Do Disavowed Files Affect Google Rankings? Short Answer, Yes!

3 min read

During a recent Google Office-hours Hangout, John Mueller delved into the ongoing implications of utilizing Google’s Link Disavow Tool. He fielded numerous inquiries, ranging from the time it takes for the algorithm to incorporate the disavowed file’s changes to the potential negative associations or signals linked to the use of the Disavow Tool. Let’s thoroughly explore this concept and examine John’s insights on the precise influence of a disavowed file on Google rankings.

What exactly is Google’s Disavow Tool?

Google’s Disavow Tool, an integral component of Google Search Console, continues to empower website owners by enabling them to sever ties with detrimental or unfavorable backlinks directed toward their websites. By taking this action, website owners can mitigate the harm caused to their website’s reputation, thereby circumventing potential link-induced penalties that could impede their progress within search result rankings. These so-called “bad links” might be strategically generated by competitors aiming to gain a competitive edge in rankings, inadvertently created by users. Alternatively, a shift in algorithmic updates could render previously beneficial links as substantial liabilities.


No, you can’t be penalized for using the Disavow Tool.

During the discussion, a participant raised a concern based on their belief that employing the tool to eliminate many harmful or low-quality links led to their website experiencing a sudden decline shortly after that. This individual questioned whether utilizing the tool might inadvertently signal to the algorithm, potentially resulting in negative repercussions or penalties. Subsequently, the participant sought clarification on whether discontinuing the tool’s use could restore their website’s stability. Additionally, they inquired about the possibility of a lasting adverse impact on the website’s reputation due to the tool’s deployment.

To which, John answered:

“No there is not any kind of penalty or black flag or mark or anything associated with using the disavow tool. And it doesn’t mean that you created those links. It can be something that you found where you’re really worried that Google might get the wrong picture for your website.”

…it doesn’t mean that you did it or it’s not a kind of a sign that oh you’re admitting that you’re admitting that you were doing link games in the past.”

Disavowed Files Affect Google Rankings

Disavow Tool is not used as an confirmation of Link Building Wrongdoing

He reiterated that the tool serves a purely technical function, signaling the algorithm that the user wishes to disassociate their website from those that employ links directed towards it.
Furthermore, he emphasized that the Disavow Tool should not be applied indiscriminately to arbitrary links found across the internet. He also offered a valuable piece of advice.

“But if you’re seeing something where you’re saying, well I definitely didn’t do this and if someone from Google manually were to look at my website they might assume that I did this, then it might make sense to use the disavow tool.

From our point of view if you’ve cleaned up an issue then you’ve cleaned up that issue. With some kinds of issues it does take a little bit longer for things to settle down just because we have to reprocess everything associated with the website and that takes a bit of time. But it’s not the case that there is any kind of like a grudge in our algorithms that’s holding back a site.”

Does Disavow Tool affect Search Results? And long does it take?

While numerous instances have emerged in which individuals reported positive outcomes after using the tool, some harbor reservations, suggesting that its utilization impacts rankings to some degree. Here’s the perspective shared by John Mueller regarding this entire process.
“In the specific scenario where you’ve mentioned submitting a disavow file and subsequently witnessing a decline in ranking or visibility, especially within a few days, I assume these events are unrelated.
Regarding the disavow file, the mechanism entails incorporating its data into our evaluation of the links pointing toward your website. This gradual process unfolds incrementally over an extended period, likely spanning several months – perhaps around three, four, five, or six months. The progression transpires in a step-by-step manner.
Therefore, if you’re observing a pronounced effect within a mere couple of days, the likelihood is that this impact isn’t directly tied to the disavow file. The root cause behind this occurrence is yet to be identified.
Irrespective of the circumstances, John affirmed that integrating Disavow Tool data into the algorithm requires several months and transpires in intermittent phases rather than an abrupt and comprehensive transformation, as some might believe.

If you feel you need to get an immediate health check-up for your site, you may leave us a comment below or better still, drop us an email and we will get back to you in no time. While you are at it, do check out our Monthly SEO Packages that come loaded with Bad Link Removal Service. We can also help you with the penalties, if any. Last but not the least, do watch John Mueller answer the question at the 17:57 minute mark and may be also stick around for the rest of the discussion for some other valuable insights.

Source: Search Engine Journal