Is there a risk in deleting a disavow file?

Google’s John Mueller answered whether it was okay to remove a disavow file since Google is so good at not counting the average spam links that sites typically acquire, through no fault or effort on the part of the site publisher.

Mueller mentioned an interesting quality about these links that distinguishes them from links that could lead to a negative outcome, such as a manual action.

One caveat, the person asking the question claimed to have disavowed links for 15 years, but the disavow tool has only been around for 10 years.

disavow tool

The disavow tool was introduced in 2012 by Google in response to overwhelming demand from the SEO community for an easier way to deal with the thousands of sites suffering from the Penguin algorithm.

Google introduced the Penguin algorithm to manage the large amount of manipulative links, especially paid links, that companies used to sway search results in their favor.

The disavow tool provided SEOs with an easy way to manage links they couldn’t remove.

Google only designed the tool to handle manual actions.

Google’s 2012 disavow tool announcement advised:

“If you have been notified of a spam manual action based on ‘unnatural links’ pointing to your site, this tool may help you resolve the issue.

If you did not receive this notification, you generally do not need to worry about this tool. »

Toxic links

What tends to happen these days is that a publisher who is unable to objectively rate their content as anything other than perfectly good and better than their competitors is looking around for a scapegoat for their poor ranking. The finger ends up pointing to the so-called toxic links.

Many people think of toxic links as random links that spammers generate to regular sites.

Should an honest site delete its disavow file?

The person asking the question wants to know if it is acceptable to remove a disavow to address spammy links when they have not received a manual action.

They asked:

“Over the past 15 years, I’ve disavowed over 11,000 links in total.

I have never bought a link or done anything prohibited, such as sharing.

The links I have disavowed may be from hacked sites or nonsensical auto-generated content.

Since Google now claims to have better tools to not put these types of hacked or spammy links into their algorithms, should I just delete my disavow file?

Is there any risk or advantage or disadvantage to just removing it? »

Random links different from manipulation links

Mueller’s response focused on assuring the person that Google can distinguish between accidental and manipulative links.

What stands out from his answer is how he points out that random spam links are not like the types of links used to manipulate search engines.

Muller replied

“So that’s a good question, it comes up from time to time.

And link disavowal is always one of those tricky topics, because it feels like Google probably isn’t giving you all the information.

But from our perspective, it actually feels like we’re working very hard to avoid considering those kinds of links.

And we do it because we know that the Link Disavow Tool is kind of a niche tool.

… SEOs know this, but the average person running a website has no idea.

And all those links you mentioned are types of links that all websites get over the years.

And our systems understand that these are not things you try to do to game our algorithms.

This is a good answer for people trying to figure out how Google can tell the difference between random spammy links and links that may incur a ranking penalty.

Manipulation links are different from random spam links. No legitimate website buys ten thousand spammy links to rank better.

So it’s an easy call to ignore these types of links because, according to Mueller:

“…our systems understand that these are not things you try to do to game our algorithms.”

It’s ok to delete the disavow file

Mueller continued his response using the word “nasty” in reference to random links.

Cruft is a word from the programming world that means something extra or undesirable.

Mueller concluded his response:

“So from that point of view, if you’re really sure there’s nothing like a manual action you had to resolve with regards to those links, I would just delete the disavow file and move on with life and somehow leave all of that apart.

One thing I would personally do is download it and make a copy so you have some sort of record of what you deleted.

But otherwise, if you’re sure these are just normal cruel things on the internet, I’d just delete them and move on.

There’s a lot more to pass your time when it comes to websites than just disavowing those random things that happen to any website on the web.

Do you trust Google enough to remove the disavow?

The main things to consider are:

  • The disavow tool was created to make it easier for SEOs to deal with manipulative links
  • It is normal for sites to acquire random links from hacked sites etc.
  • Google’s systems “understand” that random links are not manipulative.

According to Mueller, it’s okay to stop disavowing random links and remove the disavow list if it hasn’t been done to address manipulative links, especially those that resulted in a manual action penalty.


Watch Mueller answer the question at minute 10:20

When it’s okay to delete a disavow file

Featured image: Screenshot from, July 2022.

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