As part of a successful SEO campaign, every website needs to build links to their own site from other sites. These links, called backlinks, are a way for search engines to determine just how important your site must be; if you have a lot of backlinks from other sites, then your site must be important.
With the Panda and Penguin updates, though, the quality of your backlinks began to matter. If you had plenty of backlinks from places like The New York Times and CNN, then your website’s placement in search results wasn’t affected. But for those who built their backlinks through questionable means (like linkfarms and some dubious directories), their search rankings often tanked.
In cases like these, the only way to remedy the situation was to reach out to the owner of the linkfarm or directory in question, and request that they remove the link to a site manually. Often, the owner was unresponsive, slow to act, or simply unable to be reached. And so, the low-quality, spammy backlink stayed there, dragging down an otherwise good website in search results.
Enter Google’s New Tool
On Tuesday, October 16, 2012, Google took the wraps off its latest addition to their Webmaster Tools suite: a Disavow Links tool. In a nutshell, this allows SEO experts to tell Google, “Don’t count this backlink against me. In fact, don’t recognize it at all.”
Now the power to negate the effect of bad backlinks is in the hands of site owners worldwide. However, it’s a tool that needs to be used with caution: According to Google, it takes 2-3 weeks for a disavowed website to have its effects negated… but it takes equally as long to put them back if you realize you made a mistake with your request.
In plain English, what this means is that, though
you have the ability to greatly change your site’s ranking with the tool, you also have the ability to really damage it, too. Taking away a backlink to your site that’s dragging it down is great, but inadvertently cutting off a good one isn’t just bad, it’s potentially devastating to your search results placement — which is what you were trying to avoid in the first place!
Analyze Before You Leap
For this reason, it’s vitally important to perform a Backlink Audit before you even consider using this new tool. A proper evaluation will show you not only how many backlinks exist for your site, but where they’re coming from, their quality, and their type (anchor text, named, or junk). At SA4i, this is a service that we provide to all of our SEO clients.
If you would like to know more, or are interested in a free assessment of your Internet Presence, contact us.