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Should using the Disavow Tool make you worry?
tedster




msg:4564407
 1:33 am on Apr 13, 2013 (gmt 0)

In another thread about Penguin and trackbacks [webmasterworld.com], TheOptimizationIdiot brought up a side topic that I think is worth discussing on its own.

I think it's pretty poor the way quite a few "SEOs" spread the FUD for Google on the disavow rather than exercising some simple reasoning and letting people know part of the reason it was introduced was:
  • to be able to help in negative SEO situations
  • and/or in a situation where you hire a SEO and they do something wrong without your knowledge
  • and/or in a situation where you actually built some spammy links...

  • I agree with this - and the FUD in the SEO community seems to be growing into some pretty strong "group think".

    Not only do these three situations make plenty of sense, I remember that before the Disavow Tool was ever created, many webmasters and SEOs were crying out for a way to disavow bad backlinks. Then the tool got offered and immediately the cry was "don't use it - you're confessing to wrong doing if you do."

    As TheOptimizationIdiot observed in the original thread, "there's really nothing to confess to if you receive an unnatural links notice, because you're already 'had' by the algo."

    How do others see the disavow tool? Do you stay away from it for concern about giving your site a reputation as a spammer?

     

    Str82u




    msg:4564412
     2:30 am on Apr 13, 2013 (gmt 0)

    Common sense doesn't seem to play into my thinking about the tool. As I think about the question, there are a few sites linking to us I've wanted to disavow for a while but haven't for fear that they aren't as harmful as they look.... 6000+ links from a so-called "search engine" probably isn't helping either.

    AdWords are the only time we've bought links.

    micklearn




    msg:4564424
     5:35 am on Apr 13, 2013 (gmt 0)

    I view the disavow tool as, "Our algorithms aren't working as well as we wish we could and offshoring quality raters was a bad idea. Please help us out for free."

    netmeg




    msg:4564475
     1:16 pm on Apr 13, 2013 (gmt 0)

    It's not an issue for me, but even if links were an issue for me, I'd not use it because I don't have enough information on what it signals or what it does. I suspect that a lot of people have taken out perfectly harmless links with it. Don't wish to join them.

    (And yea, a lot of the people screaming about the disavow tool were the same ones screaming for it before it was announced. But I wasn't one of them.)

    rish3




    msg:4564489
     2:15 pm on Apr 13, 2013 (gmt 0)

    I remember that before the Disavow Tool was ever created, many webmasters and SEOs were crying out for a way to disavow bad backlinks. Then the tool got offered and immediately the cry was "don't use it - you're confessing to wrong doing if you do."


    Yeah, well, that's directly related to the way Matt Cutts rolled it out. Here's a direct cut-and-paste quote from Mr Cutts:

    Q: Can this tool be used if I'm worried about "negative SEO"?
    A: The primary purpose of this tool is to help clean up if you've hired a bad SEO or made mistakes in your own link-building.


    Sounds like he feels the tool is solely a confessional booth.

    TheOptimizationIdiot




    msg:4564512
     4:03 pm on Apr 13, 2013 (gmt 0)

    Maybe watching the Negative SEO video would help:
    [youtube.com...]

    Also, if you've hired an SEO (the first thing he says in the quote above), that's not you doing it or confessing to anything except getting "taken" by someone who didn't do their job right and may have hosed you in the process.

    So, what his statement that's posted verbatim actually says isn't about "confessing" to doing anything, expect somehow having links that look unnatural to your site. Much like in a negative SEO situation, his statement says it makes it easy to undo what you or someone else did.

    They don't need you to report it or "tell on yourself", they already know the links, maybe better than many site owners. They're giving people a way to clear those links up regardless of who built them.

    I doubt if they would ever rely on webmasters to "tell on themselves" or "do anything" except build a site, because it doesn't scale to every site on the web, and they like to do things that scale.

    netmeg




    msg:4564517
     5:03 pm on Apr 13, 2013 (gmt 0)

    Yea well, I'm not likely to hire an SEO.

    TheOptimizationIdiot




    msg:4564519
     5:09 pm on Apr 13, 2013 (gmt 0)

    Yea well, I'm not likely to hire an SEO.

    Google doesn't know that ;)

    ken_b




    msg:4564520
     5:17 pm on Apr 13, 2013 (gmt 0)

    Isn't there something in there about wanting webmasters to include a note explaining what measures they've taken to get the unwanted links removed?

    TheOptimizationIdiot




    msg:4564521
     5:23 pm on Apr 13, 2013 (gmt 0)

    That's in the Reinclusion Request. AFAIK you can disavow links without a Reinclusion Request just by uploading a file and any comments you make in that file are for your personal reference only.

    TheOptimizationIdiot




    msg:4564522
     5:27 pm on Apr 13, 2013 (gmt 0)

    Also, for general information, from the support section:

    This is an advanced feature and should only be used with caution. If used incorrectly, this feature can potentially harm your site’s performance in Google’s search results. We recommend that you disavow backlinks only if you believe you have a considerable number of spammy, artificial, or low-quality links pointing to your site, and if you are confident that the links are causing issues for you. In most cases, Google can assess which links to trust without additional guidance, so most normal or typical sites will not need to use this tool.

    [support.google.com...]

    And more directly about the uploaded file comments / what's been done to remove links: (Emphasis Added)

    Your text file can include additional information about excluded links, as long as each line of description begins with the "#" character (all lines beginning with # will be ignored).

    It's optional to include that type of information in the uploaded file.

    netmeg




    msg:4564597
     12:13 am on Apr 14, 2013 (gmt 0)

    Google doesn't know that ;)


    Oh yes they do.

    Str82u




    msg:4564618
     2:10 am on Apr 14, 2013 (gmt 0)

    @netmeg
    Google doesn't know that ;)
    Oh yes they do.

    Can you say how you mean that? Do you mean that most SEOs one would hire are going to make it obvious what they are doing?

    I never bought links for any site but still get that funny feeling that there is a slight amount of "confession" built into the Disavow tool, like the webmaster is telling G "Maybe you should have a closer look at this site" in the same way that if we all spilled out links to our best sites then checked each other, we could probably find something to call spammy.

    TheOptimizationIdiot




    msg:4564619
     2:11 am on Apr 14, 2013 (gmt 0)

    Can you say how you mean that?

    They're Google, much like Freud, they're way ahead of their time. They know! lol

    diberry




    msg:4564722
     2:55 pm on Apr 14, 2013 (gmt 0)

    I'm with netmeg. I WANT to believe Google did this just because webmasters were begging for it, and that they will use the data collected very carefully, but no one really knows what they're going to do with it.

    While I do not think Google = evil, I do think feeding them more info just helps them continue their estblished dominance, and I think users and webmasters alike would benefit from a diffusion of power into the hands of several or many online.

    vtalerico




    msg:4566191
     1:56 am on Apr 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

    Here's a funny story. So funny, I hit up threads in 05 on a issue, regarding the big ol' House of Spam project and Dr. Sky. Ironically, I'm back again. I'm going to resurrect the old thread for a G Crusader Cut, but first...I've played out every possible option. Documented every motion. Burned my candles and for what? Tell me to play fair again, and I'll jump :)

    Drive the blue car Jim. Jim, blue cars put you in jail now. But Jim, I haven't driven a blue car since 1969? See you in jail Jim. Content is king...pff.

    I can't wait to dance the "I ate the apple story." Oh, the Disavow Tool? Nope, the Disavow Tool does not make me worry. Disavow Tool 2013? :) Redic.

    I'm a little edgy if you haven't been able to discern, but sincerely a good dude with some white data...

    Whitey




    msg:4566207
     2:54 am on Apr 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

    [webmasterworld.com...]

    There's nothing certain about it's effects and how the data is being used by Google in the greater scheme of things. Perhaps when/if Penguin takes in the information we may feel better. But for those cleaning up their sites, I guess they have more to loose by not using it. Who knows? Uncertainty = concern

    TheOptimizationIdiot




    msg:4566211
     3:22 am on Apr 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

    There was a link to an interview with former Google employees Brett_Tabke retweeted here somewhere and I can't find it right now, but I think that's where I read the disavow information is not used except to remotely nofollow links, presently.

    (Yes, I added presently in my best MC fashion, because who knows what their decsions will be in the future, but as of now, recently, I remember reading from a fairly authoritative source -- former or current employee -- they do not use the data except as "nofollowing" the links specified and there was another thread here from a current Google employee interview in EU (I think) that said it does not even harm the site being disavowed.)

    As always, DYODD, but as far as any official word or information goes, as of recently and to the best of my knowledge, they do not use the data in any way, except for you to say "don't count these links".

    Robert Charlton




    msg:4566247
     7:14 am on Apr 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

    ...there was another thread here from a current Google employee interview in EU (I think) that said it does not even harm the site being disavowed.)

    This is that thread, which I posted about two months ago, reporting an interview which Senior Member pontifex conducted with a Google employee in the EU about the use of the tool....

    Best practices for using the Google disavow tool, confirmed
    Feb 3, 2013
    http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4542078.htm [webmasterworld.com]

    Summary of the answers from Google that pontifex reported....
    "I would concentrate on the links reported in the Webmaster Tools on Google"
    "Do not worry about damaging other people, that does not happen"
    "Be aware of the site-wide disavow possibility, it will make your life easier" have been the key sentences in his reply. I am thankful for such a definite answer and thought I’d share it here.

    I think the discussion is essential reading for anyone considering using the tool. While it should allay some of "the FUD in the SEO community" cited above, I think that there are some in the community who really should be careful about using the tool, because they basically don't know what they're doing. They may have built links not knowing whether the links they were getting were good links or bad links, and now they're afraid of removing them for pretty much the same reason.

    They may believe they've been hit by negative SEO, because they know so little about their own site and link quality that "negative SEO" is the easiest alternative for them to accept. I think that combating assumed negative SEO if you don't have a strong SEO background is a dangerous use of the tool.

    And there are some... either overwhelmed by the task, or else afraid of revealing their own private networks... who throw in the towel and want to wipe the slate clean by disavowing everything, which thus far Google apparently hasn't been willing to do. Among other things, Google doesn't want to allow people to completely shoot themselves in the foot... and I don't think that Google wants to allow people to evade their own actions either. Here's a discussion where I don't feel we have full diagnosis or disclosure, sad in either case....

    My Google Disavow Story
    Nov 13, 2012
    http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4518736.htm [webmasterworld.com]

    I still feel, as I mentioned in the discussion, that Google does want to extract some information... though I'm now thinking less for discovery and more to confirm its own data. If the tool itself could be used to "damage other people", it would be a negative SEO tool by itself. What pontifex reports in his interview makes sense... Google doesn't want to allow the tool to be used that way.

    I also think, in the case of Penguin manual actions/penalties, that there is a punishment aspect to this, and that Google does want the process to require some sweat, along with some self-awareness and thorough analysis.

    Whitey




    msg:4566333
     12:59 pm on Apr 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

    and I don't think that Google wants to allow people to evade their own actions either. Here's a discussion where I don't feel we have full diagnosis or disclosure, sad in either case....

    Go too hard and you'll certainly loose some or most, if not all rankings. Go too light and you risk the pre announced major Penguin 2 of at least a similar demise.

    Half the sites on the net in competitive categories that used aggressive linking to rank, if not more would be wondering which way to turn. Y/N?

    aristotle




    msg:4567167
     12:51 am on Apr 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

    I also think, in the case of Penguin manual actions/penalties, that there is a punishment aspect to this, and that Google does want the process to require some sweat, along with some self-awareness and thorough analysis.

    I'm not sure what you mean by "punishment". Could you be referring to punishment for excessive SEO activities?

    It has occurred to me that Penguin is at least partly intended to be a retaliation against the SEO community, especially since many of the affected websites provided relevant high-quality content for their targeted search terms, and were demoted for SEO activity rather than any intrinsic deficiency of the site itself.

    It has also occurred to me that Google is purposefully delaying the next Penguin update in order to prolong the suffering of the owners of affected sites until sufficient "punishment" (in their view) has been inflicted.

    Str82u




    msg:4573166
     9:32 pm on May 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

    Here's what I keep playing over and over about this tool week after week. There are lots of so called directories or Q&A sites linking to us tens to hundreds to thousands of times, I don't think they are helpful but believe G doesn't count them at all, our traffic doesn't seem to be suffering or maybe I just haven't seen our site's full potential.

    Thing is, we never bought links and with the belief that G is not counting links from "filler" sites, why use the tool? I'm itching too, seriously, those links make my skin crawl, but that's not enough reason to start a list is it?

    Another question about justifying using the tool, what about just disavowing, or starting the disavow list, from the sites with links that cause errors? Ask would have to be the first one on the list. Is that enough justification to use the tool or should I just let it be?

    The linking domains are mostly silmfgx.familydoctors or superdupersearch dot something and the like.

    TheOptimizationIdiot




    msg:4573317
     6:42 pm on May 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

    Another question about justifying using the tool, what about just disavowing, or starting the disavow list, from the sites with links that cause errors?

    Those links happen naturally on the Internet. Someone makes a typo in the URL of a link. Someone links to the right page on the wrong domain. Someone links to .php rather than .html or .html rather than extensionless. Links to error pages happen.

    As long as the links pointing to the error pages are not on your site internally, I have not heard of issues from them. (It's too easy for anyone to tank anyone else's site they feel like by throwing up millions of links to non-existent pages if inbound links to 404 pages hurt the site the 404s are on.)

    If you can figure out what page they're pointing to, you might redirect them, but otherwise I'd personally leave them as 404 and not use this tool, except as it's intended to be used.

    Why? Because if it works and the links you disavow are really dropped from the graph I think it's entirely possible you could algorithmically shoot yourself in the foot by creating an unnatural link profile.

    No inbound links to 404 pages?
    No "ugly links" from scrapers?

    What type of site has that type of profile? CNN, Apple, or someone trying to manipulate their rankings with links.

    Personally, I would not fixing things with the disavow tool that aren't within Google's recommendations for using it.

    I think one of the biggest problems people have wrt rankings is they seem to think "more is better" rather than "right is better" and end up "overdoing", but when "natural" is the standard, "over" could (would imo) easily be as bad as "under". Natural is natural. More and less than natural are both out of line with the standard.

    Serve a custom 404 error page to make your site better for visitors. Redirect the links to the correct page for visitor convenience if you can. But "totally manicure" you link profile that doesn't seem to be hurting you? IMO Don't fix what's not broken, especially when the fix is to use a tool in a way that's not within it's stated reasons for use.

    rish3




    msg:4573816
     2:00 am on May 14, 2013 (gmt 0)

    Also, if you've hired an SEO (the first thing he says in the quote above), that's not you doing it or confessing to anything except getting "taken" by someone who didn't do their job right and may have hosed you in the process.


    The OP made the point that there was FUD around the tool. I feel like part of that FUD was driven by the rollout message that implied that the only reasons to use it were:

    a) you created unnatural links yourself
    b) you hired someone, and they created unnatural links

    This leaves out a few real-life situations, like "I bought a domain/website and didn't know about some existing links", and a few others as well.

    Big G, is of course, free to message it however they want. I feel like a softer pitch would have reduced the FUD.

    Shaddows




    msg:4574010
     9:30 am on May 14, 2013 (gmt 0)

    I feel like a softer pitch would have reduced the FUD.


    FUD is a core plank of Google's messaging strategy, usually as one half of a dual-prong attack.

    On one hand, they create the fear, uncertainty and doubt, and on the other, they are the benevolent purveyors of the solution. They define the sin, and provide the absolution.

    The sacred document that is the Webmaster Guidelines tells you how to live a Good Life, the shrine of WMT provides personal guidance, while the Distinguished Clergy provide clarification on thorny issues of interpretation of the dogma.

    In the specific case of this tool, they need people to FEAR paid links. They don't want SEOs to feel they have a free hand to buy links, then disavow them when caught. They need the tool to be punishing.

    You have sinned. You must confess. You will serve penance.

    Any similarities to existing power structures are entirely coincidental

    Str82u




    msg:4574015
     9:50 am on May 14, 2013 (gmt 0)

    @toi
    Those links happen naturally on the Internet
    Oh my no, for that I wasn't referring to naturally occurring, natural errors.

    I'm inclined to agree with you though, the way you put it especially, 404 links are natural. Even purposeful bad linking domains vanish. I've found, since posting last, that about 25% are either expired or the host shut them down. For the really bad ones we do a bit better than 404.

    On a similar note; Some links we used to have to our own sites that have been removed for 2 years or more are still listed so it's obvious that GWT is a bit behind to begin with.

    Leosghost




    msg:4574017
     10:28 am on May 14, 2013 (gmt 0)

    @Shaddows..Thankyou..I start my day with a smile..:)

    diberry




    msg:4574067
     3:02 pm on May 14, 2013 (gmt 0)

    Shaddows, +1.

    Whitey




    msg:4578783
     11:16 pm on May 28, 2013 (gmt 0)

    Does anyone know of any site-owners with "unnatural link notices" that were unaffected by Penguin 2.0

    I may have missed something, but think it's important to receive feedback on, as many folks were waiting to see "what happened". [webmasterworld.com...]

    I posted over here, but no-one responded, so reposted here.

    Perhaps it's more relevant, assuming folks who didn't respond to the unnatural link notices with the disavow tool would have read this.

    Also, could I additionally ask if any folks that didn't do anything were hit by Penguin 2.0 [ I assume there were ].

    Can we have some inputs - I think it would be helpful to know especially from the "unaffected ones".

    tedster




    msg:4578786
     11:18 pm on May 28, 2013 (gmt 0)

    Definitely, yes - and I've known their site quite well for two years. They were worried about the unnatural links notice and I told them to do nothing unless their search traffic dropped. It hasn't so far.

    This 35 message thread spans 2 pages: 35 ( [1] 2 > >
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