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Pe lagic's profile photoKaspar Szymanski's profile photoDave Cain's profile photoGregor Arentz's profile photo
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​An audience member asked if the disavow file is a giant crowdsourcing project to help Google identify bad links / domains

The answer was a firm yes from Fili Wiese. Google are using the disavow tool to crowdsource bad links

+Fili Wiese  Are you quite sure about that ?

A year ago at the same event, you stated >
At the moment, nothing is being done with the disavow data and it’s unlikely to happen soon.
Similar to the removal request - it's mainly a way to gather more data but doesn't have a negative affect

I'll also quote +John Mueller from a webmaster hangout last year >
When it comes to the disavow links tool, at the moment we are not using that data in any way against the sites that are being disavowed because there are just so many reasons why a link might be disavowed. It might be that it's a perfectly fine site but for some reason the ads on that site are passing PageRank and maybe the webmaster is not aware of that and that's not something that we would say, "Oh, this is a spammy site", because some of these ads are passing PageRank.  Or maybe they have comments on a blog or on articles that they publish and people have been spamming those comments.
Just because those links are in someone's disavow file, it doesn't mean that the content on that site is necessarily bad."
Webmaster Central 2013-06-07

And this more recent one>
"It's not that we are using this as a spam report form. So, when you get a message saying, 'You should remove this link to my website or else I'll put you on my disavow file', that's not a threat for your website. It's not a problem to have your website on a disavow file."
Webmaster Central 2013-12-16
 
+Pe lagic Please watch the video!

I am not saying that they are using it but suggest that I can imagine they do in one way or another. In addition, define crowdsourcing. As mentioned during the panel, Google does collect all data such as search queries they are getting from users. That is also crowdsourcing in a way. 
 
+Fili Wiese will do :) I guess what you actually said must have been misquoted or taken out of context ?
 
+Fili Wiese As I thought you have been misquoted, but please note that > 'Google are using the disavow tool to crowdsource bad links' is italicized in the article, which generally indicates a direct quotation.

Both you and Kaspar clearly state that it would make sense to use such data when there is a critical mass as such, I think many would totally agree with that.

I also note that you clearly stated 'purely hypothetical', whereas the article quotes you as saying it's an actual fact already.

ps despite the poor audio quality, it's a really good video with some great advice ;)
'The Reality of SEO' Panel Debate at BrightonSEO 2014 - Two Ex-Googlers & One Ex-Spammer
 
+Fili Wiese Ye sure it has popped up many times, not unlike Analytics, amongst the many other (noisy) signals such as SERP CTRs etc !

Regarding the SEJ article that you linked to >
What do you think Google might be doing with Disavow Tool data?
If it is on proportionally more lists than would be expected for the size of the site, then that’s a flag that may be used to penalize other sites with links from that domain. The result is quite a clinical ‘bad neighbourhood’ index.
+David Iwanow comment is just speculation, which is all good, he's not actually asserting that's the case though ;)
 
+Pe lagic yes, people keep misquoting us. Not sure why as I believe we are clear enough. Anyway, I am happy you enjoyed the video :-) 
 
I made the very last audience question but wasn't very impressed with the over-simplistic answer "don't always believe what you read". Let me try again...

Google's stance about what needs to be done so that a manual penalty is revoked has always been that you should  try and physically remove as many unnatural links as possible and then disavow what couldn't be removed. You guys have made the same recommendation in  previous panels, stating more or less that manual penalties cannot be removed if you just disavow the unnatural links, without putting any effort removing them.

However, there are more and more cases where people have managed to  revoke a manual penalty without removing any single link. +Tim Grice  (+Branded3)  claims to have removed over 60 penalties this way:

http://www.branded3.com/blogs/spend-time-link-removals/

Note that there's more and more people (I trust) claiming that the above strategy works.

So, my question is why are you (and Google) still suggesting we should go through the very time-consuming and painful process of requesting link removals if manual penalties can be revoked by just disavowing the toxic links?
 
+Modestos Siotos sorry we had to rush the end but we were running out of time. As mentioned earlier during the panel, we absolutely have seen cases where only disavow works. For example with forum and comment spam. However this is not a long term strategy as the disavow file remains a suggestion. Other search engines will not be using this. And your brand may still be associated with this spam, and potentially be reported for webspam repeatedly to search engines by other users and your competitors. Putting any future link building at risk 
 
Thanks for clarifying +Fili Wiese - This makes perfect sense and I'm personally not an advocate of this strategy either e.g. what would happen if the disavow file gets accidentally overwritten or removed one day? I guess that for some types of links which are very hard to remove (like the ones you mentioned) there needs to be a second option.

However, I am just very surprised that Google allows for short-cuts. It doesn't feel fair to all those following Google's recommendations and spending time on link removals. It would be great to hear +John Mueller's view on this too.

It was great seeing you and +Kaspar Szymanski . 
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