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The SEO world is currently up in arms and furiously working out strategies for using the new link disavow tool, and we expect a widespread ‘bad’ link amnesty to happen over the coming weeks. This will see sites and SEO agencies reporting domains that they have got unnatural links from, directly to Google. If this is all new to you please read our thoughts on the link disavow tool.
There are already many posts on the impact of the link disavow tool on the SEO side of the equation, but we also want to address what this means for the publisher or blogger who earns an income from selling advertising to SEO agencies / sites.

So why does this matter to publishers?
The initial aim of the link disavow tool is not to immediately penalise those sites selling links, but to allow sites to unlink themselves from links they consider to be bad, and putting themselves at risk from a penalty. However this whole process, gives Google the biggest set of data to date on potential link networks and other forms of sites selling links that fall foul of the google link scheme policy. If you have ever sold links that fall on the wrong side of this policy, and some of your previous advertisers report you, it now means your domain is going to be in a Google database of potential sites violating the policy.

OK, but how will Google ever act on this?
The truth is we don’t know, and it will not be a case of penalties for all those domains that are reported. This just won’t happen, as it opens up potential for wide scale abuse of this to try and take down competitor domains. We do however think this is the beginning of the end for the worst type of link networks, and over time we’re sure Google will develop and use this data cross referencing it with other crawl data to start de-indexing sites who are guilty of abusing the link scheme policy.

So how might this pan out?
Google may well create an update which takes the domains reported from the link disavow tool, and then runs a set of criteria against this, to identify sites who they believe are selling links to a high level of confidence. Those that are identified will get a warning or penalised and Matt Cutts (head of Google Webspam team) has confirmed this has taken place in the past. This ‘publisher’ update would then be improved upon in iterations much like the panda update, and new domains are added to the crawl as and when they are reported from the link disavow tool.

So who do we think is at risk?
An algorithm/update will have to use patterns & thresholds from crawls to identify sites to penalise/warn. Here’s a list of some things that could be picked up by a crawl
•    Automated link exchanges
•    Footer link spam / side wide footer links / side bar links
•    Follow links in articles with text “sponsored post” (or variation)
•    Abused use of blogrolls

There are many more bad practices!

What should you do?
We’d recommend reviewing all of the links you have ever sold, and if they fit into the above criteria you need to get rid of them. Distance yourselves from any of the above, and don’t sell them in the future. Don’t accept paid posts from just anyone, make sure it’s relevant, and make sure the content is good and well written. The key point is that the links/content that are placed on your site should be of value to your users (not just your back pocket). If you do sell followed links make them undetectable by a robot. A good quality guest post that is relevant to your users, that drives user comments is impossible to define as paid or not paid for, and certainly not something a robot could make a penalty decision on. However those links to a casino in your sidebar that have no relevance to your users…

Give us your feedback; this is just our thoughts on what Google will do with all this new data. What we can guarantee is that they will do something with it, and it will be targeting sites who sell followed links.

This post was written by Darren Sheffield, SEO, content and social media consultant at Red Mud Media, Check out .


4 comments on “Link disavow tool – The impact on publishers and bloggers

  1. megan riley on said:

    I still don’t understand the need for google to police the web for erroneous and BS back links. What’s wrong with trying to earn some money offer your labor and including relevant links, albeit paid links, to organizations that help promote your site. Google is a true democratic search engine and shouldn’t the people decide the worth of a website, good, bad and the crap? Don’t big brother my hard work.


  2. Ralph du Plessis on said:

    I think your point is valide, Megan, but unfortunately the few have ruined the party for the many and have forced Google to take these measures. Have a look at my other post on the topic which refers to the unfairness of the situation for those just trying to make a living (like yourself) and not actually trying to game the search engines in any way.


  3. Cole @ FourJandals.com on said:

    Great article guys. Hopefully we won’t be penalised as we don’t think we fall into those categories…

    • darren on said:

      Thanks Cole, would definitely think you guys are safe as you run a great blog. We actually were discussing how we prefer blogs to reject content, as this is a sign that they really care about the quality for their users. Maybe another blog post…

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