After another rejection, Google announced the introduction of their link disavow tool. Again, there were very mixed responses to this tool and its ability to help with the situation. Although one piece of advice was clear from the start; it is to be used with caution. Another round of site owners were contacted and this time the disavow tool was used for the more problematic domains. Surely this was the answer and another reconsideration request was submitted. Again, another rejection.
By this stage I had acknowledged that there are no short cuts to this process and no goodwill gesture is ever going to be enough. In my experience, it is simply a case of working meticulously through every link to your site and making a judgement call on its validity. If you are in any doubt as to whether the link is genuine or not, then it is probably not or you would not need to question it, so remove it.
If there is no valid contact information on the site, contact the domain owners through the whois information. My experience has showed me that site owners will remove the links if required as they too want to work within best practice and avoid Google penalties. Plenty of webmasters fail to respond, expect to charge you or even refuse to remove the links – unfortunately they are precisely the links that you want to try to get rid of.
I worked through every single incoming link to the clients site one at a time and allocated them all to my own categories. I noted genuine links that I wanted to retain, links that I knew had been removed although they were still showing, invalid links where either the links had been removed or the sites are no longer active, links where I had received no response from the webmasters despite between two and four contact messages being sent (either via contact forms, contact emails or whois information) and finally the handful of domains where I could not find any further options. These included domains where the contact email had been rejected for example. This allowed me to quantify exactly how many links had been removed and how many I expected to be removed due to invalid links. I was then able to use the disavow tool for the domains where I had failed to receive a response or where I had tried unsuccessfully to find contact information. This information was then cross-referenced against the sample link spreadsheet and the latest link spreadsheet from WMT to make sure that nothing had been missed. An incredibly manual and time consuming exercise but as I said before, there are no shortcuts to be taken.