These days, few things are more concerning to website owners than the idea that “bad links” pointing to their website could be responsible for a major SEO penalty — keeping them from achieving the search engine rankings, and ultimately the profits, they’re looking for. It’s believed that search engine penalties are growing more common; but what’s worse is that it seems like there’s very little webmasters can do about them. True, sites like Google Webmaster Tools now make site owners aware of the “inorganic link penalty,” but until recently, responding to those penalties was a mysterious process.
In response to these worries, Google recently announced that it would provide a new “Disavow Links” tool as part of Google Webmaster Tools. Of course, it’s unlikely Google will actually inform webmasters which links are responsible for their problems; it will still be up to them to go through backlinks and pick them out one by one. Still, most webmasters are excited — at last, the biggest name in search engines is giving us all a chance to be proactive and avoid serious linking issues.
There’s just one problem: Google is behind the times.
Its major competitor, Bing, is already on this.
Yes, Google has recently announced its intent to expand Webmaster Tools with a “Disavow Links” process; but Bing got there first, with a fully featured Disavow Links tool available in Bing Webmaster Tools. The new functionality allows webmasters to submit pages, directories, or domains that they want to “distance” their sites from. While Bing’s official documentation warns you shouldn’t expect “a dramatic change in your rankings as a result of using this tool,” there’s also this ominous statement:
[T]he information shared does help Bing understand more clearly your intent around links pointing to your site.
Although this a feature that many SEO specialists have been seeking for years now, one has to wonder: Does “helping Bing understand your intent” mean that you will have to police every link that goes to your site — or else? Many in the SEO community are a bit confused at the move, since it isn’t clear whether Bing uses algorithms similar to Google that penalize “unnatural” links. So, while it is surprising and interesting, it will take some work for the community to decipher the implications.