About two weeks ago Google launched a link disavow tool. The purpose of the tool is to suggest to Google to disavow bad links to a website for webmasters who have either received a webmaster report with a notice of unnatural links or who have been impacted by the Penguin algorithm update. (If you're not sure whether your site was impacted by the Penguin update read this post.)
What Is The Link Disavow Tool?
For those who haven't yet heard about the link disavow tool I'd recommend reading their official announcement as well as this fairly thorough Q & A between Danny Sullivan and Matt Cutts on the logic and reasoning of the tool. But, in short, Google is now recommending that if your site has been negatively affected by the latest round of algorithm updates targeting bad links you should first take the necessary measures to remove those links altogether. After personally going after the removal of those links you should then submit your website first through the link disavow tool, then through the reconsideration request process a day later.
Reasons Behind Google's Link Disavow Tool
In the official announcement of the disavow tool the purpose was clearly explained as " If you’ve done as much as you can to remove the problematic links, and there are still some links you just can’t seem to get down, that’s a good time to visit our new Disavow links page."
From the front end that is definitely the most apparent reason for the link disavow tool. But other's have been more skeptical about this approach to improving your sites performance after having been impacted by the Penguin update. I have heard questions like:
- Even if we've done all we can to remove bad links how can we be sure Google won't simply dig into the backlinks of our site further and hit us even harder?
- Are we sure Google is using this tool solely out of the goodness of their hearts to help websites that have been hurt?
No matter the scenario you're definitely baring more and more as you submit your website to forms like a reconsideration request or the new link disavow tool. But, historically submissions like this have not had a tendency to produce cascading negative effects. In answer to a question similar to those above Matt Cutts recently said:
Right now, we’re using this data in the normal straightforward way, e.g. for reconsideration requests. We haven’t decided whether we’ll look at this data more broadly. Even if we did, we have plenty of other ways of determining bad sites, and we have plenty of other ways of assessing that sites are actually good. We may do spot checks, but we’re not planning anything more broadly with this data right now. If a webmaster wants to shoot themselves in the foot and disavow high-quality links, that’s sort of like an IQ test and indicates that we wouldn’t want to give that webmaster’s disavowed links much weight anyway. It’s certainly not a scalable way to hurt another site, since you’d have to build a good site, then build up good links, then disavow those good links. Blackhats are normally lazy and don’t even get to the “build a good site” stage.
So, while they presently only intend to use the data for the purpose of assisting websites in recovery it is clear the door will be left open to use this information for more spam mining later on.
So, Is Google Having Trouble Keeping Up With Their Algorithms?
What I mean by this question is this: When Google originally rolled out this new link disavow tool I immediately thought "Has Google lost track of its algorithms and is now concerned they've unleashed an untamed beast." (Well maybe not those exact words, but you get it.) Google may literally be looking at the web and thinking, "man maybe a few of these websites really shouldn't have been hit by this algorithm. They are relevant, they are rich with content, they are usable and helpful. But yes, they do have a few bad links passing to them."
My personal opinion, they are definitely going to be using this data to improve their algorithms so that the impact is more precise and succinct and based less wholly on links and more comprehensively on relevancy, usability, freshness. They may not be using the data yet, but they will be in the near future.
Should You Use Google's Link Disavow Tool
No doubt about it, Google is a behemoth of a machine that any one in the digital marketing arena rides on a daily basis. We are, in many ways, ruled by Google and need to live with it if we are looking to improve revenue and brand through search. I would recommend submitting your website to the link disavow tool only after taking exhaustive measures yourself. They have said that if you do not have something to show for your link extraction efforts (meaning if you haven't gotten at least a few bad links removed) when you submit your website you may not see the improved results you're hoping for.