The release of Google’s Penguin algorithm a few months ago represented a renewed and more sophisticated focus on linking. Not a beneficial focus though, mind you. Now, whereas a really good link profile will buy you a modest rankings boost, a link profile that seems somewhat abusive of their guidelines might just get kicked off the index completely.
The problem is, while you do have control over all the outbound links on your site, backlinks to your site are far more tricky to handle. They don’t need to ask and often, it can be competitive site trying to make your site look it’s spam-linking. This is know as Negative SEO.
Google Ignores Links
The intention of penalising backlinks was to reduce the number of paid links and exploitative link directories. Google responded to the scathing criticism by webmasters by stating, that while your inbound links are a ranking factor, they do sometimes choose to ignore backlinks to your domain.
This is based on the linking behaviour of the site that’s linked to you. If they’re often observed to unnaturally link to sites without being requested to, Google will just start ignoring every link on that site.
Obviously, this is a gradual process. The Penguin algorithm will slowly get better at spotting websites like these. So Google’s advice to webmasters that suffered painful ranking blows: sit tight and wait for them to catch the bad guys.
How You Can Fight These Pages
Webmaster do have the option of sending an e-mail to a website asking them nicely to please stop linking to you. Of course, they can just as cordially refuse. But a lot directory websites publish a protocol on their site to get your linked removed.
If that option doesn’t bring any meaningful results, people with Google Webmaster Tools accounts can report spam pages and low quality sites directly. This won’t have an immediate and direct impact, but if enough webmasters report the same page, Google will take a closer look at their SEO practices.
The negative SEO effect was enough to get Google to discuss the possibility of a Disavow Link option in their Webmaster Tools, that would essentially tell the search engine to ignore that link’s effect on your PageRank, be it negative or positive.
So it was somewhat strange when Bing brought out the feature first. Particularly seeing as Bing has never announced any plan to penalise spam-linking in their rankings. Although they will ignore their weight in the index.
Google has implied that they will be considering the ‘disavow’ feature, allowing victims of the Penguin algorithm update to recoup their losses by distancing themselves from their detractors. When exactly, remains to be seen though.