Bing beats Google in SEO innovation
The SEO industry has been left puzzled by Bing's decision to launch a Disavow Links tool, due to the company's mixed messages regarding what the tool does and why.
Bing announced the introduction of the Disavow Link tool in an official blog post last week. Through Bing Webmaster Tools, links to a site from a chosen page, directory, or entire domain can be disregarded. Bing's Duane Forrester went on to explain:
"These signals help us understand when you find links pointing to your content that you want to distance yourself from for any reason. You should not expect a dramatic change in your rankings as a result of using this tool, but the information shared does help Bing understand more clearly your intent around links pointing to your site."
However, industry experts have been somewhat confused by the tool and what it means for SEO. Bing's description of the tool suggests it is intended to combat negative SEO and previous bad linking practices, but does not guarantee that this will restore rankings. As Vanessa Fox at Search Engine Land points out, Microsoft has previously stated in webmaster FAQs that spammy inbound links "won't hurt your site"; however, the ability to disavow suggests that spammy links do have some kind of negative effect, whether in Bing's algorithm or from a manual penalty. If not, why spend time using the tool?
Disavow Links: the implications
Of course, perhaps the most surprising thing about the Bing Disavow Links tool is that Google didn't get there first. Barry Schwartz at Search Engine Roundtable went as far as to say:
"When I heard a disavow link tool was built for Webmaster Tools I was excited but then a bit taken back and shocked to hear it was Bing who first launched their disavow link tool [...] Bing beat Google to the punch! Is this more of Bing's attempt to win the hearts of SEOs to maybe impact market share? Possibly but either way, is this a black eye for Google?"
Distinguished engineer Matt Cutts, speaking at Search Marketing Expo Advanced last month, hinted that Google was considering introducing a disavow links tool - "maybe in a month or two or three". It may therefore only be a matter of time before Google Webmaster Tools incorporates a similar feature.
As Bing search engine market share is so low in the UK, the tool may not have much impact. In the US meanwhile it's a different story, as due to the Search Alliance with Yahoo, Bing's rankings affect around a quarter of searches.
Daniel Nolan, managing director at theEword, commented: "In the aftermath of the Google Penguin algorithm update, many webmasters have been reviewing old links and asking search engines for a way to undo black or grey hat techniques. Bing's Disavow Links tool certainly has interesting implications for SEO, but a similar tool from Google would undoubtedly have a much bigger impact."