Ever since it was introduced, the concept of Disavow Links has created a lot of rumor, between SEO specialists so as between webmasters.

Considered by many an ideal solution, when a website is facing a Google penalty or identifies a series of low quality backlinks, the simple upload of a file that contains these links which we want to apply “disavow” to them and all things seem resolved…or, nothing is happening.

As I was saying, it is a concept surrounded by many speculations and rumors, a concept which its function mechanism is clearly kept a secret by Google and are few those who use it with success. There are discussions in which are involved tens of SEO specialists, in which questions and real debates are held on account of Disavow and this works, also, not even mentioning the numerous failed attempts.

How dangerous can Disavow can be?

Sometime ago connected in order to have access to the Disavow tool, the Google message is pretty discouraging, mentioning the fact that we deal with an advanced product that needs to be used per se. The incorrect usage can lead to dramatic fall of website’s performance in Google results.

Down below is an experiment of Cyrus Shepard who tried to see how much can Disavow can affect and how dangerous is it. What method was used? Disavow for every link towards his website, more than 35.000. The process was an easy one, combined in 3 steps:

  • Downloading all the links from Webmaster Tools
  • Uploading them in Google Disavow Tools
  • 2 minutes of waiting

After 2 months of waiting nothing happened, no decrease in results. Evidence shows one possibility from the ones below:

  • A reconsideration request must be submitted after the disavow initiation
  • Disavow has a safety strategy in order to prevent good links being included in the process
  • It takes more than 2 months so Google can process all the links

There are contradictory discussions, if the tools work automatically or they need a reconsideration request in order for them to work. People tend to believe the last version although there are SEO specialists that claim that they have seen results after using this tool, without any reconsideration request.
Google affirms that they reserve the right to ignore the links that you would like to eliminate in case the consider you have made a mistake, similar with rel=canonical. The best advice would be: Be very careful in applying disavow for links!

Can Disavow be used for Penguin?

The question is whether we can use Disavow even if the website hasn’t confronted with a manual punishment.
The answer: maybe! Google representatives, headed by Matt Cutt, have spoken about the fact that the tools can be used in case you were penalized by Penguin, suggesting that this can be available only for the links that break the Google policy regarding quality. Below you can find a video in which Matt Cutts talk about mistakes in using this tool.

Pieces of Advice for Google reconsideration requests

1. First eliminate, then use Disavow
Google wants to eliminate all the links that you consider bad and Disavow is the final solution. There is no need to do this with a 100% precision but the efforts count in Google’s eyes.
2. Centralize the links

Google recommends doing this using Google Webmaster Tools.

3. Identify the bad links:
You can do this using automatic tools but also manual analysis. The best thing to do is to use both.

4. Outreach
There will be a need to send emails in order to eliminate the bad links. Many emails.

5. If you have doubts, use disavow for domains
You have two options in using this method: disavow for individual URLs or for domains.

6. The format counts
Google declines many files because there are not the right formats but this is mostly ignored by webmasters. The right format is a text file and the links or domains must be lined aside one another. You can find a full guide right here on WebmasterCentral.
In conclusion, the disavow tool is useful but pretty complicated. If it is not used how it is supposed to be, you can deny links that may help you, fact that determines decreases in organic positioning. It is recommended that successful marketers get actively involved in building new links than using the Disavow tool.