Why The Google Disavow Tool Is Bad News For SEO

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The new Google disavow tool has officially been released to all webmasters.

Allowing them to disavow links at will.

It was first mentioned at SMX in July…

And Matt Cutts has now officially announced the tool at PubCon.

What Is The Google Disavow Tool?

What the Google Disavow tool does is allow you to upload links and tell Google to ignore them when it is ranking your site.

Publishers have control over whether Google will disavow certain links on their site.

Disavow links with the Google disavow tool

Here is the official 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 site.”

If you read that and think that is the holy grail solution to fix 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 to disavow links is to solve a problem.

(That Google created)

Historically Google just used to ignore what the algorithm considered to be a low-quality link. In fact in 2009 Google even went as far 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 site’s ranking.

Stuck in the Google sandbox period? Read my guide to learn how to get out of Google sandbox as quickly as possible.

Negative SEO Is Born

This shift in the algorithm is what has allowed negative SEO to be so successful and easy to do.

Negative SEO has caused Google a huge problem as they gave SEO’s the ability to destroy competitors businesses.

In less than 10 minutes and a few 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

The Google Disavow tool is nothing more than a glorified crowd sourcing project.

Why try to identify low quality links via algorithmic signals when you can get an army of millions of webmasters around the world to do it for 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 from this tool to clean up the web, disavow links and hand out penalties left, 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 been penalised.

It’s these kind of webmasters that will flock to the Google 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 facing 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 diversified the anchor text well and saw positive movement in the SERPS, fantastic.

Another customer of that service did the same thing but didn’t diversify anchor text correctly and then got a Penguin based penalty.

That customer will then go and report all of the links they got from 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 from 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 from this tool only serves to hurt SEO’s.

stop snitching with the Google link disavow tool

You might find 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 actually is.

Didn’t Google learn anything from 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 profile – 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 few months cleaning things up, often due to no fault 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 aftermath 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 Google Disavow tool could keep up with that volume?

I doubt it.

They would have to spend all day every day going through them to disavow 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 identify the spam via an algorithm anymore and need to crowd source the discovery and identification of link spam.

It’s ironic because Google put a lot of effort into fear mongering and claiming their algorithms are more sophisticated than they actually are.

Then in the next breath they drop their pants & wave the white flag by releasing the Disavow tool.

head desk meme

Credit Where It Is Due

Google created this tool to solve a problem they created that they cannot solve algorithmically.

They clearly lack the ability to identify 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 SEO

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 from logging multiple complaints against the same site?

It wouldn’t be that difficult 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 different 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 accounts.

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 before.

Now we just have another tool in the negative SEO arsenal, thanks Google!

Welcome to the new age of Negative SEO.

Don’t Disavow Links

So in summary, don’t use the Google Disavow tool to disavow links.

You will only be feeding the fire further!