mat t hewwoodward.co.uk http://www.matthewwoodward.co.uk/tips/why-google-disavow-is-bad-news-for-seo/
Why Google Disavow Is Bad News For SEO
Google has of f icially released the new Disavow Links Tools to webmasters around the world.
It was f irst mentioned at SMX in July and Matt Cutts has now of f icially announced the tool at PubCon.
What Is Google Disavow?
Essentially you upload a list of backlinks and tell Google to ignore them when it is ranking your site.
Here is the of f icial explanation-
“If you believe your site’s ranking
is being harmed by low-quality
links you do not control, you can
ask Google not to take them into
account when assessing your
If you read that and think that is the
holy grail solution to f ix all of your
current ranking issues – stop right now
and think about this properly.
Fixing A Problem Google Created
First of all the only reason we need the Disavow tool is solve a problem that Google created.
Historically Google just used to ignore what the algorithm considered to be a low quality link. In f act in 2009
Google even went as f ar to say not to worry about low quality links.
Since then they have changed their mind on low quality links and instead of ignoring them like they used to,
they now use them as negative votes against a sites ranking.
Negative SEO Is Born
This shif t in the algorithm is what has allowed negative SEO to be so successf ul and easy to do.
Negative SEO has caused Google a huge problem as they gave SEO’s the ability to destroy competitors
In less than 10 minutes and a f ew clicks of a mouse an experienced SEO can cause lasting wide reaching
damage to practically any site they choose.
This is what led Google to create the Disavow tool.
Crowd Sourced Web Spam Team
Essentially the Google Disavow tool is nothing more than a glorif ied crowd sourcing project.
Why try to identif y low quality links via algorithmic signals when you can get an army of millions of webmasters
around the world to do it f or you?
And what better way to motivate that army than by telling them if they do all this work it will help them?
Why It Is Bad For SEO
This is nothing more than a bulk snitching tool dressed up as a solution to a problem it doesn’t actually solve.
Google will be using the data it collects f rom this tool to clean up the web, discount bad links and hand out
penalties lef t, right & centre.
The problem is there are so many SEO’s that don’t really know what they are doing. They are not really sure
what is wrong or why they have being penalised.
It’s these kind of webmasters that will f lock to the Disavow tool in the thousands reporting every link they ever
bought or built to Google even when it’s not a low quality link.
It could be they are f acing an onsite penalty such as Panda or the recent low quality EMD update – but they
actually end up reporting a bunch of links that are actually helping them.
Google will suddenly have huge volumes of data on what real people consider to be low quality links – it would
be naive to think they wouldn’t take action with that amount of data in hand.
A Real Example
Let’s say you used a link building service that delivered great results – you diversif ied the anchor text well and
saw positive movement in the SERPS, f antastic.
Another customer of that service did the same thing but didn’t diversif y anchor text correctly and then got a
Penguin based penalty.
That customer will then go and report all of the links they got f rom the service provider as low quality links and
to ignore them.
But you also have the same ‘low quality’ links pointing at your site…
See the problem here?
It’s also likely that they would report links they have built/ordered f rom other services during that period as well
in an attempt to undo the damage putting even more webmasters at risk.
Grass En Masse
The data Google collects f rom this tool only serves to hurt SEO’s.
You might f ind some of your most valuable backlinks have being discounted because someone else has
incorrectly reported them as low quality.
You only have to spend 5 minutes on DigitalPoint to realise how scary giving other people that kind of power
Didn’t Google learn anything f rom the negative SEO mess they created?
Does It Solve The Problem?
The whole point of the Disavow tool is to help protect against negative SEO attacks etc
But does it actually solve the problem?
No is the answer
Legitimate websites owners now have the added responsibility of monitoring and cleaning up their link prof ile –
something that used to be done at the algorithm level.
The Disavow tool won’t protect people against penalties – most webmasters don’t anticipate a penalty and are
only aware of problems when they are penalised.
By that point it’s too late, the site has already tanked out of the rankings and the damage is done.
You then have to spend the next f ew months cleaning things up, of ten due to no f ault of your own.
So does the tool protect against negative SEO attacks? Not even a little bit – all it does is help in cleaning up
the af termath of an attack.
Food For Thought
I can create millions of low quality link per day at the click of a button – Do you think a webmaster with the
Disavow tool could keep up with that volume?
I doubt it.
They would have to spend all day every day going through the links and by the time they’ve done that…. I’ve
built a million more while I was asleep.
So what is the point?
Reading Between The Lines
What all of this actually tells me is that Google are having a hard time keeping up with modern day link spam.
It has got to the point now where some link building tactics are so advanced that Google just cannot identif y
the spam via an algorithm anymore and need to crowd source the discovery and identif ication of link spam.
It’s ironic because Google put a lot of ef f ort into f ear mongering and claiming their algorithms are more
sophisticated than they actually are.
Then in the next breath they drop their pants & wave the white f lag by releasing the Disavow tool.
Credit Where It Is Due
Google created this tool to solve a
problem they created that they cannot
They clearly lack the ability to identif y
and discount ‘low quality’ links at the
algorithm level so have dressed up the
disavow tool in a way that enslaves an
army of unknowing grasses.
Credit where it is due! That is a superb
piece of marketing right there, there is
one problem though…
The New Age of Negative
What provides additional comical value
is that you can use Disavow tool – you know the one to protect against negative SEO attacks, to launch
negative SEO attacks against your competitors.
What happens if a site gets multiple reports against it via the Disavow tool? Does Google downgrade that
sites authority? What’s stopping me f rom logging multiple complaints against the same site?
It wouldn’t be that dif f icult to do.
You could use trackback spam to get your link onto the competitor’s site and then report it as a low quality link.
Do that 100 times with 100 dif f erent webmaster tool accounts & sites and you’re laughing! Heck I could even
automate the entire process end to end with a series of web 2.0 sites, Scrapebox and Webmaster Tools
Not that the Disavow tool even protects against the initial attack anyway, you can still take a site out with
negative SEO just as easily now as you could bef ore.
Now we just have another tool in the negative SEO arsenal, thanks Google!
Welcome to the new age of Negative SEO.
Don’t Be A Mong
So in summary, don’t be a mong by using the Disavow tool.
Leave the monging to Google, they are doing a f antastic job at that on their own.