How to Use the Google Disavow Tool for NOT Against Negative SEO
Google first created the problem of so called negative SEO by taking “manual action” on links webmasters have no control over. Instead of just discounting “unnatural links” pointing to a site Google will make you responsible for them even though other webmasters point those links at your site.
So we have a situation where people buy spammy links to your site to make it disappear from search results. Or people get paid to remove links pointing to your site.
Some of them will even blackmail you, either you pay or they keep on linking to you. It’s a bizarre situation where Google is judge, jury and executioner in a crime case that hasn’t existed on the Web prior to Google. The outcome is simple: people are afraid of links as a whole and do not trust each other. Linking to other sites gets even more risky as you may get a cease and desist note from a lawyer and so on.
Now Google offers a solution for the problem it created, a so called link disavow tool.
You can use it to tell Google which links pointing to your site you do not trust. You can make Google discount these links then. Now let us look at the problem at hand again. Does the disavow tool solve it?
- We are still responsible for third party links pointing to our site
- We have still to monitor those links
- We can still get penalized for being linked to by other webmasters.
The only thing that has changed is that we have a higher workload. We need to tell Google manually about each link we deem suspicious. So Google gets lots of reports. They need them because they can’t find an algorithmic way to deal with them.
Google needs crowdsourcing by real people to do the work of sifting through the Web to find the spam. They just needed to motivate the people to do the work.
Now let’s look again at the problem of negative SEO in general. Does it get solved y the disavow tool? No. You can even use the disavow tool for negative SEO. I don’t mean against or to combat negative SEO. I really mean using the Google disavow tool to hurt your competition.
Now don’t kill the messenger. I don’t recommend negative SEO and I consider it highly unethical to try to hurt your competition by negative SEO tactics like Google Bowling (pointing bad links at competitors). Still I have to tell you what risks come with the disavow tool.
Imagine the following situation: I write a guest post on a site A and link back to my own site B. Then I use the disavow tool to tell Google to discount the link from site A. A week later I write another guest post on site A using a different name and mail address and linking to another site, C. Again I disavow the link from site A to site C afterwards. I repeat the process and after a while several sites have reported site A as not trustworthy. Can site A get penalized for it?
Now you may infer that this is an unlikely scenario. Who would go to such great lengths to hurt the competition?
Well, you just need to hire some submission service. There are millions of Indians waiting to do this for a few bucks. There are even easier way to to use the disavow tool for negative SEO. So called trackbacks and pingbacks are perfect. You can make other sites and blogs link to you simply by linking to them. The blog software (e.g. WordPress) will take care of it. You ping the site A from several sites, B, C, D etc. and then you disavow the links from site A. Again Google receives many reports of bad links from site A. It’s probable that site A gets downranked at least a bit.
Why would Google allow this again? Why do they allow negative SEO in the first place?
I have explained already why it makes sense for Google to make links a risky business and to actually make the foundation of the Web, hypertext a thing of the past. Google wants to push its own proprietary kind of Web, based on real names, authorship markup and Google controlled +1 links in the long run. In the short run they want myriads of webmasters to submit spam reports to make their broken algorithm work again as long as it is still based on links.
So the disavow tool is not a solution of the negative SEO problem it just makes things worse by creating more negative SEO opportunities.
Btw. I consider disavowing links from SEO blogs I have written for who haven’t paid me. Also I could ask my peers to do the same thing. After all I got cheated. There are many more reasons to use the disavow tool for negative SEO. This is just a short post though.
* Creative Commons image by Ashley Rose