Weekly SEO news: 23 October 2012
Welcome to the latest issue of the Search Engine Facts newsletter.

With the release of the Penguin update, Google started to count bad links as a negative ranking signal. Many webmasters worried that other people might create bad backlinks to harm their website rankings. The new disavow link tool enables webmasters to tell Google that particular links should not count.

In the news: Can others remove your website from Google, AdWords might have stopped working for small businesses, can user-generated content become spam, and more.

Table of contents:

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Andre Voget, Johannes Selbach, Axandra CEO

1. Google releases a ‘disavow links’ tool: who should use it and what does it do?
With the release of the Penguin update, Google started to count bad links as a negative ranking signal. Websites that purchased backlinks or gained backlinks through spamming (blog comment spam, forum profile backlinks, etc.) were penalized by Google

disavow links tool

Many webmasters worried that other people might create bad backlinks to harm their website rankings. The new disavow link tool enables webmasters to tell Google that particular links should not count.

What exactly is the link disavow tool and what does it do?

The disavow links tool allows you to indicate to Google which links you would like to disavow, and Google will typically ignore those links.

When you inform Google about bad links, Google sees this as a strong suggestion rather than a directive. After submitting your links, it will take several weeks until Google processes your request.

If you’ve received notice from Google that you have a manual action on your site then you still have to file a reconsideration request. Just submitting the links won’t help.

Who should use the tool?

The tool is for people who used spammy methods to promote their websites. As an example, Google Matt Cutts names blog spam, comment spam, forum spam and guestbook spam.

In general, all tools that automatically create backlinks are spamming tools. If you used such a tool in the past, you should try to get rid of these backlinks.

If you followed our advice in the past, then you do not need the tool. If you used spam-free methods to promote your site then you don’t have to worry about this.

You should use the tool with caution!

Google’s Matt Cutts says that you should think twice before using the tool:

“So don’t just immediately think, ‘Disavow is the answer for all my ills!’ You’re also going to want try to remove stuff off the web first. And this is a power tool.

It’s something where it is possible, in the process of telling Google to ignore links to your site, to make mistakes. So I would approach it with caution. I wouldn’t just jump in.

If you are a Mom and Pop, if you haven’t used your own SEO, if you haven’t used random link networks that you found on SEO Forums, this is probably not something that you should be using. I just want to try to reiterate that. Hopefully, everybody can remind everybody else of that people are talking about it on forums or conferences or whatever.”

You should only use this tool if you actively spammed Google in the past. Google’s official announcement can be found here. Google also offers a help page. The tool is available here.

Use spam-free SEO methods to get lasting results

To make sure that your web pages get high rankings that last, use search engine optimization methods that are compatible with Google’s requirements.

The advantage of white-hat SEO methods is that they lead to high rankings that are not affected by Google’s anti-spam ranking algorithm updates. Use IBP to make sure that your website gets the best possible rankings.

IBP only uses white-hat SEO methods that lead to lasting results.

Try IBP now risk-freeBuy IBP now risk-free

2. Search engine news and articles of the week

Is it possibleOnline discussion: can others remove your site from Google?

"Between 9/30/12 and 10/7/12, suddenly 2 of my website's URLs are showing up as removed when I go under Webmaster Tools -> Index Status -> Advanced.  I never requested any URLs to be removed and haven't made any changes to my site."

Google's John Mueller says that this was a mistake: "This looks like a quirk on our side and not something that you'd need to worry about. I'll double-check about it with the team, but this wouldn't be negatively affecting your sites performance or appearance in search in any way."

NY Times: has Google AdWords stopped working for small businesses?

"In 2010, Tom Telford’s management company, Cedar Creek Cabin Rentals, was spending $140,000 a year on pay-per-click advertising to promote the 45 cabins in his charge in and around the mountains of Helen, Ga. [...]

The cost per keyword climbed dramatically over the years [...] While Mr. Telford raised the limit on how much he was willing to pay for his keywords, he says he didn’t see a commensurate increase in sales."

Editor's note: the rising costs of paid search advertising are a good reason to get your website in the regular search results.

Matt CuttsVideo: what is Google's thinking about links from article marketing, widgets, etc?

Google's Matt Cutts explains it in a video. If you write a low quality article with a few hundred words that includes a footer with two or three high keyword density anchor text links then these links won't count much.

The same applies to widget links because the user of the widget cannot influence the link text.

Is Google measuring our reading speed of web documents?

"Being able to measure and predict things such as how long it might take someone to read a page, or whether or not people are even scrolling down most of a page can provide a better sense of how realistic the thresholds that might be set to measure those user behavior signals might be. And being able to tell if an automated system is visiting pages is good to know when fighting things like click fraud."

Discussion: when does user-submitted commentary become spam?

"I'm struggling with this question as I look back over some of my content pages that contain a lot of user-submitted commentary. [...] There are no links, but I do ask myself how Googlebot views the pages. [...]

Well as some one who has had a UGC spam penalty applied to one of our sites. It was spammers posting links to copyright infringing sites - pirated Hollywood films or streams of olympic TV. That caused the penalty."

Search engine newslets
  • Free rich snippet creator: improve the look of your web pages on Google’s search result pages.
  • Google told to fix privacy policy by EU data regulators.
  • Rambler to acquire 50% of Begun, Russian contextual advertising company.
  • Facebook giving some brands a sneak peek at fans' other likes.
  • Yahoo also faces the mobile cliff.
  • Video: If I haven't been participating in link schemes, do I need to worry about my links? Matt Cutts says: no.
  • Discussion: Google's sitelinks seem to be time dynamic.

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