Google’s link disavow tool allows webmasters to directly submit a file requesting Google to ignore certain links which are considered to be bad or low-quality.
Cutts answers the question by revealing that webmasters should not be worried about disavowing bad links regardless of whether a website has been penalised or not. And I would certainly agree with Matt on this one.
Many webmasters make the mistake of riding on bad link weight, only to be surprised later down the track that their website has been hit as a result. High short-term rankings may certainly be appealing by taking advantage of poor link weight, however, this does not result in long-term business profits.
Link Disavow Best Practice
If you feel that your website contains bad/low quality links, it’s best practice to take action on them immediately and do what’s required in order to get the links removed.
Sure your website might not be ranking as competitively as if it would be without the help of certain low-quality links, however, it is links like these which will ultimately harm your website in the long run.
Start by disavowing bad links to block off any false hope you have that low quality links are contributing to your high rankings (if any at all), because at the end of the day, it won’t last.
Google highly encourages getting in contact with all relevant parties and requesting they take down the bad link/s. If no response is received in an acceptable time-frame, by all means submit a link disavow file.
Google has listed a few examples of how to submit a valid link disavow file. The following text is an example of how your link disavow files should be constructed:
# example.com removed most links, but missed these
# Contacted owner of shadyseo.com on 7/1/2012 to
# ask for link removal but got no response
To submit a link disavow file, you’ll need the website to have been properly verified and setup under Google’s Search Console. If this is already done, you can upload a link disavow file here.
Link Disavow & Negative SEO
Negative SEO is the practice of someone purposely linking many bad/low quality links to a website in hopes of intentionally getting it penalised and deranked from the SERPs. If you’ve been monitoring your link profile and have witnessed an increase in highly suspicious incoming links, Cutts advises on disavowing those links immediately.
By submitting a link disavow file, bad links won’t necessarily be ignored immediately. Google still needs to process the information and then act accordingly with indexation. The process usually takes about a few weeks.
In conclusion, if you still haven’t been on top of your cleaning up your links, now is a better time than any. Don’t wait until your rankings have finally dropped in order for you to start taking some action. Take action now!