Disavow the Disavow Process - Search Engine Optimization

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Do NOT give up on the benefits of "Directories".  Fashion directories such as Apparel Search play an important role on the internet. Below we will discuss a few reasons why we disagree with the current craze to remove listings from directories by using the disavow tool.  Note: this article is written in October 2013.  Our views may change as new information arises.


The disavow file and the steps leading up to the disavow file presents little more than trouble for many online directories. If "paid links" equals "bad links" in the mind of Google, it is reasonable to declare that the disavow process may be unfairly punishing directories that charge for services rendered.


The disavow process has multiple stages. First, companies are to remove inbound links that are of poor quality by contacting website owners. If that does not meet their satisfaction, they can move to the disavow file submission (check the Disavow Tool discussion for possible dangers or benefits).

On this post, I wanted to discuss the fact that disavowing links either directly with a website owner or via the disavow file in Google webmaster tools may be unfair to a particular category of websites. Directories for example.

As per Google, "In some circumstances, incoming links can affect Google's opinion of a page or site. For example, you or a search engine optimizer (SEO)  you've hired may have built bad links to your site via paid links or other link schemes that violate our quality guidelines." 

Source: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/2648487?hl=en

A "paid link" can mean, "Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a "free" product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link. source:https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/66356?hl=en&rd=1

Directories that charge money for the service they provide are essentially creating paid links. Hence, they are possibly categorized as the opposite of good… Is Google suggesting website owners should remove themselves from business to business directories? If they are suggesting this, I believe it to be unfair as well as a poor recommendation.

If a directory owner decides that it is appropriate to charge companies for the time and effort to create, edit, and maintain a directory, why would Google find that to be black hat? Google decided their own business model would allow companies to be listed in their search engine at no cost. That should not give them the right to dictate that every other internet resource must also offer free services. The reality is that directories are not easy to maintain. They take a great deal of time to develop and manage. Why shouldn't the owner of a directory get paid for their efforts?

Not all "paid links" should be considered equal. Directories are NOT evil or black hat. Online directories are created for very legit reasons.

In my opinion they're two primary ways to locate information on the net:

1. Search Engines

2. Directories

With only two primary methods, it is a rather unfair business practice for one method (search engine) to inform people that if they use a competing service (paid directory) it will negatively impact their standing in search results.

Let's pretend for a moment that there is no such thing as an algorithm or a search engine. Wouldn't "inbound" links from multiple locations (paid or non-paid) be beneficial to your own website? Certainly they would. Without the algorithm how could this possible hurt your traffic? Therefore, if you are attempting to remove your business from paid directories, you are essentially doing so simply to alter your page rank. Isn't playing around with links a "scheme" which would be against Google's policies…

This scenario created by the disavow hysteria is unfair to both the directory and the companies that are being pushed by Google into removing their company listings from such directories.

It is understandable why Google prefers fewer links on the net. It is also understood that the process that takes place before and during the disavow file  submission in theory will reduce the overall number of links. My question is whether or not Google's method to reduce the extra noise on the net is a "fair" process for online directories that receive compensation for listings.

Let's try to stay non-bias and answer a few questions:


Is it appropriate for a search engine to directly or indirectly suggest that businesses remove their listings from paid directory websites?

Is it fair to publically insinuate that paid directories are "black hat"? Therefore, reduce the likelihood that directories will receive new submissions.

Have you been contacting or considering contacting other websites asking them to remove links to the sites you manage? By doing this, you are not building or cleaning your own website. By reaching out to websites that you do not own, asking them to remove links, you are most likely doing so on behalf of the search engine and not on behalf of making your own site better in anyway.

Using my own website as an example, Apparel Search is a directory for the fashion industry that contains both paid and non-paid listings. A very large majority of our directory listings are actually non-paid, but over the years many listings have also been created for a small service fee. The intention was never to manipulate search engines or pass along link juice (my directory has existed LONG before SEO was popular). The fee was for my time and effort required to build, edit, and maintain the directory listing. Company profiles, designer bios, etc., are created manually for every company listed in the directory. In my opinion, it is more than legit for me to charge a service fee for my time and effort.

This year Apparel Search has been receiving e-mails from various companies indicating that Google has advised them to remove their listings from my directory. This issue has multiple negative effects on my business.

  • Time spent communicating back and forth with these companies to discuss the issue of removing their listing (sometimes trying to talk them out of it).
  • Time and effort to remove the data and re-upload the revised pages.
  • Directory is shrinking (less listings, less helpful to my viewers).
  • New companies paying for listings significantly reduced.

In summary, the directory is being hurt by the changes.


Equally or even more important, when the actual disavow file is used, what negative signals are sent about the websites that is listed on the file? Even though a website is legit, people are possibly being scared into listing the directories on a disavow file. I have tens of thousands of listings on my directory. If even a small percentage adds my site to a disavow file as suggested by Google, this will cripple my business.

Also, can't competitors manipulate this tool to hurt a competitor website. That is horrible.

The fact that Google is putting in people's minds that "search engines" are good and "directories" are bad is hurting the website I have spent over ten years developing. I was curious how many people believe it is fair to disavow directory websites. In my opinion, it is better to disavow the disavow process. What is your opinion?


Written by ML 10/10/13


Search engine optimization is certainly not easy.  In fact, here at Apparel Search, we are often lost in regard to making our own website rank well.  Here is an example that we posted in our SEO article from May 2013.

Places that fashion companies can publicize their websites:

Social Networks and Communities: Google+ Fashion Communities, Fashion Industry Network

Fashion Blogs: Our Fashion Blog and other fashion blogs.

Directories: Clothing Industry Directory, and obviously the Apparel Search directory.

A web search engine is a software system that is designed to search for information on the World Wide Web. The search results are generally presented in a line of results often referred to as search engine results pages (SERPs).

Around 2000, Google's search engine rose to prominence.  The company achieved better results for many searches with an innovation called PageRank. This iterative algorithm ranked web pages based on the number and PageRank of other web sites and pages that link there, on the premise that good or desirable pages are linked to more than others.  Over the years, Google has modified their ranking systems and methods.

Apparel Search Fashion Industry b2b Directory for the clothing industry

SEO is also referenced as Online Marketing, Inbound Link Management, and a few other terms.

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