In the event that one day you find your own website under attack, here’s what you need to know: What follows is a step-by-step tutorial of how to defend your own website against a negative SEO attack.
1. Get a list of all of your backlinks. You can also look at the links to your site in GSC.Ahrefs’ Site Explorer or MajesticYou can use a tool like
Tip: If the attack is ongoing and you want to make sure you identify all of the bad links, we recommend checking your links with at least two different tools. No one tool will catch all the links and GSC lags behind a few days, so from experience we suggest checking on several tools.
2. ”Make sure you use a view showing “one backlink per domain.
When your website is under attack, there are often many different links pointing to your site from the same domain. There is no need to export 6000 links if they are all only coming from 500 different domains.
3. Export the backlinks to Excel.
shows the referring domain.Domain shows the exact link destination and Source URLThis will give you a table with every detail about the backlinks (anchor text, follow, no-follow, trust flow, first index date, last seen, type of link etc.) While on a normal day you’d be checking and evaluating the links one-by-one and looking at trust flow etc., a negative SEO attack is a special occasion. Desperate times call for desperate measures! In this case, you should only look at two columns, SourceURL and Domain
4. Identify the domains that are NOT spam.
Be sure to remove them from your spreadsheet. You want to produce a list that includes only the spammy domains with links pointing to your site. Note: Spam can come in many forms but usually it is from irrelevant sites, sites full of gibberish or places where your site is linked to in a comment. If you are unsure whether a link is bad or not, visit the website listed in the Source URL column and check the content. You should be able to tell immediately whether or not the site is relevant or reputable.
5. Get the format right. In order for Google to understand that you want to disavow a whole domain, you need to write it in the following format: “domain:[referring domain name]” To do so, you can use the concatenate formula to combine the text, write “domain:” into a column next to the referring domains column. (In our example below, it’s column F.)
Drag it down to the end of your list or simply double click on the bottom right corner of the cell to get the same value in all the cells in column F. Now write =CONCATENATE(F2,E2), (F2=domain name E2=domain:) in the third column (In our example below, it’s column G), enter and apply the formula to all the domains. Copy the column with the formula and paste it again only as values. (paste special - values only).
6. Delete all columns except for “domain:[referring domain name].” Your spreadsheet should now have just one column of data, in Column A, that includes the information from domain:[referring domain name] (In the screenshot above, that would be the data you see in Column G, before we have deleted the other columns.) That way, you will be left with a list of the referring domains that you do not want your site to be associated with.
Note: Generally it is OK to disavow links on a per URL basis, but if you’re under attack it will save you a lot of time and energy to disavow on a per domain basis.
7. Save your spreadsheet as a text file (.txt) Be sure it is encoded in UTF-8 or 7-bit ASCII. Google is very specific about this. This spreadsheet is your disavow file.
Tip: Save another version of your spreadsheet as a regular .xls file. That way, you can easily add more bad domains and disavow them as you find them. When adding more domains to your spreadsheet, make sure there are no duplicates! You can use the “Remove Duplicates” function in Excel (Data → Remove Duplicates). If you are using the Ahrefs tool, this is all a bit more streamlined. You can manage your list of links under “Disavow Links.”
9. Click on “Disavow Links” and choose your txt file.
10. Submit. That’s it! You should see a message that says, “You successfully uploaded a disavow links file... “
Keep in mind that if your site is under attack, we recommend repeating this process on a daily basis for as long as you continue to discover new, bad links.
Note that each time you upload a new disavow file, it will automatically overwrite the previous file. Therefore, be sure to upload a continuous file with all your backlinks and not just the new ones. Also, remember to always get the file type and encoding just right and do not include any duplicate sites on your list. Finally, don’t disavow any good links! It would be a shame to disavow a link that is helping your rank!