Earlier this month, Google launched the Link Disavow tool, which webmasters can use to tell Google to ignore certain links they believe to be bad. While Google will only do so at its own discretion, some may be wondering if Google will be using the data it gets from the tool for other purposes (like maybe as a ranking signal).
If enough sites submit links from a specific site, for example, would Google use that data to determine that the site in question is really a bad site, and therefore use the data as a ranking signal? It seems like a logical question, and Google's Matt Cutts didn't exactly rule out the possibility, though he says this is not the case now.
Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land posted a Q&A with Cutts, in which he asked if "someone decides to disavow links from good sites a perhaps an attempt to send signals to Google these are bad," is Google mining this data to better understand what bad sites are?
"Right now, we’re using this data in the normal straightforward way, e.g. for reconsideration requests,' Cutts responded. "We haven’t decided whether we’ll look at this data more broadly. Even if we did, we have plenty of other ways of determining bad sites, and we have plenty of other ways of assessing that sites are actually good."
Google does, of course, have over 200 signals, but that doesn't mean there isn't room for the data to play some role in the algorithm, even if it's not the weightiest signal.
"We may do spot checks, but we’re not planning anything more broadly with this data right now," he adds. "If a webmaster wants to shoot themselves in the foot and disavow high-quality links, that’s sort of like an IQ test and indicates that we wouldn’t want to give that webmaster’s disavowed links much weight anyway. It’s certainly not a scalable way to hurt another site, since you’d have to build a good site, then build up good links, then disavow those good links. Blackhats are normally lazy and don’t even get to the 'build a good site' stage."
It does sound like a pretty dumb strategy, and I doubt that many will go this route to try and hurt other sites, but that doesn't mean that sites who get a lot of people including them in their Link Disavow files shouldn't worry about it at all, does it?
Look at the overreaction webmasters have partaken in with regards to link removal, thanks to the Penguin update. What makes anyone think that a similar overreaction won't take place with the Link Disavow tool?
Even if Google hasn't decided whether it will use the data as a ranking signal later, one has to wonder if we'll ever know if they do decide to implement it. I don't see that one making Google's monthly lists of changes.