We recently reported on the possibility of Google adding a feature to their Webmaster Tools that would allow websites to disavow certain backlinks. The links would still remain connected to your site but Google would ignore their weight in your link profile.
So many were somewhat surprised when Bing introduced the feature on their Webmaster Tools before Google.
Google and Bing Rank Differently
Unethical linking has long been only really in the cross-hairs of Google. The release of their new Penguin algorithm had, as one of its main features, the purpose of recognising unnatural links and sometimes even removing the page from the index completely, depending on the number and severity of disreputable links.
Many complained that inbound links as well as outbound links were penalised, as it can be hard to control who links to your page. They don’t have to ask for your permission, and you have to send an e-mail request to the webmaster, asking to have it removed. (Requests that are often ignored by unethical site owners.)
But, as Bing apparently doesn’t weigh spam-linking at all, and they have never publicly declared any intention to penalise the practice, we’re wondering why they’ve added the feature to disavow links?
Effect On Your Bing Rankings
Even following the release of the new feature, Bing’s official word on the effect of low quality backlinks on a websites ranking is still: While they won’t hurt your site, they really won’t help much, either.
If this is true, then from an SEO perspective the change appears to be completely redundant. Blogs on the topic have speculated that this hints towards a plan by Bing to penalise bad link profiles that don’t add value to the user, with their next algorithm update.
Another option of course is that they’re doing it because Google considered the possibility. Which must make us wonder if Google will now forget about it because Bing did it already.
Sometime a website may not want to be associated with a page, because they find it to be poorly designed, or because the link seems unnatural. But the growing problem behind spammy inbound links is that it can be done as negative SEO.
A competitor does this by building bad links for you with the intention of adversely affecting your rankings so they can rank better comparatively. This could be a growing practice for webmasters who either don’t want to go through the effort of effectively optimising their page, or don’t want to risk being penalised themselves for black-hat SEO.
The Web Vigilante
Bing says that they released the Link Disavow feature as a way of gathering more valuable data on spam and negative SEO practices. This means that while your ranks won’t be affected by reporting links, you will be helping Bing fight these types of websites in the future.
Additionally, if you’re a website that’s been penalised in the past for unethical SEO, disavowing spam links may show Bing that you’re trying to reform and change the general image the search engine has of your page.
However, to disavow links you have to manually input each one, which is enormously time consuming. So many webmaster may wonder why they should bother, if all they’ll achieve is that they might start to look like a fine upstanding web citizen to Bing.