This month there’s lots to discuss…but do yourself a favor, spend 3 minutes to read this post. It’s important that you don’t miss out on the latest twists and turns of SEO and don’t let you website become a casualty…
- Countless “gurus” are screaming that SEO is dead.
- Google released their new “Disavow” tool (October 16th).
- Google released Penguin 3 (October 5th).
NOTE: I wrote a special post specifically discussing the recent Google algorithm changes on October 8th – click here to check it out.
There’s no doubt about it, SEO is changing…it’s changing quickly.
Today I’ll be focusing mainly on the disavow tool and giving you my point of view about when I’d use it, and when I stay away from it.
I’ll also give my thoughts about the state of SEO, and finally, share a secret little project I’m working on…
What’s the “disavow” tool?
Should you be using it?
Can other people use it to hurt your websites?
And…is this going to KILL SEO for good…or is SEO already dead?
Let’s find out…
What Is The New Google “Disavow” Tool?
Firstly, here’s the definition for “disavow”:
Disavow basically means to deny knowledge, deny association or deny ownership of something. In the case of Google and your links, to deny that you made the links or that you want Google to take them into consideration when ranking your website.
What the disavow tool allows you to do is to give Google a list of links you want them to ignore (links you don’t want taken into account)…but like most things Google do, it’s not this simple as I’ll now explain…
Do You Need To Use It?
The only time I’d consider using the disavow tool is if I had absolutely NOTHING to lose from using it and something to GAIN (financially) from using it.
Let’s look at an example…
Let’s say I own a website that used to have top 10 rankings, used to receive hundreds of visitors per day from Google, and used to earn me $500 or more each month. Then all of a sudden, perhaps after a Penguin update, my site lost its rankings and lost its earnings.
After analyzing my links and identifying the bad ones and trying to remove them, I might then use the disavow tool (to disavow links I couldn’t get removed).
But this is probably the only time I’d use the tool…
I definitely wouldn’t use it to try to “resuscitate” a website that had top rankings but didn’t earn me much money…what would be the point in that?
So as a general rule, if you’ve lost rankings on a site that was previously earning you some decent income, then perhaps it’s worth considering.
If you’ve lost rankings on a site that wasn’t making you money in the first place, then don’t waste your time using it.
What If OTHER People Disavow Pages Where YOU Have Links?
What If Someone Disavows YOUR Website?
Matt Cutts from Google has said that disavow tool “typically will not hurt you”…
The problem is however, if lots of different people were to disavow webpages that you’ve got links on (or your own website), then it’d surely be used as a signal to trigger some kind of penalty or loss in rankings, or perhaps to queue your website for a manual review.
The disavow tool hasn’t been released long enough to really know if it can cause damage, but based on the repeated warnings Google gives about using it, we can only assume that YES, it could hurt you if someone disavows your websites or the places you’ve got links.
But there’s a way around this…create better quality links (it’s not that hard) and control where your links come from…more on this shortly…
Let’s now take a look at some specific cases when you might want to use the disavow tool…
When You Might Want To Use The Disavow Tool…
Before using the disavow tool, Google has stated that they want to see that you’ve made an effort to remove spammy links manually (contacting website owners and asking them to remove links to your site).
Once you’ve done this, then, and only then, does Google recommend you actually use this new tool.
Note: This could just be Google trash talk…preaching about their ideals, it’s still too early to tell.
Here are a few examples of when the disavow tool could come in handy:
1. When You’ve Been Hit By Penguin
If you’ve been hit by Penguin, it normally means you’ve got too many bad links, or you’ve used the same anchor text too often.
If this is the case, and it’s impossible to remove the links manually, then the disavow tool may be your last option.
2. When You’re The Victim Of “Negative SEO”
Definition: Negative SEO is the practice of building a heap of links on undesirable websites (spammy sites, porn sites, deindexed sites etc) in an attempt to cause DAMAGE to competitors.
If one of your competitors has resorted to evil tactics to push your website down the rankings (negative SEO), then the disavow tool could be an option.
Just like anytime you use the Disavow tool, first you need to be as certain as possible that the links are actually doing you harm…Once you’re pretty sure of this, and assuming you can’t remove the links manually, then the disavow tool could be your next best option.
3. If You’ve Received A Manual Penalty
If you’re sure that you’ve received a manual penalty, then the disavow tool could be an option.
The main issue here is that it’s very very hard to know for sure if you’ve actually received a manual penalty.
4. If You’ve Received A Bad Links Warning
Here’s what a bad links warning looks like (they are delivered to Google Webmaster accounts):
If you’ve received one of these messages, tried everything to remove the “bad links” and still can’t get rid of them, the next step could be to use the disavow tool.
The problem with disavowing links is that it’s often hard to know exactly which links should be disavowed…
Which are the links that Google considers spam and which are the links that Google likes?
In some cases it might be obvious which are spammy links and which aren’t, but there are plenty of cases when you just might not know for sure whether a link is “good” or “bad”, and disavowing a good link will obviously hurt your rankings.
By now you’ve got a good understanding of the main considerations, if you want to move forward and use this tool, here’s how (again, only use it if you’ve lost something worth fighting for…):
How To Use The Disavow Tool:
Before you do anything, you need to identify all of the links to your website, and in particular, the bad links.
The easiest way to do this is to look at the “Links To Your Site” inside the Traffic menu in Google Webmaster Tools.
If you haven’t set up Google Webmaster tools for your website, you can analyze your website links using the Open Site Explorer (OpenSiteExplorer.org) or Majestic SEO (MajesticSEO.com).
Once you’ve got a list of all the links to your website, analyze it and pick out the spammy ones (this is where it gets really tough…it’s hard to know exactly what Google considers a bad link which is what makes the disavow tool so hard to use…).
The “spam links” list that you create is ultimately a list of the links you’d disavow.
NOTE: In order to use the Disavow tool you WILL need to have a Webmaster Tools account and you will need to add your website to it…so if you’ve got a site which is in trouble and intend on using the Disavow tool to try to fix it, you’ll need to add it to Google Webmaster Tools first.
So now that you’ve got your list of spammy links that you want to disavow, here’s how to use the tool:
1. Login to your Google Webmasters account and add (and verify) the website that you want to use the disavow tool for.
2. Next (while still logged into your Google Webmaster Tools account), go to https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/disavow-links-main?pli=1 and select the website you want to disavow links to from the dropdown menu (and then click the “Disavow Links” button).
3. Next you’ll be presented with a message telling you that you need to be careful using the tool and that it can in fact damage your website. Read the statement and then click the “Disavow Links” button again.
4. Next you’ll need to prepare a text file telling Google the links you want to disavow. Here’s an example of what the .txt file should look like:
As you can see in the file above, there are 3 different parts to the disavow file:
Part 1: The “#” symbol which can be followed by an explanation saying what you’ve tried to do to get the links removed manually.
Part 2: The “domain:” command which allows you to disavow all links from an entire domain.
Part 3: Specific URL’s which will disavow links on specific pages.
Once you’ve prepared the .txt file as shown above, you can select it (using the “Choose File” button shown below) and then upload it by clicking the “Submit” button.
So, as you can see, the process is pretty straightforward, nothing overly complicated about it.
Now the big question everyone’s talking about…
Is SEO Dead (or dying)…?
Some people are telling you it’s dying, and they may genuinely believe that, or perhaps they’re trying to sell you something, or perhaps they’ve just had some bad luck and they think SEO is dead…
My honest opinion is that the SEO industry is alive and well (at least for now).
All year I’ve been moving towards a “quality focus”…getting fewer links, but making sure the ones I do get pack some punch.
The disavow tool only reinforces this philosophy.
A key part of my SEO plan is to build and grow my OWN network of quality websites. Not just “money sites”, but “feeder sites” too…
I’m also adding extra “tiers” to my link building campaigns.
Not all links are pointed at my money sites, many (maybe the majority), actually drive link juice to my tier 1 websites.
Since I OWN and CONTROL these “tier 1” websites, they have ZERO chance of being disavowed…no one else has links on them so no one else is able to disavow them.
And I sure as hell won’t be disavowing them.
Same with YouTube videos…YouTube video descriptions usually have just 1, perhaps 2 links at the most…this means they’ve got a very small chance of actually being disavowed.
On top of that, in many cases I actually OWN high quality YouTube videos in my niches, I control their links. Again, ZERO chance of being disavowed and maximum return for my effort.
My rankings and my results are rock solid.
If you’re following me on Facebook, you would have seen a screenshot I shared on October 17th (if you’re not following me, go and hit the LIKE button on this page: http://www.facebook.com/aidanboothonline).
If you missed that Facebook update, check this out:
This is a brand new website that’s rocketed onto page 1 of Google in 90 days.
And it’s already making sales.
My websites get rankings and more importantly, they keep them.
Some methods of link building are DEFINITELY dying…
For example, low quality link networks are officially DEAD.
Spammy blog comments are DEAD.
But there is still PLENTY that is working and plenty to be excited about!
The Bottom Line…
The disavow tool isn’t something I’m concerned about.
Unless I see some new surprising data or case studies, I don’t intend on using it in the near future, and if I was to use it, I’d ONLY use it on a website that was worth fighting for…everything else would be a waste of time.
Oh, and as I mentioned above, SEO is NOT dead…
And lastly…some secret testing…
I’ve got a “hunch” about why Panda affects some sites, but seems to ignore other similar sites…
And I’ve started testing it…
It’s too early to share results, but if things go well, I’ll have a “Panda Antidote” available pretty soon (hopefully before the end of the year!).
I’m also experimenting with NEW SEO tactics…both on page AND off page stuff…
It’s exciting and it’s getting results!
Stay tuned over the next couple of months to find out more.
Got a question or a comment? Add it below and I’ll reply.
Thanks for reading, you rock!
Until next time!