I would wager that Web and SEO professionals have almost certainly made a massive dent in the nation’s supplies of both Red Bull and hard alcohol over the past few days. It reminds me a bit of last April, when Google rolled out its Penguin update, and websites all over the Internet saw huge chunks of traffic vaporize.
This time, it’s the new disavow tool, designed to take the sting out of low-quality inbound links and introduced with a warning to use it sparingly, if at all.
Google Disavow is a tool website administrators can use to remove “spammy links” to a site. Having a lot of “spammy links” to a site — from sites such as link farms, porn sites, or paid link campaigns — actually lowers your rankings at Google. You can’t prevent other sites from linking to you, however, and some sites do not respond to takedown requests. Google Disavow lets site administrators upload a list of links they want removed from their link profile. If Google thinks the request is genuine, it will “reconsider” the site’s Google rank, leaving out the spammy links.
Here is a complete 10-minute rundown by Google’s Matt Cutts:
Cutts even says in his video that they are well aware of the fact that some people will just dive in and start killing links left, right, and center. The thing I find interesting is that due to the timing, we can almost certainly identify one group of people that will probably do so: the political class.
I wrote last week about Mitt Romney accidentally Google bombing himself. Do you really think someone on his team is not seriously looking at this as a tool for mitigating the damage? Likewise, with Obama’s Web team, I’m sure there is a huge number of inbound links they would love to consign to oblivion. Even knowing that it might take weeks before there is any visible impact will be little impediment, I am sure.
For more info on this latest shakeup in the wonderful world of PageRank here are some pertinent resources:
- “Google’s Disavow Tool — Take a Deep Breath” by Dr. Pete at SEOmoz is incredibly comprehensive – the best rundown I’ve seen so far. It includes walkthroughs with screenshots as well as analysis of exactly when to use it (hint: not often).
- Another solid, in-depth piece on the subject comes from Stone Tapes at I Programmer: “Google’s Disavow Link Tool.” This is a good middle ground between Dr. Pet’e's lengthy treatment and shorter works meant only to give an overview.
- The official info is in the post on Google’s Webmaster Central blog.
So, what are your thoughts on the potential uses and abuses of this tool? Let us know!
George "Loki" Williams is the owner of SocialGumbo, LLC, an online consultancy specializing in Web content, community management and social media. Loki has produced content for clients including the Open Society Institute, National Association of Broadcasters and Kaiser Permanente. He is one of the organizers of the Rising Tide Conference in New Orleans, and his work has been seen or written about in The New York Times, The BBC, Air America, and NOLA.com, among others.