Google's Matt Cutts gave a keynote "You and A" presentation at SMX Advanced this week, and mentioned that Google is considering offering a tool that would let webmasters disavow certain links.
Would you find such a tool useful? Let us know in the comments.
Matt McGee at SMX sister site Search Engine Land liveblogged the conversation. Here's his quote of Cutts, which was in response to a question about negative SEO:
The story of this year has been more transparency, but we’re also trying to be better about enforcing our quality guidelines. People have asked questions about negative SEO for a long time. Our guidelines used to say it’s nearly impossible to do that, but there have been cases where that’s happened, so we changed the wording on that part of our guidelines.
Some have suggested that Google could disavow links. Even though we put in a lot of protection against negative SEO, there’s been so much talk about that that we’re talking about being able to enable that, maybe in a month or two or three.
We recently wrote about Google's wording change regarding negative SEO, which seemed to be an admission from the company that this practice is indeed possible. These words from Cutts seem to be further confirmation.
Rand Fishkin, CEO of SEOmoz, recently issued a challenge to people to show that if you have a strong enough reputation and link profile, you can't be hurt by negative SEO. That seemed to go pretty well, but not everyone has the reputation of SEOmoz, even if they don't necessarily have a bad one. Such a tool from Google could go a long way in helping combat negative SEO practices.
As far as people suggesting that Google could disavow links, Search Engine Land editor Barry Schwartz actually had a pretty good article talking about this last month. "The concept is simple," he wrote. "You go to your link report in Google Webmaster Tools and have an action button that says 'don't trust this link' or something like it. Google will then take that as a signal to not use that link as part of their link graph and ranking algorithm."
"What I can't understand is why hasn't Google released it yet," he wrote. "It is a great way for Google to do mass spam reporting by webmasters and SEOs without calling it spam reporting. You will have all these webmasters rush after a penalty to call out which links they feel are hurting them. Google can take that data to back up their algorithms to on links they already know are spam but also find new links that they might not have caught."
He went on to make the point that Google would find more spam this way.
Once Google launches this tool, assuming that it actually does, it will be very interesting to see how the rankings shake out. It should be an indication of just how important links actually are these days.
As you may know, Google has sent out a ton of Webmaster Tools warnings this year, and such a tool would help users take quick "manual action" on links rather than spend a ton of time sending link removal requests to other sites. It might even prevent some lawsuits (and the death of the web as we know it).
According to Cutts, however, not many of the warnings were actually about links.
@VegasWill that's the right range. I may pull the stats just to help clarify.
Update: Here's his clarification:
The reason for sending the 700,000 messages via Webmaster Tools was actually because we started sending out warnings about blackhat techniques. The vast, vast majority of manual actions we take are on pages that are engaging in egregious blackhat SEO techniques, such as automatically created gibberish or cloaking.
In fact, of the messages that we sent out to site owners, only around 3% were for unnatural or artificial links. So just to be clear, of the 700,000 messages we sent out in January and February, well above 600,000 were for obvious blackhat spam, and under 25,000 of the messages were for unnatural links. #smx #seo
Google Sent Over 700,000 Messages Via Webmaster Tools In Past Two Months
At SMX West last week Tiffany Oberoi from Google shared that Google has sent over 700,000 messages to webmasters via Google Webmaster Tools in January and February 2012. That is more than the total nu...
By the way, Google only sends those messages when it's a penalty, and penalties, as far as Google is concerned, are manual action.
It will be interesting to see if the new link tool helps a lot of sites recover from algorithm updates like Penguin, and/or prevents a lot of sites from getting hit. Will we see less complaining about Google's algorithm changes? Somehow, I doubt that. I have no reason to believe we will see less finger pointing.
Will you use the new link tool if Google provides it? Let us know in the comments.