How to Format Your Disavow File (A Step-by-Step Guide)
This post assumes you already have a list of bad or low-quality links and domains that you want to submit to Google’s Disavow Links Tool.
If you need help discovering low-quality domains pointing links to your site, check out my 5-minute link audit process first: “How to Prep a Disavow File (Quick & Dirty Guide to Finding Bad Links).”
Note: Google’s Disavow Links Tool should be used with extreme caution, and only as a last resort once you’ve attempted to manually remove harmful links on your own. If you don’t have experience with disavowing links, get in touch with a reputable, white hat SEO agency to do the heavy-lifting for you (or you run the risk of accidentally disavowing valuable, hard-earned links).
Disavowing Spam Sites: How to Format a Disavow File at the Domain Level
- Step 1: If you have a list of spammy sites ready for disavow in simple “example.com” format, format your data so it looks like the table below:
- Step 2: In cell “D3,” enter the formula “=B3&C3”.
- Step 3: Drag the corner of the “D3” cell to apply the same formula to the rest of the column.
- Step 4: Highlight column “D” and copy the data there. Then paste only the values into column “E”:
- Step 5: Delete columns “B,” “C” and “D,” and voila! Ready for approval!
Step 6: Paste your formatted list of domains in a new Microsoft Excel workbook, then save the file as a .txt file.
Note: Before submitting your file to the disavow tool in Google Search Console, your disavow file must be a clean list of sites in [domain:example.com] format, saved as a .txt file. For example:
Disavowing Bad Links: How to Format a Disavow File at the URL Level
This post covered how to format your list of spam domains for the disavow tool (typically, you should be disavowing most of your low-quality links at the domain level, so a bad domain can’t simply point new links to your site and land you in the penalty box again). If you also have low-quality links that you want to disavow at the URL level, you’re in luck – that’s the easy part! While domains need to be in [domain:example.com] format, URLs can be included in your disavow as-is, with one link per row:
A Note on Comments in Your Disavow File
You can include comments in your disavow file using a hashtag, like in the example above. However, many link experts say Google doesn’t read comments in the disavow tool (that’s what the reconsideration request is for), so it isn’t necessary. The way I see it: The link cleanup process is one of your only invitations to interact directly with Google’s webspam team, so you might as well show up in a tux (in other words, it can’t hurt to make your disavow tool submission look its best by dressing it up with clear #annotations). Even if the tool is completely automated and we know Google doesn’t read comments in disavow files, including comments is a helpful way to keep track of your changes – which is a lifesaver when you’re performing a link audit to pinpoint why you got slapped with one of Google’s manual penalties.
Simple enough, right? Well, this post didn’t cover one tricky part: What if you have a long list of spam links that you want to disavow at the domain-level? If you’re interested in seeing a step-by-step process for transforming a large set of low-quality links/URLs into a clean, domain-level file ready for the disavow tool, comment below and I’ll queue it up as my next blog article!
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