Google has little tolerance for websites that spam the Internet. Once you cross the line, you're treated like a criminal who committed a spammy crime. Over 400,000 manual actions are being initiated every month by Google so its a growing problem. You can get a manual action in Google for many different reasons. On a recent UK vacation I helped a friend out who had a manual action for bad backlinks from a Russian crime syndicate. He knew nothing about the links.

If you have a Manual Action message, you are lucky. You can just follow the instructions provided in the linked Help information; you may even find a video.

If Google is complaining about links pointing to your site, it wants you to do two things:

  • Remove the links
  • Disavow the links

Removing bad links can often be pretty difficult; if an SEO firm your company used years ago placed these links, for instance, good luck figuring out how to get them removed!

As for “disavowing” the links — telling Google that you don’t want the links to be used when assessing your site rank — that’s much easier to do, but I would recommend that you do not do this unless you have found a Manual Action message, or if you are absolutely sure that you are being penalized for having bad links pointing to your site.

I personally would also not use the Disavow Links tool if I got an Unnatural links to your site — impacts links message in the Manual Actions area; as described earlier in this chapter, this means Google has found some bad links that it is going to ignore, but it won’t penalize your site. Don’t disavow links until you have read that!

If you do decide to use the Disavow Links tool, follow these steps in Google Search Console: 1. Download all the links pointing to your website that Google has indexed.

You can export links in a spreadsheet file from the Links area of the Google Search Console.

  1. Review the downloaded file, then remove all the links that you don’t want to disavow.

The file now contains the list of links you want to disavow.

  1. Save this as a text file.

Put each URL you want to disavow on a separate line. To disavow links from an entire domain, precede with the word domain:, like this: domain:thisdomain.com. Save the file with the .txt extension.

  1. Go to the Disavow Links page.

This is currently not linked to from inside Google Search Console, though perhaps it will be by the time you read this. If not, you can find it at https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/disavow-links-main.

  1. Select the site for which you are disavowing links.

You see a drop-down list box listing the various sites you are managing in Google Search Console; select one, and click on the Disavow Links button. A warning message tells you that you’d better be really sure you want to do this before you disavow links.

  1. Click on the Disavow Links button.

You see the warning message again (I told you, disavowing links is not always a good thing to do!) and a Choose File button. Click on the button, select the text file you created earlier, and click on Open or OK.

  • Click the Submit button to upload the edited file to Google’s Disavow Links tool.

Reconsideration requests

After you fix the problems, you can file a reconsideration request. You should find a Request Review link in the Manual Actions or Security Issues area of your Google Search Console (depending on the kind of problem report you received). You can state what happened and what you’ve done. Explain, for instance, if an SEO firm you used did some bad things, or if something you did may have been misinterpreted by Google.

Provide as much information as possible. If Google is complaining about links, even if you haven’t been able to get all the garbage links removed you should explain how much incredible effort you have put into getting them removed (right? … you know, you’ve tried over and over to get to the root of the problem and just can’t get them removed …). Google provides a document and a video explaining what it wants you to do when submitting a reconsideration request, which you should definitely refer to before doing the request; explain what the problem was, what you’ve done to fix it, what the final result was, and then, be contrite! Sorry, it won’t happen again, I swear!