After the release of Google’s Penguin Algorithm earlier in the year, you may have noticed organic traffic on your website begin to slide. It wasn’t uncommon to hear of a website’s organic traffic falling by 30-70% almost overnight. Suffice to say we don’t need to elaborate on the detrimental effect that this can have on a business.
So what changed that caused this effect on website rankings? Well the answer lies in backlinking campaigns and the release of Google’s Penguin Algorithm. Heavy linkback campaigns have long been a key part of SEO strategies, getting links back to a website was free, quick and previously garnered good results. This was because before Penguin,
generally the more inbound links a website had to it, the higher it would rank. The key change with Penguin however, was that Google put a large focus on the domains that these links were coming from. Suddenly the lower quality links from directory websites not only failed to improve your organic ranking, they actually got your website heavily penalised. Subsequently websites begin to fall lower down in the search results.
Suddenly many online marketing agencies were not only stopping linkback campaigns, but actively contacting websites, attempting to get inbound links removed. A strategy which is not only incredibly time consuming but also only partially successful – many directory sites simply refuse to remove the link. It’s been several months now since the release of Penguin and the super power that is Google, seemingly decided that people have suffered for long enough. On the 16th October the Google disavow tool was released whereby you can submit a list of linking domains which you would like removed by Google and they will disavow them.
The overall process sounds relatively simple
1. Find the poor quality links you want removed using webmaster tools
2. Compile them in all in a document
3. Submit this to Google using the disavow tool
4. File a site reconsideration request or wait for Google’s crawlers to find you and re-evaluate your site
However, the official advice coming from Matt Cutts – the head of web spam at Google – is that the tool should be used with extreme caution. Realistically you should only consider using it on a website which has suffered one of the following-
1. You’ve received bad link warnings from Google’s Webmaster tools
Bad link warnings in Google Webmaster Tools are currently the only direct signal from Google that they have a problem with your link profile.
2. You’ve been manually penalized
Diagnosing if you’ve been penalised can be tricky, but if you have clearly been hit with a manual penalty you can be 90% sure it’s link based.
3. Your organic traffic has plummeted since Penguin
We know Penguin primarily targeted aggressive link building strategies, if your traffic fell on or immediately after 24th April 2012 then the chances are you’ve been hit by Penguin.
Now the official protocol from Google is that the disavowal tool should only be used after you’ve contacted the site administrator for the link which you want removing and that they have either refused or tried to charge you – not uncommon. After this, the link qualifies for use of the disavow tool and Google will honour it.
The POSH agency would suggest, that you should use extreme caution in identifying which links need to be removed. You have to remember that every link still contributes to SEO. If you’re going to be proactive and begin slashing all your back links, you may actually do more harm than good. Firstly assess your risk level, how aggressive has your campaign been and how black hat are these links? What is Google going to think when your site is currently not penalised and you submit 300 links for removal? Once you have decided your risk level you have two choices. If time is on your side use the tool conservatively. Pick a few of your worst links to disavow and see what happens. In other words move slowly. Alternatively, if your traffic has already been decimated, then you unfortunately you can’t afford this luxury, this risk of inaction is greater than the risk of overreaction.
It is such early days that there is very little data to substantiate the successful use of the tool. David Naylor’s team tested the tool and showcased potentially successful results of the disavowal tool, however the evidence is indirect. We’d love to hear from you on your own progress with the disavowal tool. Good luck!
Email the team to discuss further or call 0141 342 4335