For those of you who don’t work in our industry, or have been hiding under a rock somewhere for the last few days, Matt Cutts, head of Google’s spam team, recently announced the tool as a way for webmasters to disassociate themselves from links that they think may be harming their rankings.
Our view here at Return On Digital is that webmasters should proceed with caution before using this new tool. After the carnage that was Penguin, Panda and the other various updates which have happened in the last few months, a lot of sites lost a large amount of web traffic overnight and the resulting fall in revenue has crippled many businesses.
Obviously there will be many businesses desperate to recover their rankings and to get their businesses on the track. Many SEOs will no doubt have dived straight in and used the tool with their fingers crossed, hoping that their traffic will come back soon as a result.
The disavow tool is probably not the “Get Out Of Jail Free” card which many have been hoping for, however. If you think about it, there is no way that Google would allow a situation to arise whereby webmasters could use spammy link tactics to manipulate rankings until the point where they get caught and then allow them to simply disavow those links to get out of the penalty.
I think we need to think about Google’s motives. Let’s look at some possible reasons for releasing the tool:
- a) They have decided to give sites who have used manipulative link building tactics in the past the chance to clean up their act as a gesture of goodwill.
- b) They have realised that the Penguin update actually reduced the quality of their search results and want a face -saving way to allow good quality sites with bad backlink profiles to rise back to the top.
- c) They are setting a trap for sites which they haven’t caught out yet but who have been sweating over their unnatural link profile
- d) They want a way to deal with the increasing problem of “negative SEO” which has become increasingly common after the Penguin update.
- e) They want to use to data to find more sites which are selling links, link networks which they haven’t located yet or other links which violate their terms and conditions and punish accordingly.
In my view, it has nothing to do with a) and b). I don't think c) can be ruled out. I do think, however, that it has a lot to do with d) and e). If I am right and it is actually a clever way for Google to collect more data on spammy links, I think we can expect more carnage in the SERPS in the coming months.
Let me know what you think about the disavow tool on Twitter or in the comments below, I'd be interested to hear what others think about it.