On April 24th, 2012 Google changed the search engine world as we know it with their “Penguin” update. Google stated to punishing websites that were doing what all of us had been doing for years; adding multiple SEO Optimized links to our sites. If they were what Google considered poor quality links or they felt there were too many of them they penalized the site owners. Now, bad links could be the end of you and cause a substantial drop in your rankings. Since it is very hard to remove the links once they are built in the sites, the Penguin update made it virtually impossible to fix your site after they issued the penalties. The Penguin update created a new problem, linkspam. Poor quality links went from just being bothersome to a way for Google to penalize your site by lowering your ranking. This prompted spammers to deliberately place bad links on sites and refuse to take them down, some webmasters even said they were being blackmailed by these spammers be being asked to be paid to remove the poor quality links.
In response to this linkspam problem, On October 16th, 2012. Google announced that they were launching the Disavow Links Tool in Google Webmaster Tools. With this tool Webmasters now have the power to “disavow” low quality links that could be lowering their rankings in search engines. They will also be able to upload a list of URLS and domains on the condition that they will be removed from the ranking algorithms within weeks.
The Pros and Cons of Disavow Links
There are both pros and cons to this new tool. If you have been attacked by spammers and cannot remove all the bad links from your site you can use the Link Disavow Tool and delete every one of them easily. This is a bonus for the numerous website owners who have been hit by the Penguin Update and but have not been affected by the penalties yet, they can use this new tool to recover.
The main con to the Link Disavow Tool is by instilling the webmasters with the power to report bad links they also have the power to detect spam. Millions of webmasters will now submit what they believe is spam. Google will in turn use these links in its algorithm to penalize the sites they are reporting as well as any other sites that are linked to these sites. This could be catastrophic for any sites that utilize linkbacks like blog comments, forums, Web 2.0 sites, article directories, website directories, low quality blogs with no human approval system, and social bookmarking accounts. All of these site could potentially get penalized and lose their ranking completely! And to make matters worse, the site that is penalized can cause any sites that is links out to to be penalized as well. It is like a contagion that can continue to poison all the sites it touches.
Many people have complained that the Penguin update gave SEO professionals the power to attack their competitors websites and create bad links to ultimately lower their ranking.
Although the Link Disavow Tool only gives you the power to report links that point back to your site with the Webmaster Tools, it will also give competing industry professionals the opportunity to build links from the same origins as their competitors and then report them as bad links so they will be penalized. It is not a solution to the linkspam problem just a new way for highly competitive business owners to take each other down.
What’s in This For Google?
Google has been clear in letting everyone know that Disavow Links is not a tool that everyone needs and it should be used with caution. That being said, you may wonder what is in all this for Google? And how do you know the difference between a good and a bad link? Google’s goal is that links will support your site and give it relevance. Just as the number of notable sources you site in a scholarly paper give the paper relevance, good links give your site merit.
Good Links Vs. Bad Links:
- Good links are approved by a real person, not an automated system.
- Bad links are automatically generated through software tools and no humans are involved
What do You Do Now?
If you are a website owner there are a few precautionary measures you need to take to avoid penalities:
- Remove any type of link-exchange system from your website
- If you take part in ANY kind of poor quality linking system STOP RIGHT NOW!
- If you have been penalized by Penguin and don’t know how to come back from it, you may benefit from Google’s Disavow Link Tool. It can help you remove the bad links.
The first big game-changer in the SEO game was the Penguin update, now. Google’s new Disavow Links Tool has changed the SEO game once again, and nothing will ever be the same. Now it will be virtually impossible to create automated linkbacks. While this new tools has its pros and cons we must remember it is not for everyone, and we can only hope that it will be used for good and not to get a leg up on the competition.