Below is a real case of how I try to recover my website rank and this process is still going on. I am not promising anything here I just create this for my personal notes, however you can ask anything and I will try to answer in the comment section below.
I will try to recover my website rank in search engine by submitting disavow file. Disavow file contain URL or domain that I want Google to ignore. The links I want to ignore in this case are those that created automatically from spammy sites which gave bad effect.
In 2016 my website ( I will not tell you the domain name) traffic starts to decrease gradually since September 2016. From 400 per day page view dropped to below 100.
I did not receive manual action notification in my webmasters tool console but the traffic keeps dropping. I believed that the website got bad links from the spammy website.
Several indicators which I noticed other than traffic dropped are:
1. Search ranking dropped significantly, my postings that usually on page 1 or 2 now are gone
2. When I type my domain name, partial or exact match, usually showing in 1 position, but now in page 3,4, even more.
During years 2016-2018 I let this condition happened hoping there will be better changes, but nothing happen :-)
On June 2018 I try to identify the bad links using Google Webmasters tool. Under Search Traffic, click Links to Your Site, click more under Who links the most and Your most linked content to expand the list.
As you can see my total links identified by Google Webmasters Tool are only 186, not many, so manual identification and removal still possible to me. You may need professional help if you have thousands of link point to your website.
How to identify the bad links?
After I have the exact URL source that give us bad link, many times we will not found our domain in their page but if we check their source code we will find it.
1. I check whether the URL I got from GWT still indexed by Google by copying the URL into Google Search if appeared means indexed, move to step 2.
2. I will check it's domain name in search engine box, if it does not appear in the top position I will put this domain name into disavow file. Below picture is an example of a domain that I will put in disavow file.
Putting URL or domain list into disavow file is like 2 sides of knives, if you wrongly identify it, the result may become worst. Follow my steps at your own risk. If you are not sure give this job to the professional team.
By for now.