When I first heard that Google has created a Disavow Tool I got excited thinking that the “Big G” had invented a device that would allow you to cut off all ties and connections from annoying work colleagues.
It turns out that the reality is much less interesting… although potentially as dangerous.
In fact, if you’re giving serious consideration to making use of the Google Disavow Links Tool, I strongly encourage you to take a step back and think seriously about whether this is really in the best interests of your business.
For the uninitiated, Google Disavow is a feature of the Google Webmaster Tools site that allows you to tell Google to ignore specific links that are pointing at your website.
The idea is that if there is an incoming link that you believe is harming your search engine ranking, and you’ve been unsuccessful in getting the link removed directly, then you can “disavow” it and effectively ask Google to discount it from your link profile.
On the surface, this seems like a good idea.
But is it really?
If you think about it we’ve been here before. Google introduces something new and webmasters jump on it as if it’s the cure to all their ills without taking the time to really figure out what might be going on behind the scenes.
I’m not suggesting some kind of deep underlying conspiracy but, let’s face it, Google have never been above withholding information for their own means.
The last time we saw something like this was back in March 2012 when Google sent out around 700,000 emails to site owners that said, in part:
“We’ve detected that some of your site’s pages may be using techniques that are outside Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
“Specifically, look for possibly artificial or unnatural links pointing to your site that could be intended to manipulate PageRank. Examples of unnatural linking could include buying links to pass PageRank or participating in link schemes.
“We encourage you to make changes to your site so that it meets our quality guidelines. Once you’ve made these changes, please submit your site for reconsideration in Google’s search results.
“If you find unnatural links to your site that you are unable to control or remove, please provide the details in your reconsideration request.”
Cue mass panic and webmasters racing to Google Webmasters Tools, confessing their dodgy link building schemes and begging to be reconsidered.
And what happened shortly afterwards?
The Google Penguin update was released.
Is it possible there is some connection between these two events?
Is it too much to suggest that perhaps Google used the information from these reconsideration requests to help them figure out an effective change to their algorithm?
I don’t think that’s too much of a stretch.
And by the same token I think we have to seriously consider the possibility that the Google Disavow Tool is, at least in part, a device to uncover what webmasters consider to be dodgy links and to use this information to help in the construction of future algorithm changes.
I’m not suggesting that this is necessarily a bad thing but I do think it would be smart to wait a few months, allow the dust to settle, and see what kind of feedback comes out of other people using this facility.
Because the real problem with this tool is that we can’t really say with absolute certainty which links are helping your ranking and which are hurting your ranking.
There’s a real possibility here that you could wind up cancelling out links that are actually helping you and unwittingly hurt your rankings far more than the existence of a few low-quality links ever could.
The SEO Method that I teach my students encourages the creation of a well-rounded link profile that consists of a links from a good variety of different places, with plenty of variety in the anchor text, pointing to a variety of different pages within your site.
What we’ve found is that, if you have this strong overall profile, then the occasional dodgy link isn’t sufficient to hurt your ranking or to even affect it at all.
In most cases the people who really got hurt by Google Penguin were those who obsessed over one strategy and got most of their links from one source. That was an easy way to get unwanted Google attention.
So, for the time being at least, let’s leave Google’s Disavow Links Tool alone and see how things have progressed in a few months’ time.
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