if you only wanted to remove one link you can do it by just adding the link to your disavow (shown in the Google guidelines).

Great! Now hopefully this gives you a better understanding of disavowing links and the process of identifying potentially toxic links. If you have any further questions feel free to get in touch with us.


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