Based on the most recent counsel from the Google’s Oracle, Google is either admitting the Mighty Algorithm is impotent in protecting “law abiding” Webmasters from negative SEO, or the Great Empire is attempting to outfox Webmasters with a strategy known as “Pāo Zhuān Yǐn Yù” (抛砖引玉 ): Tossing out a brick to get a jade gem.

First, a brief definition of both premises:

ñ Pāo Zhuān Yǐn Yù is one of thirty-six Chinese war stratagems. The basic principle of this strategy is to obtain something of value (jade) by baiting the opponent with an action (tossing out a brick).

ñ Negative SEO refers to a hand full of tactics used against an opposing website to negatively affect the competitor’s search rankings. For purposes of this post, it specifically refers to directing spammy links at an opposing site.

The Impotent Empire

Can a competitor hurt your Google rankings? A 2007 Forbes interview with two SEOs about nefarious tactics used to tear down competing Google rankings dragged this topic from the grungy shadows of SEO forums into the spotlight of mainstream marketing. As late as 2006, The Mighty Empire confidently assured webmasters fearful of Negative SEO with the following statement:

“There’s almost nothing a competitor can do to harm your ranking or have your site removed from our index.”

Plagued with years of contrary evidence, Google gradually shifted their stance—changing the response on May, 22 2012:

“Google works hard to prevent other webmasters from being able to harm your ranking or have your site removed from our index.”

Fast forward to June 5, 2012; evidence of the cracks in the Empire’s defense system:

“What’s interesting to me is that some people have indicated a hope that, you know, maybe its possible that we can disavow links. Or go into Webmaster Tools and say “these links are not mine. I would like you to ignore them.” … And even though we’ve put in a lot of protection to make sure you don’t need to worry about that, there’s been enough people asking us about that,   we are at least considering it and thinking about whether it makes sense to offer that in a month or two or three.”

Four months later, the Google’s Oracle officially announces the Disavow Links Tool. Basically, this tool allows webmaster to upload a text file requesting Google to disavow spammy links. In other words, Google is now crowd-sourcing both the protection of its “citizens” and what Penguin should be doing—algorithmically cleaning-up link spam.

My, how the times have changed! Over the course of six years, the Un-Evil Empire’s propaganda has fallen from a mighty, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain! The Almighty Wizard has all under control!” to, “Uh…hey guys? A little help over here?..Please.”

Oh. So now, its our job to clean up the mess that the Great Google Empire has created?


Google Death Trap

After the official announcement of the Disavow Links Tool, SEO forums and comment sections erupted in debate. Naïve webmasters leapt up in a collective cheer:

“Oh, Great Google! We thank thee for hearing our prayers and guiding us of lowly mind and thought to the promise land of eternal 1st page rankings! Praise Thee. Praise Thee!”


Re-watch the official announcement. Four distinct parts of the announcement indicate that this is nothing more than a Pāo Zhuān Yǐn Yù—the bait of a Google embrace and pardon in exchange for an admission of guilt and surrendering of position.

First, Matt Cutts begins by directly stating the reason one might use the tool:

“Maybe you’ve been doing paid links, or someone on your behalf has. You might have been doing blog spam, comment spam, forum spam, guest book spam, you-name-it link spam. Maybe you paid somebody to write some low-quality articles and syndicate those all over the place with some very keyword rich anchor text.”

Hmmm. Even though Google previously alluded that this tool is meant to help the masses throw off the shackles of Negative SEO attacks, use of the tool is actually an admission of guilt!

Then, three times throughout the video, Matt references that a guilty webmaster will have received a warning:

“Google sent you a message that says, “We’ve seen unnatural links to your site” or “We’ve taken targeted action to some unnatural links to your site.” And as a result, you want to clean up those backlinks to your site.”

So, you already suspect me. I see. Well, then do your job and devalue those bad links!

Three times, The Oracle stresses this tool is NOT for the average webmaster: 

“If you’re an average Mom and Pop, if you’re just doing normal sorts of things, you’re not doing really especially egregious or aggressive SEO with all kinds of weird link networks or stuff like that, this is not a tool that you should need to use under any sort of normal circumstances.” 

So, you released this life-saving tool to answer the prayers of the masses. Yet, Joe Webmaster has no need to use it?

Finally, under the guise of being helpful to unsophisticated Webmasters who might unknowingly  “shoot themselves in the foot,” he states that Google does not need to abide by any disavow request.

“We treat it as a very strong suggestion, but we don’t treat it as something that we absolutely have to abide by.”

Translation: if Google thinks you are guilty of trying to prosper outside of their constantly shifting laws of what is deemed appropriate, collect some fire wood. Cause you’re gonna burn.

What’s a Webmaster to Do?

Forget about gaming Google. Follow The Oracle’s counsel in this video on guest blogging and focus on what CopyPress has been teaching for the past year:

  • Create useful, quality content with insightful, interesting writers
  • Distribute unique content in appropriate venues
  • Enjoy Social Attention and Traffic
  • Repeat (but not with intent to get links)

What do you think? Is Google impotent, playing an old Chinese war strategy, or simply helping the masses?