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Does Using Disavow Signal that a Site is Shady? via @martinibuster



Something that’s been somewhat unclear is if using the disavow creates a flag that a site might be suspicious. That’s the question that John Mueller answered in a recent Google Office Hours Hangout.

Link Disavow Tool

What is the Link Disavow Tool?

The link disavow tool is a tool in Google Search Console that allows publishers to tell Google to ignore specific links to their website.

The link disavow tool was something that the SEO community asked for in order to help deal with sites that were affected by Google’s Penguin update around the mid-2000’s.

Uses of the Disavow Tool: Improve Rankings

Gradually the use of the disavow tool evolved to help improve rankings for sites that didn’t do anything wrong but still have spammy looking links. The assumption is that the spammy links caused the site to lose rankings.


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Anecdotal evidence from publishers (not the SEOs who charge for this service) indicates that using the disavow to improve rankings doesn’t help improve rankings.

Uses of the Disavow Tool: Recovery from Negative Link Attack

Another disavow tool use that evolved was to defend against a “negative links” attack. A negative links attack is when a competitor points a significant amount of spammy links to a site.

This is a dirty trick that was originated within the online gambling industry. The online gambling space is highly competitive and the negative links attack is one of the strategies that evolved from that high pressure ranking environment.


Original Use of Disavow Tool: Paid Links

The reason why publishers asked for the disavow tool was for cleaning up the backlink profile of sites that had participated in link schemes. In the beginning, ever site that used the disavow tool had broken Google’s webmaster guidelines about links.


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Does Filing a Disavow Mark a Site as Shady?

Over the years it was natural for some to suspect that filing a disavow can make a site appear to be suspicious. The idea was that filing a disavow is the same as admitting that your site is shady.

So if there’s a list somewhere at Google to note sites that voluntarily acknowledged shady SEO practices, those who uploaded a disavow file would surely be included in it.

The disavow tool was suspected to be an easy way to identify shady sites.

And that’s the background to the question that Google’s John Mueller was asked.

Here is the question that was asked:


“After the disavow tool is used, does a domain carry any mark that… may hold it back?”

John Mueller sometimes pauses to think about his answer, particularly when the the complexity of the question demands an answer that simultaneously consists of a yes, a but and a no.

There was no such ambiguity to answering this question.

Mueller responded quickly:

“No, no, the disavow tool is purely a technical thing, essentially, that tells our systems to ignore these links.

It’s not an admission of guilt or any kind of bad thing to use a disavow tool.

It’s not the case that we would say, well, they’re using the disavow tool, therefore they must be buying links.

It’s really just a way to say, well… I don’t want these links to be taken into account.

And sometimes that’s for things that you have done or someone working your website has done in the past.

Sometimes that’s for things that you just don’t want Google to take into account for whatever reason.


And both of those things are good situations, right? It’s like you recognize there’s a problem and this is a tool that you can use to resolve that. And that’s not a bad thing.

So it’s not the case that there is any kind of a red mark or any kind of a flag that’s passed on just because a website has used the disavow tool.”


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Using the Disavow Tool Does not Flag a Site as Suspicious

Considering how fast and confidently Mueller answered the question, it’s safe to agree that there is no possibility of Google giving a negative score to a site that uploads a disavow tool.

This approach acknowledges that many innocent and well-meaning sites use the upload disavow tool. For Google to give a site a negative score for using the disavow tool would result in making it hard for good sites to rank.

That would be a lose-lose situation for everyone involved.


Watch Google’s John Mueller on SEO Office-hours Hangout


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Google December Product Reviews Update Affects More Than English Language Sites? via @sejournal, @martinibuster



Google’s Product Reviews update was announced to be rolling out to the English language. No mention was made as to if or when it would roll out to other languages. Mueller answered a question as to whether it is rolling out to other languages.

Google December 2021 Product Reviews Update

On December 1, 2021, Google announced on Twitter that a Product Review update would be rolling out that would focus on English language web pages.

The focus of the update was for improving the quality of reviews shown in Google search, specifically targeting review sites.

A Googler tweeted a description of the kinds of sites that would be targeted for demotion in the search rankings:

“Mainly relevant to sites that post articles reviewing products.

Think of sites like “best TVs under $200″.com.

Goal is to improve the quality and usefulness of reviews we show users.”



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Google also published a blog post with more guidance on the product review update that introduced two new best practices that Google’s algorithm would be looking for.

The first best practice was a requirement of evidence that a product was actually handled and reviewed.

The second best practice was to provide links to more than one place that a user could purchase the product.

The Twitter announcement stated that it was rolling out to English language websites. The blog post did not mention what languages it was rolling out to nor did the blog post specify that the product review update was limited to the English language.

Google’s Mueller Thinking About Product Reviews Update

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Product Review Update Targets More Languages?

The person asking the question was rightly under the impression that the product review update only affected English language search results.



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But he asserted that he was seeing search volatility in the German language that appears to be related to Google’s December 2021 Product Review Update.

This is his question:

“I was seeing some movements in German search as well.

So I was wondering if there could also be an effect on websites in other languages by this product reviews update… because we had lots of movement and volatility in the last weeks.

…My question is, is it possible that the product reviews update affects other sites as well?”

John Mueller answered:

“I don’t know… like other languages?

My assumption was this was global and and across all languages.

But I don’t know what we announced in the blog post specifically.


But usually we try to push the engineering team to make a decision on that so that we can document it properly in the blog post.

I don’t know if that happened with the product reviews update. I don’t recall the complete blog post.

But it’s… from my point of view it seems like something that we could be doing in multiple languages and wouldn’t be tied to English.

And even if it were English initially, it feels like something that is relevant across the board, and we should try to find ways to roll that out to other languages over time as well.

So I’m not particularly surprised that you see changes in Germany.

But I also don’t know what we actually announced with regards to the locations and languages that are involved.”

Does Product Reviews Update Affect More Languages?

While the tweeted announcement specified that the product reviews update was limited to the English language the official blog post did not mention any such limitations.

Google’s John Mueller offered his opinion that the product reviews update is something that Google could do in multiple languages.


One must wonder if the tweet was meant to communicate that the update was rolling out first in English and subsequently to other languages.

It’s unclear if the product reviews update was rolled out globally to more languages. Hopefully Google will clarify this soon.


Google Blog Post About Product Reviews Update

Product reviews update and your site

Google’s New Product Reviews Guidelines

Write high quality product reviews

John Mueller Discusses If Product Reviews Update Is Global

Watch Mueller answer the question at the 14:00 Minute Mark

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