On September 21st, 2023, Fabrice Canel, the Principal Program Manager for Bing Webmaster Tools, announced the company’s plans to get rid of the disavow links feature in October of this year.
According to Canel, Bing’s AI is now sophisticated enough to understand the context and intent of links, as well as their levels of trustworthiness and authority.
He says, “We can now differentiate between natural and unnatural links, and we can ignore or discount the latter without affecting the former.”
This is great news for webmasters, as this change eliminates the need for manual link profile audits.
Currently, site owners must use the disavow tool to nullify spammy or unwanted links that could potentially harm their search rankings.
Next month, Bing will shut down the disavow tool along with its corresponding API. It’s part of the company’s attempt to streamline its services, provide a better user experience, and save resources.
A question on the minds of many SEO professionals is, “Will Google follow in Bing’s footsteps?”
After all, Google has been downplaying the need to disavow links for a while now, so getting rid of the tool seems like a natural next step.
Read on to learn more about this significant change to Bing’s Webmaster Tools, including what we think Google will do next.
What is the Disavow Tool, Anyway?
First released in June 2012, the disavow tool gives webmasters a way to tell Bing’s search algorithm which inbound links they don’t want it to consider when evaluating their website’s quality, relevance, and trustworthiness.
It was a necessary tool at the time because, without it, webmasters had no way to distance themselves from low-quality links pointing to their content.
These undesirable links often come about organically, meaning low-authority websites simply choose to link to a website without contacting the webmaster (meaning the spammy link isn’t due to any of their intentional link-building efforts).
With the disavow tool, webmasters had a way to control which links would contribute to their search performance and which would not.
The tool was also crucial for stopping negative SEO attacks.
What are those?
That’s when an entity (usually a direct competitor) intentionally creates or buys tons of spammy backlinks and points them all at your website in an attempt to wreck your rankings.
You can imagine the shock if you were to one day check your Bing SEO metrics only to discover thousands of spammy links suddenly pointing at your site.
The disavow tool is the remedy, as you can tell Bing’s algorithm to simply ignore all those awful links.
Yet, this requires site owners to perform regular link profile audits, which is a time-consuming task that will no longer be necessary next month.
Does Google Have a Disavow Tool?
Only a few months after Bing’s unveiling of their disavow tool, Google would follow suit in October 2012.
However, Google’s disavow tool didn’t have the same warm reception as Bing’s, and it’s been quite a controversial topic over the years.
For one, Google always viewed its disavow tool as a last-ditch resort for websites to get rid of bad links whenever all other efforts fail.
In fact, Google’s Help Center at the time stated that “most websites will not need to use this tool.”
Still, that didn’t stop most webmasters from thinking that the disavow tool was a way to negate the painful effects of the infamous Penguin update (AKA the Link Apocalypse) that occurred in 2012.
The misconception was that they could use the tool to get rid of spammy links and, therefore, rank higher on Google’s search results.
The only problem is that Google’s disavow tool doesn’t work that way.
Dispelling link myths that have persisted since Penguin in 2012
The source for all this confusion comes from the lingering effects of the dreaded Penguin update.
If you weren’t doing SEO in 2012, you may not remember, but it was a BIG deal at the time.
Google decided they’d had enough of spam, so they cracked down on violations of their guidelines in a big way. They began handing out penalties left and right, so much so that it actually negatively affected the quality of their search results.
Since their ‘scorched Earth’ policy backfired so hard, they decided to take a different approach to dealing with link spam.
In particular, they decided to abandon penalizing sites and settled on devaluing them instead.
That means if you have a ton of spammy links pointing at your site, there’s no need to panic or disavow them – they simply won’t count.
Remember the malicious SEO attacks we mentioned earlier?
Most Google users never have to worry about those because as long as your site is at least decently secured. Since low-quality links don’t count, there’s no risk of incurring a penalty or losing position rankings if they point at your site.
The danger of listening to third-party tools
Many SEOs still use the disavow tool because their automated third-party tools say that they need to.
The key word there is ‘third-party,’ as these tools are not from Google.
Yet, that doesn’t stop webmasters from freaking out whenever they see the flashing red sirens and alerts telling them that spammy links are pointing at their site and ruining their domain authority (which is another third-party metric that Google doesn’t use).
Will Google Get Rid of its Disavow Tool?
Now that Bing’s AI is fully capable of determining which links are natural and which aren’t, webmasters will no longer have to perform manual audits.
After all, SEOs using the disavow tool are likely eating up Google’s resources, especially when disavowing a link isn’t necessary. That means deleting the tool could free up some resources, but it’s unclear if Google will follow in Bing’s footsteps again.
The last thing Google wants is for webmasters not to fear buying spammy links, which is why they may choose to keep their disavow tool.
If you need top-tier link-building services for your business, don’t wait to check out our Link Outreach Service.