SEO’s hottest news recently has been the release of the Google Disavow Links tool. During his keynote speech at PubCon on 16th October, Google’s Matt Cutts announced the release, which was then followed by an expansive post in the Google webmaster central blog complete with Q&A and ten-minute video. http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/a-new-tool-to-disavow-links.html
April’s Google Penguin update (which looked at, amongst other things, the quality of inbound links in an attempt to target those sites whose ranking had been increased by black hat techniques) led to increasing concerns about negative SEO and the effect of bad past link-building, which led to the launch of massive link-removal campaigns. But it’s hardly a surprise that many of these requests are going unanswered – if you’re really out to hurt the competition it’s unlikely that you’re going comply with a polite request. Hence the launch of the disavow tool – and the buzz that’s surrounded it.
Here’s how it works:
First off: it’s worth noting that unless you get a notification in Webmaster Tools about “unnatural links” to your site, you probably don’t need to worry. There are warnings everywhere stating that this is a tool for advanced users only, and if you don’t understand how it works, stay away lest you negatively affect your site’s ranking.
The process itself does seem fairly straightforward – submit a file containing the domains you’d like Google to ignore (full instructions are in the Google Websmaster blog post ), and then wait. If you’ve received notification of a manual action on your site, you’ll want to submit a reconsideration request after an appropriate length of time.
So far, so good. But there’s really no indication as yet of how effective it might be, or how long it will take – recrawling and reindexing can take “multiple weeks”, according to Google. It’s being positioned as a last resort – but the temptation to be heavy-handed might be too strong for some, especially if they’ve seen a big drop in traffic since Penguin.
In addition, there are some areas of concern about how it might be abused – and whilst the word is that sites which are submitted won’t have their ranking automatically affected, it might not be out of the question for Google to look more carefully at those domains which appear repeatedly, which certainly might leave the system open to abuse. However, all this remains to be seen, and it seems unlikely that Google won’t have taken it into account.
On balance though, for those who have fallen victim to bad SEO in the past, who’ve been affected by negative SEO or by Penguin, this is a hugely welcome release.