This week, Google Search Advocate and prominent Googler John Mueller made a series of strong statements regarding companies that provide negative SEO services. He also made a number of negative remarks about agencies that provide link disavow services.
What are negative SEO companies and the link disavow tool?
Before we dig into the arguments, let’s first cover some of the basics and definitions, in case you need a refresher.
- Negative SEO companies build spam links to a client’s competitor in order to make that competitor’s rankings drop. A negative SEO company may also employ other malicious practices such as hacking a website, scraping a website’s content and creating a duplicate site, or posting fake and negative reviews about a website
- The link disavow tool was released by Google following the Penguin Update in 2012. It allows a company to disavow certain links to their site. At the time it was created, Google said that “If you’ve been notified of a manual spam action based on ‘unnatural links’ pointing to your site, this tool can help you address the issue. If you haven’t gotten this notification, this tool generally isn’t something you need to worry about.”
What did John Mueller actually say?
Mueller made the comments about negative SEO and link disavow companies on Twitter. When one user said they were “shocked at how many SEOs regularly disavow links”, SEOGuruJaipur replied that “Google still gives penalties for backlinks (for example, 14 Dec update, so disavowing links is still important.”
Regarding negative SEO companies, they added that “There are so many agencies that provide services to down competitors; they create backlinks for competitors such as comments, bookmarking, directory, and article submission on low quality sites.”
They then concluded by saying that “Agencies know what kind of links hurt the website because they have been doing this for a long time. It’s only hard to down for very trusted sites. Even some agencies provide a money back guarantee as well. They will provide you examples as well with proper insights.”
This prompted John Mueller to tweet a response, which read “That’s all made up & irrelevant. These agencies (both those creating, and those disavowing) are just making stuff up, and cashing in from those who don’t know better.”
Why does this matter?
Although Mueller (and a number of other senior Googlers) have consistently recommended against using the link disavow tool over a number of years, this is the first instance of Mueller actively portraying those who liberally recommend link disavows in a negative light.
While many SEOers have frequently accused John Mueller and other senior Googlers of being ambiguous on the topic of link disavows, it’s now clear exactly where the company stands.