Earlier this week Google’s Matt Cutts mentioned a new Webmaster Tools feature which may be headed our way soon. The tool will enable webmasters to disavow particular links pointing to their site, in other words, we’ll be able to tell Google “Hey, this link to us is from a dodgy or suspicious source, please ignore it”. It’s an interesting (and almost controversial) move, as it was only recently Google hinted that bad links CAN have a negative impact on your website (i.e. Negative SEO). Until then, Google had always assured website owners not to worry about being sabotaged by competitors trying to tarnish their reputation by sending dodgy links to their sites.
Now though, Google have changed their stance, admitting that bad links can harm your site, and with the release of this tool, they seem to be enlisting the help of webmasters in order to keep track of dodgy link sources. Whether or not they actually need this help, the move supports the approach of reducing the value of low quality links, while also protecting websites that have otherwise gone by the rules. With plenty of websites likely to flag some incoming links as being from poor quality sources that spam the web, Google will be able to keep an updated list of sites from which to ignore links in the future.
A possible challenge though, will likely be preventing unethical marketers from trying to harm a competitor’s website in reverse. For example if a site has a blog or forum, and a dodgy competitor posts comments linking to a number of external sites, then flags these links through Webmaster Tools as coming from a suspicious source, then how will Google know that the source of the links is in fact a quality website and not one which needs to be marked as spam?
One thing is for certain, things had to change in order to stop the web becoming a giant mess of links created just for SEO, and now we’ll just have to wait and see just how well it works…