Since the Google Penguin update a lot has been written about negative SEO, with some high profile cases of sites being penalised due to an influx of links from questionable sources with overly-optimised anchor text. Google alerted any webmasters affected by the Penguin update via a webmaster tools notification.
There has been a clamour for a way to be able to devalue potentially harmful links, due to the fact that you cannot really control who links to you.
What can be done to combat Negative SEO?
Google has mentioned that the link profile could be cleaned up, with poor quality links being removed. There is an issue here that a company could produce poor quality links to harm a competitor. This has meant that many webmasters wanted to be able to ‘Disavow Links’ that could have been built by a negative SEO team.
Of course the best method to combat negative SEO is to build a trustworthy online brand that can ride the storm of any such links having as major effect. Not always easy for many small businesses in competitive niches that rely on Google rankings, and an SEO may need to act fast for a client.
Using Bing’s Disavow Tool
This week, Bing released a ‘Disavow Links’ tool within Bing webmaster tools. With this tool you can submit URL’s that look like they are from spam or low quality sites. By disavowing the links, Bing should then ignore any penalties but be aware, improper use could also disable links that pass link equity. This list of removed links can also be exported and is unlimited in size.
Here is a screenshot of where this new tool is featured. Unfortunately, I cannot see this feature in my account yet.
Can negative SEO affect rankings in Bing?
Bing do not outline penalisation for harmful links in the same way as Google, but reserve the right to penalise in certain cases. Bing’s terms and conditions are investigated fully on ‘searchengineland’. One thing they will get is some useful data. If a domain keeps getting disavowed then it could certainly make them aware of the fact that the site is not a trusted source. I am not sure if it is worth spending too much time disavowing links on Bing, not unless your high volume number 1 positions have been hit hard! There may be a case where you can use Bing as a Disavow test before trying to do so in Google, when they release a similar tool. Matt Cutt’s has stated before that they will be working on a tool that provides the same functionality.
What is a Poor Quality Link?
Poor quality links are those that violate Google’s webmaster terms and conditions. If Google have an issue with a site’s links they can take action against it, such as decreasing rankings or removing the site from its index altogether. These are paid links, link schemes and links from poor quality auto-generated content.
There might be a case of people who are not experts in link analysis will use this tool too harshly. It is certainly possible to get carried away and actually remove links that are passing value. Bing itself has declared that there will not be a significant change in rankings from using the disavow tool, but I am sure it would be interesting to experiment by removing some powerful, legitimate links (I wouild suggest doing this on an unused site!). Any search engine will not show what links are adding value or damaging your profile, so you would really need to monitor this scientifically to really know the full extent of the issues your site has, and what links could be a problem.
Will Google Follow Suit and Introduce a Similar Feature?
The fact remains that Penguin was a Google algorithm update, not a Bing update. Judging by the incorporation of this feature it makes sense to assume there can also be a penalty on Bing to have large numbers of unnatural links. I am sure a lot of sites would not be relying on Bing traffic like they would be with Google – so many will be waiting for a similar tool in Google Webmaster Tools. Since the Penguin update many webmasters will have been cleaning their link profile, but there will be quite a few links they were unable to remove.
Sometimes Bing is forgotten, which is down to the colossal size of Google’s search share and clever marketing. The recent updates and changes to Bing’s Webmaster Center have certainly been grabbing many SEO’s attention and assisting webmasters with useful tools. It seems likely that Google may follow suit and release a disavow tool fairly soon, and I am sure there will be many more changes to webmaster tools to come this year.
At the moment I am sure Google are more concerned with testing video on Google Glass by Skydiving Live to their I/O developer conference. Check out the video of this mind blowing PR Stunt – it is certainly worth your time more than using the disavow tool on Bing.