Writing by Nick Stamoulis in Search Engines
Links have always been and continue to be an extremely important part of SEO. Google ranks websites based on trust and the inbound links pointing to a website convey this trust. In the early days of Google and SEO nearly any link was considered to be a good link. That’s why so many low quality directories and link farms started popping up. Website owners knew that people were out hunting for links so they sold them. As the Google ranking algorithm has become much more advanced, these practices are now frowned upon. The link building focus has shifted to building links from relevant sites that target audience members actually visit. That way, the links help build SEO trust but also help to improve visibility and generate traffic back to the website.
Google has been transparent about its views on link building and the quality of links. Website owners that have a significant amount of these spammy links pointing to their site may get penalized. Within Google Webmaster Tools, Google will alert site owners with a message about these “unnatural links” pointing to the site. These links can be the result of not understanding the link “rules”, hiring a black hat SEO firm, or even negative SEO. The reason behind the bad links doesn’t matter. All that matters are the steps that you take moving forward. It has always been best practice to go through your inbound link portfolio and take whatever steps necessary to remove these bad links. This involved reaching out to the webmaster of the source of the link (sometimes numerous times) to request removal. Sometimes these links were removed, other times they weren’t.
For years webmasters have been requesting a way to alert Google to the fact that they are aware of the bad links and want to get rid of them. With the recent release of the new tool to disavow links, webmasters may finally have their wish. Within Google Webmaster Tools, site owners can now visit a page that allows them to upload a file containing the links that they want to disavow.
While this may seem like the end of many headaches that webmasters have encountered, Google is warning site owners that it’s not a magic fix. In fact, they are even saying that it should only be used as a last resort. The first step is to continue to follow the manual process of getting links removed. If, and only if, you still can’t get them removed should you use the disavow tool. Google has also warned that this isn’t a tool to be used by the novice webmaster. A webmaster needs to be absolutely sure that a link isn’t any good before making the move to disavow it.
According to Google, the vast majority of websites don’t need to use it. Every website is bound to have some bad links pointing to it over time. As long as the good far outweigh the bad, Google isn’t going to penalize you for it.