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Google finally gives you a way to escape negative SEO

Some of you might have a high opinion of SEO people. (C’mon, aren’t there a couple of you out there?) If you have that high opinion, then don’t read this story, because there a few people who are less than ethical out there. Google had an announcement this week that has been a long time coming–you can now disavow links to your site. Some of you might be asking, why would you ever want to do that? Links to your site are good, right? Well, mostly, yes. But if you had a few ethical lapses, you might want to erase those problems.

So, if you paid for links, or you engaged in some spammy blog comments with links back to your site, this gives you a chance to wipe the slate clean. Because when Google figures out that you are cooking the links, it penalizes your site, assuming that some other links are faked, too.

And that’s how Google is announcing this disavowal capability–if you screwed up and you can’t get rid of those links, then this tool helps you by telling Google not to count them and your penalty magically goes away.

But I am excited about this tool not so that spammers can clean up their act, but so that victims of spammers have an escape route. The folks that I have felt most sorry for over the years are those ethical search marketers that have been attacked by so-called negative SEO (also known as Google bowling), where unethical SEOs create spammy links to your site to intentionally get you penalized.

If you’re not perverse enough to think up such an ugly scheme, congratulations on having a conscience. I know several poor schlubs who have been attacked this way and I first begged Google to introduce this disavowal tool over four years ago. I’m not really sure why it took this long for Google to take this step–what they announced is almost uncanny in its similarity to what I outlined for them to do in March of 2008.

But better late than never. For years, the bad guys could attack innocent marketers and there wasn’t a blessed thing to be done about it. Disavowing links is a boatload of work and it should not even be attempted by anyone less than an expert. But at least there is something that can be done. Thanks, Google, for standing up for the good guys as well as giving folks who faked their own links a chance at redemption.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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