This post assumes you already have a list of low-quality links and domains ready for disavow. If you need help discovering low-quality domains pointing links to your site, check out this post first: “How to Prep a Disavow File (Quick & Dirty Guide to Finding Bad Links).”
How to Format a Disavow File at the Domain Level
- Step 1: If you have a list of spammy domains 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: For actual disavow file submission in Google Search Console, your disavow file must be a clean list of domains in [domain:example.com] format, saved as a .txt file. For example:
How to Format a Disavow File at the URL Level
This post covered how to format a disavow file using a list of spammy domains (typically, most of your low-quality links should be disavowed at the domain level, so a spammy 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 within the disavow file (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 file look its best by dressing it up with clear #annotations). Even if the process is completely automated and Google doesn’t read comments in disavow files, including comments is a helpful way to keep track of your changes as you continue to add to it.
Simple enough, right? Well, this post didn’t cover one tricky part: What if you have a long list of spammy 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 disavow file, comment below and I’ll queue it up as my next blog article!