In Google’s never-ending quest to “end the search,” changes to their search algorithms and processes are many and swift. Their latest modification includes penalizing sites that have excessive back links. The following article, from SEOMoz, attempts to clear up the confusion regarding Google’s new disavow tool. Read the article and decide if you want to use this new tool or not.
At Pubcon Las Vegas on Tuesday (10/16), Google’s Matt Cutts announced a new tool to disavow links. After absorbing the news for a day, I have some advice – put down the keyboard and the Red Bull and breathe. Breathe in, breathe out, and then repeat.
As Uncle Ben said to Peter Parker, “With great power comes great responsibility, and my rice turns out Perfect Every Time®” – or something like that. My SEO friends are already reporting that their customers are asking to have links removed, and this has the potential to get ugly fast. I think this is, on balance, a good tool (one particularly handsome SEO petitioned Google for a text-file-based disavow back in December of 2011), but it also has the potential for serious destruction.
I. Who Should Use It?
I’m going to write this post backwards, for two reasons. First, if you’ve read about the disavow tool, you’ve already seen how it works, so I’ll save that for last. Second, if you haven’t read about it, I don’t want you to just run off and use it before I get my sermon on. So, sit down in your pew and listen.
Especially now, with almost no data about the tool’s effectiveness, there are really only a few groups of people who should consider using the disavow tool, in my opinion. If you fall into one of these groups, then proceed – with caution…
1. You’ve Received Bad Link Warnings
While people have had mixed reactions to Google’s bad link warnings, and there has been at least one false alarm, bad link warnings in Google Webmaster Tools are currently the only direct signal from Google that they have a problem with your link profile. The warnings look something like this:
If you’ve received a direct warning, you’re pretty sure which links are suspect, and you haven’t been able to get them removed, then the disavow tool may be for you.
2. You’ve Been Manually Penalized
I hesitate to add this one, because determining if you’ve been penalized can be more art than science, but if your site has clearly been hit with a manual penalty, you’re reasonably certain that penalty is link-based, and you haven’t been able to get those links removed, then disavowal may be up your alley.
3. You Were Denied Reconsideration
If you’ve been trying to fix (1) bad-link warnings or (2) a link-based penalty for months, with no success, then disavowal is a logical next step. Google has not been forgiving about these situations, and even if you’ve filed for reconsideration, will often not take action unless the majority of your bad links have been removed. Sometimes, that’s just not feasible, so now you have one more option.
4. You’ve Been Hit By Penguin
Diagnosing Penguin can be a bit tricky, but your best clue is a clear traffic drop on or immediately after April 24, 2012 (the release date of Penguin 1.0). To the best of our knowledge, Penguin primarily targeted aggressive link-building strategies, especially excessive use of unnatural anchor text. If you can fix those links (diversify anchor text and/or remove bad links), that’s your best option, but if you’re still struggling with Penguin then the disavow tool may be useful to you.
Keep in mind that we’re still unclear on the Penguin update cycle, specifically whether you can recover outside of a Penguin data update (and there have only been two of those – May 25, 2012 and October 5, 2012 – as of this writing). Add to this Google’s statements that disavowal could take weeks, and the new tool is far from a magic wand for dispelling Penguins.
This has no real relevance to SEO, but Facebook added a Penguin emoticon this week <(“), and it’s the greatest thing ever. Please use it with reckless abandon.